NEW YORK — Ellen Tracy, a dominant player in bridge sportswear for years, is trying another court.
The $170 million brand, owned by Liz Claiborne Inc. and known for its consistent look and fit in career sportswear, has embarked on a fresh concept that launches for spring: a collection centered around casual dressing.
The new look is demarcated by a white label that says only Ellen Tracy, without the attachment of the name of Linda Allard, who retired in 2003 after 41 years as the creative force behind the brand. It is expected to attract a different customer than the long-standing fan base, who primarily turn to the brand for its structured looks or to Company Ellen Tracy for denim-based wardrobing.
The white label is somewhere in between — more casual in look, but more sophisticated in fabric and silhouette. While the scope of the initial offering is small, its impact is more meaningful as a reflection of the direction Ellen Tracy is taking since the company was acquired by Claiborne in 2002.
“They’ve given us the challenge to operate as an entrepreneurial company within the larger organization,” said Glenn McMahon, president of the brand. “We wanted to come up with ways to grow the business that were new and exciting.”
Rozann Marsi, creative director of Ellen Tracy, pursued the white label idea as a hybrid of directional market trends, moving toward more casual dressing while also embracing luxury elements. The collection is filled with easy silhouettes such as tunic tops, drawstring pajama pants or knit cardigan tops, all in natural fibers and a neutral palette. Some fabrics are even made of sustainable resources, such as one constructed from bamboo threads.
Marsi described the line as a softer and quieter approach to dressing than is sometimes characteristic of the color-saturated prints and structured jackets of Ellen Tracy.
“The idea came about because not everyone who wants to dress casual wants to wear jeans,” she said. “Most importantly, this is a new expression of what we feel casual is right now. It’s a concept that is rather about fluid dressing, casual luxury that is a little off-handed in its approach; easy-to-wear clothes.”
The collection will be incorporated into existing Ellen Tracy floor space at retailers such as Bloomingdale’s in the spring and also will offer stores a means to differentiate their assortment from competitors in nearby markets. The white label offerings are priced slightly higher than comparable looks in the Linda Allard Ellen Tracy line and are as much as $100 higher than Company Ellen Tracy. Tops will retail for $198 to $298, and skirts and pants from $248 to $348.
“We see the opportunity to grow the brand, not just by making more of our existing product, but really by broadening Ellen Tracy,” McMahon said. “This could potentially be a stand-alone business in the long term.”