Liz comes home with American Pacific

Marvin Lazaro, Staff Staff, December 16, 2002

San Francisco — Liz Claiborne is coming back home through a new licensing agreement with American Pacific Enterprises that entails all aspects of bedding, soft window coverings and bath, from shower curtains to hooks to accessories.

The signing of the deal last week marks a return to the category for the Liz Claiborne brand, which appeared on two home textiles lines for department stores during the '80s and '90s. For American Pacific, the license helps balance the company's offering and augments the supplier's presence in the licensed segment of home textiles.

New York-based Claiborne, in addition to its home venture, also designs, sources, markets and distributes apparel for men, women, teenagers, children and infants and also markets fragrances for women and men.

Twenty-nine brands are currently represented within the company's growing lineup of product, including the Villager home textiles brand program at Kohl's from licensee Springs Industries and a table linen program under the Crazy Horse brand that is a JCPenney exclusive from licensee W-C Designs.

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"The addition of bed and bath products and window treatments to the Liz Claiborne family of licensed products is yet another step in fully satisfying the needs of our consumer," said Barbara Friedman, president of Liz Claiborne Licensing. Friedman told HTT that market research found that Claiborne's core consumer has continually requested a home line.

American Pacific was selected, she said, because of its entrepreneurial spirit, can-do attitude and sourcing capabilities.

"We're excited to be working with them," Greg Block, president, American Pacific, told HTT. "They're a world-class organization renowned in design and branding."

Much of the design elements for the bedding will be taken from the apparel divisions of Claiborne. As a result, some ensembles may feature direct-from-apparel prints or translations for the home market. A great attention to detail is planned, which Friedman said is what will differentiate Claiborne's line. American Pacific is responsible for the overall design of the line as well as marketing and sales but will be supported by Claiborne's own marketing and public relations efforts.

A core program is planned initially, around which other programs may eventually be layered on, followed by a casual offering and then a relaxed master bedroom line. Construction has not yet been determined, but Friedman said "luxurious fabrics will be involved." Block further clarified, noting that construction would depend on the ensemble's look. He added that the majority of the line is being sourced from around the world.

Only the core collection of sheets will be offered as sets, while everything else, from comforters to bedskirts, will be offered as open stock, Friedman said. Retail price points have not yet been determined.

Products are scheduled to be unveiled during the spring New York Home Textiles Market. Block said American Pacific is in the process of looking for an exclusive Liz Claiborne space in New York's textiles district to showcase the line.

An August 2003 ship date has been set for the target retail base of department and specialty stores.

American Pacific has been building its licensed lineup for several years, beginning with the Nautica Home lineup. The company also unveiled during the recent New York Home Textiles Market a full bedding line as a result of its newest licensing agreement with Dockers Home. American Pacific supplies a large line of bedding, quilts and soft window coverings under its own name as well.

Despite the presence of the other licenses, Friedman said there was no conflict and that Claiborne represented a "nice complement to American Pacific's business" since both Nautica and Dockers were more male-oriented. Block echoed the sentiment, saying that Claiborne gives the company "a nice balance from a lifestyle perspective."

This latest venture with American Pacific is the third home line for the highly recognizable Claiborne brand. The first came in the early 1980s with a bedding collection supplied by Burlington Industries. The second foray was with Springs Industries from 1995 to 1999 and produced the pattern icon In Full Bloom.

"We've been contemplating getting back into home for the last three years. We were looking for the right partner; one that was more flexible in sourcing and had more of an apparel mentality," Friedman said.

Earlier this year Paul Charron, chairman and ceo of Claiborne, told HTT: "We're very committed to the home business. We see ourselves being established in home sooner or later — definitely within a couple of years — and in all product areas, including furniture. We see our brands having important extensions, and there are important initiatives under way."

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