E.S. Originals Reaching Higher

NEW YORK — E.S. Originals Inc. is moving upmarket.

With the recent addition of higher-end brands Nautica and Oilily to its stable, the New York-based footwear firm is branching beyond its roots in the discount, mid-tier and moderate department store channels.

“We have good penetration in these [areas of the market],” said Joseph Safdeye, CEO of E.S. Originals, which produces licensed product for brands including Rampage, Everlast, Avia, And 1, Paul Frank and Hello Kitty. “Our next challenge is to get into higher-end stores and independents.”

The company snapped up the Nautica license in April from VF Corp., which owns the brand. A full line of kids’ and men’s casual footwear will launch for spring ’11, with the men’s retailing for as much as $120. “We’re working closely with Nautica’s apparel team to create looks that complement the clothing,” Safdeye noted. The company has the rights to women’s as well, but has opted to hold off on that category until a later date.

The upscale Dutch children’s brand Oilily was added last year. In a departure for the company, E.S. Originals will serve only as the sales and distribution agent for that brand, whose shoes retail for more than $100.

The design and production of the collection will continue to be handled by Oilily licensee Colorful Licenses in Europe. “It’s a new direction for us,” said Safdeye of the distributor role, noting that this could be an area of expansion for the company.

As it explores new opportunities in the better market, E.S. Originals also continues to build its existing businesses. Next month, it will roll out a new collection under the Rampage banner called Riot by Rampage. Retailing for $50 or less, the collection will feature a variety of fashion looks aimed at a younger juniors’ customer.

“The brand enjoys great name recognition among consumers,” Safdeye said, “and we felt there was a need in the marketplace for a popularly priced juniors’ line.” Rampage is owned by New York-based Iconix Brand Group Inc.

Safdeye also revealed that E.S. Originals just inked a deal with leading children’s school uniform maker French Toast, a division of LT Apparel Group, to make shoes for that brand.

“That’s another area of the market where we see a void,” he said. Product is expected to hit stores in time for the 2011 back-to-school season.

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