If Ann Lawrence wrote a self-help book, it could be titled "Design to Win." It would be based on her fail-safe method for launching her clothing label, which she put into action last year.
The 41-year-old businesswoman and designer hired a marketing firm to survey better department store buyers to find out which area of the women's clothing business hadn't been saturated and where a new designer such as herself could fill a void.
"I didn't want to do something at which I couldn't be successful," she explained.
As a result, Lawrence learned that there was a gap in well-made, well-designed evening clothes retailing for under $1,000.
"The consensus," she said, "was that there were enough super designers, like Oscar de la Renta and that gang."
Fortunately, evening wear had been Lawrence's forte ever since she went on an antique-lace buying frenzy in London in 1976 and started making one-of-a-kind lace wedding gowns and what she calls "occasion clothes" under her Lace Works label.
And if the market survey had said stores needed more sportswear?
"I wouldn't have done it," she said flatly during a showing of the second Lawrence collection at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills. Prices ended up topping her $1,000 limit in the ball-gown category, she said, because it became impossible to make a ball gown properly at that price.