Lagerfeld, GIII in North America megadeal

Karl Lagerfeld is set for a return to the American market after a nine-year absence. And it could be big.

The German designer and Chanel guru has signed a joint venture agreement with G-III Apparel Group covering North America. Under the terms, G-III has acquired a 49% interest and becomes the first licensee, securing a renewable five-year deal.

The pair will launch the Karl Lagerfeld Paris range next spring initially debuting womenswear and handbags, plus men’s outerwear targeting the affordable end of the region’s luxury market.

Although the initial target will be better department stores there are also plans for a New York flagship store early next year.

“We definitely see the potential for several flagship stores,” Karl Lagerfeld Group CEO Pier Paolo Righi told WWD.

“We’re very confident there will be a strong foothold from the start. It can potentially become the biggest geography for us very soon.”

GIII CEO Morris Goldfarb also told the publication: “We believe there’s an opportunity for another power brand today, and I can’t think of a better vehicle to fill that void than Karl Lagerfeld.

“I don’t think there’s a woman [who] dresses in fashion that doesn’t know what he looks like. I think they’re in awe of the talent of this man and definitely will follow his leadership in fashion.”

He noted the plan is to “translate [Lagerfeld’s] iconic DNA into product that is commercially viable in the US – fashion right and priced appropriately for the target audience.”

A complete 2016 collection should be unveiled to retailers in November, said Goldfarb, who is targeting 250-350 doors.

Although he failed to give names, he noted “we have three retailers that are very much behind us.”

Righi said collections for North America would be developed under the artistic leadership of Lagerfeld, in tandem with creative teams in Paris and Amsterdam, with the aim of delivering styles that are adapted to market and “consumer relevant.”

Asked by WWD how the apparel might differ from what’s sold in Europe, Righi said it would be targeted to a broader audience, with a wide range of products given multiple exposures in department stores.

He noted footwear would likely be the next product in North America, with the joint venture agreement allowing additional category licenses over time to G-III or other parties.

Currently, Lagerfeld’s clothing lines are primarily available to American consumers via Net-a-Porter. Licensed products, including eyewear, fragrances and watches, are also distributed in North America, with the future flagships billed as showcases for uniting Lagerfeld’s diverse product universe.

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