Blair Hits the Runway With Women’s Careerwear

Warren, PA-based apparel marketer Blair Corp. is getting serious about its Irvine Park line of careerwear. To promote the meanswear collection—and to introduce its first line of Irvine Park workwear for women, the 94-year old company hosted a fashion show March 25 in New York’s Library hotel.

As gorgeous models shashayed down a makeshift runway, it was clear that this is definitely not your father’s—or mother’s—Blair. Irvine Park includes silk herringbone jackets ($130-$145), pastel oxfords ($30-$35), and linen blend banded-collar shirts ($25-$30), —and that’s just for the men. The women’s line includes a poppy red microfiber short jacket ($79.99) and pants ($49.99), a bouclé jacket ($99.99), and a pleated stretch denim skirt ($39.99).

The new Irvine Park line targets working women, ages 40-60. Blair started the women’s career line because “we saw a gap in the womenswear market,” says Marsha Maier, vice president/general manager of menswear. The company’s core group of buyers—older women—did not need work apparel, while its Crossing Pointe catalog, launched in 2002, sells trendier merchandise rather than career classics to younger customers in their 30s.

The women’s apparel debuted in the 60-page summer edition of Irvine Park, which mailed to 400,000 customers and prospects on March 15. Blair aims to target 3 million prospects with Irvine Park mailings for 2004, Maier says, “as well as leverage our 1 million core customer names.” About 16% of the Irvine Park catalog is currently devoted to women’s line; Blair aims to double that percentage for the title’s next mailing in September, she adds.

The Irvine Park brand is actually a relaunch for Blair. The company started the menswear title in 2001 but stopped mailing the catalog the same year because of the lackluster economy. Irvine Park was restarted last year as what it calls a “value-priced alternative to moderate and upscale men’s marketers.” The company is able to keep its price points down—at about $160-$230 for men’s suits—because of its economies of scale, Maier says. It also helps that $580-plus million Blair also has its own import division.

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