Monday, May 21, 2007

First Glimpse: Bitten by Sarah Jessica Parker

Most marketers would willingly give up their first-born for a few minutes in the sun on The Oprah Winfrey Show. So I can’t even begin to imagine the reaction of the folks at Steve & Barry’s when Oprah devoted a good part of her show on May 18 to a sneak preview of the chain’s new celebrity line: Bitten by Sarah Jessica Parker. Parker, who comes across as one of celebrity land’s most sincere and genuine personalities, proved herself an intelligent and charming pitchwoman for the budget collection.

While fashionistas, who consider Parker a style icon, may look askance at her decision to get involved with a value retailer like Steve & Barry’s, it was really a natural for her. Parker has never hidden the fact that she grew up in a big, loving family, but one that had to scrape just to get by. Her empathy for those who can’t afford to spend big bucks on fashion came through loud and clear on Oprah.

There are some 400-plus items in the Bitten line, which will be available at Steve & Barry’s stores nationwide on June 7. Judging by the pieces modeled on the Oprah show, Bitten is made up of comfortable-looking mainstays, including jeans and tees, as well as dresses, shoes, accessories and some outerwear. In keeping with Steve & Barry’s value positioning, nothing costs more than $20.

"It's about affordable, well-made American sportswear,” Parker explained. “It's about fashion not being a luxury and quality not being a privilege, and we don't want someone to hold it up and say, 'Well, you get with you pay for.’ We worked so hard to make sure it's everything women deserve."

While some of the items reflect current fashions (high-rise jeans, for example, and espadrilles), the line is by no means trendy. Parker, no slouch when it comes to fashion, repeatedly stressed this point on the Oprah show, using the terms basic/classic pieces again and again.

One of the most refreshing things about Bitten is that it appears to be designed for women of all ages—and sizes. Indeed, the most important thing that separates Bitten from other celebrity lines is its sizing: It will be available in sizes 2 to 22. In sizing and design, Bitten is a far cry from the latest celebrity line, Kate Moss for Topshop, whose fashions are best suited for the body of someone like, well, Kate Moss.

Much remains to be seen about Bitten, particularly with regard to quality. But judging from the Oprah show, its star spokeswoman already has the audience on her side.

— Marianne Wilson

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