Tyler made He's conquered Hollywood

now on to Anne Klein IN STYLE

June 24, 1993|By Vida Roberts | Vida Roberts,Staff Writer

NEW YORK — New York

Richard Tyler, designer to a galaxy of Hollywood's million-dollar luminaries, is turning his talents to designing for America's working woman.

The man who has made frock coats and frocks for Julia Roberts, Kathleen Turner, Anjelica Huston, Susan Sarandon, Diana Ross, Oprah, Cher, Madonna and Prince is entering the mainstream.

Who is Richard Tyler? He's a 44-year-old Los Angeles-based Australian designer of luxurious, couture-quality clothes-to-die-for, and he took New York by storm in April when he showed his first major fall collection under his own name.

The fashion press raved, magazine mavens wanted to feature his clothes, and buyers placed orders.

The laid-back West Coast tastemaker had broken into the staid East Coast fashion establishment.

Now, just when he has become a name to watch in his own right, he is going about the business of becoming Anne Klein, taking on the additional responsibility of designing one of the most familiar labels in America.

Last month, he was named designer for the Anne Klein collection, a position held for many years by Louis Dell'Olio, a protege of the designer who died in 1974.

It was a surprise move, inasmuch as the Anne Klein label has been synonymous with understated American sportswear and Mr. Tyler is known for stitching up excitement.

"It's going to be great. I won't, of course, forget about the loyal Anne Klein customer but I think she is going to be very happy," he said in an interview through the buzz of a fall trunk show of his own lavish designs.

"We need a new customer for Anne Klein. I don't mind taking a little share of Calvin Klein's market, or Donna Karan's market or Ralph Lauren's market. It's out there for everybody to take and I definitely want a part of it."

His new business backers are thinking the same way. "Richard Tyler is one of the most exciting designers in the country -- make that internationally," says Andrew Rosen, president of Anne Klein & Co. "If you look at what he's all about, you'll find this guy is a magnificent tailor as well as designer and his aesthetic is very much Anne Klein -- well-made clothes a woman can wear."

Tyler is hard at it on both coasts, working his couture line in Los Angeles and pulling together his first Anne Klein collection in New York.

He will also be the the creative mover for secondary lines -- Anne Klein II and A Line and shoes and jewelry. Taking a hand in the many accessory licenses is somewhere down the road.

The Anne Klein fashion empire annually generates some $220 million in the design divisions, with another $200 million from licensees.

Those are awesome numbers and a long leap for a designer who learned to sew from his mother in suburban Sunshine, Australia.

At 18 he was dressing mod rockers such as Elton John when they toured Australia.

He came through L.A. as Rod Stewart's road show designer and came back to try it on his own, only to find himself nearly down and out in Beverly Hills. In 1987 he was ready to pack it in and return to Australia. That's when he met actress Lisa Trafficante and love turned his life around.

She encouraged and backed his talents and along with her sister, Michele, they formed Tyler Trafficante, an energetic menswear fashion house which attracted the star trade.

The quality in Tyler's own collection is seldom seen or touched by the average woman who flips through department store racks. At Hirschleifer's, a toney store in a pricey retail strip known as "The Miracle Mile" in Long Island, his loyal fans came early to touch and buy.

They're loyal and moneyed -- -- jackets cost from $1,500 to $2,500, pants and skirts $700 to $1,000, blouses $600 to $1,200. Evening dresses run to $3,500 and can soar for custom designs, such as Julia Roberts' never-worn wedding dress for the never-happened marriage to Kiefer Sutherland.

Anyone with the means to wear Tyler clothes buys near art-gallery quality.

The buttons could be jewelry and are carried through perfectly hand-made buttonholes. The linings and interior work is so fine ,, that only the woman who wears these clothes has intimate knowledge of their worth.

"We make everything ourselves. Nothing is contracted. We have 105 employees now and we are lucky to be based on the West Coast because most of our fine workers are Chinese and they have those remarkable skills.

"They are treasures," says the proud designer.

He points to other designers who brush off details.

"Not mentioning any names -- but some very, very well-known, long-established Europeans do things that are quite amazing. A little something with two seams, no lining, no pockets, no details and it's $5,000. Amazing.

"Now, for Anne Klein I have to keep to a price point (on the high end averaging $800 for a jacket, $400 for a blouse, $350 for pants or skirt) but quality is still my major concern.

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