Around Town : Jill Richards Has Designs on Making the Most of Second Chance at Success

Like the movie studios with their sequels, Los Angeles actress-turned-designer Jill Richards is showing "part two" of her designing career following a brief hiatus from the clothing business in 1988.

She says her new collection reflects the same look and taste level that made her label de rigueur for ladies-who-lunch. In the '70s, Nancy Reagan and her friends put Richards on the fashion map when they bought her dark "Kitty Foyle" dress with a crisp white collar.

But when the designer sold 75% of her share of Jill Richards Inc. to Robert Colman in 1987, the line expanded, the label lost its cachet and the wealthy clientele quickly looked elsewhere for their dressy clothes.

Her fall from grace, in Richards' words, was "awful."

Finally, Richards secured the rights to her name from Colman for $150,000 last year and reentered the designing business under a new company name, JR Couture.

And now she is back in the designer salons of pricey stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman-Marcus as though she never left.

Her latest collection includes the same signature touches: white collars, ruffles and her favorite fabric, matte jersey. The silhouette is often simple and close to the body.

"I've been doing this for so long now that I'm very aware of consumer wants," she says. "Once ladies hit their 30s, they want sleeves. So I offer draped clothes with long sleeves and a V-neck."

Today, Richard's dresses range in price from $450 to $1,250.

"It's taking a while to build that image back," she says. "We'll see what happens."

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