Hope that the cachet of French fashion will translate into cash is the impetus behind two new mail-order catalogs and the recent opening of a French department store in New York City. While the Gallic glories of Galeries Lafayette can be sampled in the Big Apple, La Redoute and Madeleine fashion catalogs are anxious to drop by your mailbox if you'll just call and invite them.
La Redoute is the largest catalog house in France, so it makes sense that it has teamed with its American counterpart, Sears, for distribution on this side of the Atlantic.
"We started our affiliation in 1988, carrying a few pieces in our regular catalogs, but this is the first time it has ever been a freestanding book," says Mary Lou Bilder, public relations director for the Sears catalog.
"We're reaching out to a more fashion-forward customer. The merchandise is designed in Paris but made here by our own resources," says Bilder, agreeing that it's a battle to change the company's fashion stereotype.
The premiere 64-page La Redoute catalog is for fall and winter and aims most offerings at women, devoting eight pages to les enfants and six to les hommes. The clothes are both classic and chic lots of skirts, both long and pleated and short and slim ($18- $60); leggings in solid colors or prints, particularly paisley ($16- $60); a variety of sweaters from tunics to poor-boy rib knits ($18- $45); and more trousers than one might expect ($24-$38).
In comparison, Madeleine is more upscale, aimed exclusively at women, placing more emphasis on dressy and evening clothes. Named for the Paris shopping street Rue de Madeleine, the catalog company is actually based in Germany with a U.S. subsidiary in Monroe, Wis.
Many of the pages are filled with glitz there are several evening sweaters with beads, sequins, braid and embroidery trim ($95- $250); metallic dresses, jackets and tops ($95-$250); and evening suits and dresses ($295-$495). More appropriate for office and day lunches are a mint-green cashmere blend blazer ($195) and a charcoal flannel pant suit ($335) with an optional skirt ($385 for all three pieces).
If you're interested, the La Redoute catalog is free at (800) 366-3000; for hearing-impaired with TDD it's (800) 729-2828. The Madeleine catalog is free at (800) 344-1994.