Anne Klein has been reincarnated. Or, more precisely, resuscitated. Before you conjure images of oversized bolts and body parts, think of the label’s vintage jersey bandeau dress, now updated with removable straps.

It’s all part of the brand’s new direction. “There are dresses she did that are so timeless and stylish that we just had to offer them again,” says Eileen McMaster, the company’s vice-president of corporate communications. At work is a double whammy of nostalgia and savvy designing. In the ’60s, Anne Klein was a fashionpioneer who understood what working women like herself wanted. “Clothes aren’t going to change the world. The women who wear them will,” she said of the label she launched in 1968.

“Anne Klein’s contribution to the industry was really developing a new market, designer sportswear, and making the retailer understand what it was all about,” said Calvin Klein in a Women’s Wear Daily tribute after her death from breast cancer in 1974 at the age of 51. She created chic, casual, comfortable clothes with a classic core. “My woman doesn’t want to make a drop-dead entrance,” Klein said. “She would much rather have people say ‘You look smashing’ than ‘My God, what a beautiful dress!’”

After years of financial difficulties, ownership changes and top names like Donna Karan, Louis Dell’Olio and Richard Tyler heading the design team, Klein’s vision has again become the label’s guiding philosophy. “The purpose of the Anne Klein New York collection is to make fabulous clothes,” says Mark Mendelson, who took over as president 16 months ago, after the company was sold to Jones Apparel Group. “We want the customer to say ‘Have you seen Anne Klein New York? It’s really beautiful.’” There won’t be any grand launch. The changes are going to be gradual and subtle.

Klein once said: “Shock treatment belongs to psychiatry, not fashion.” In keeping with her mantra, the current collection is fashionable without being trendy, and boasts better fabric and a consistent fit.

“The beauty of these clothes is that they’re very fashion right, but wearable,” Mendelson says. “Our woman has style. She wants a camisole to update her suits, but a beaded, lace-trimmed camisole that is bra-friendly.” As for fall, watch for a romantic old-Hollywood influence, with mohair, cashmere and hand-knitted items.

“We’re trying to give the customer things they can get more use out of,” says Mendelson. At the same time, “These are emotional clothes. We want women to be excited by them.” That’s what Klein would have wanted too.

Photography courtesy of Anne Klein New York