COLORADO AVE — Family-focused department store chain Kohl’s announced Thursday plans to open a design studio in Santa Monica that will host a team of 20 graphic artists and trend experts who will provide support across multiple brands.

The 6,000-square-foot studio at 2700 Colorado Avenue will establish Kohl’s design presence on the West Coast, according to a statement issued by the Wisconsin-based chain, whose top brands include the Jennifer Lopez Collection, Dockers, Nike and Levi’s. The studio is scheduled to open Jan. 16, 2012.

The company is also doubling the size of its design office in New York. It currently houses 140 designers, but Kohl’s could increase that to 250 by 2014.

The moves underscore how serious the midbrow department store chain is in its commitment to expanding and improving its exclusive brands, which now account for 51 percent of its total revenue.

“The investment reinforces our commitment to offering world-class brands at compelling value to our customers,” said Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s chairman, president and chief executive, in a statement.

Kohl’s opened its original design studio in January 2007. Back then, the team worked on just a handful of exclusive brands including Simply Vera Vera Wang, Elle and Food Network. The chain now has expanded that portfolio to include more than a dozen exclusive brands.

Last fall, it launched the Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony collections, which featured such items as $69.99 platform shoes and $70 wool ponchos. This spring, Kohl’s will be unveiling an exclusive collection under the Rock & Republic label as part of a licensing agreement with the brand’s parent company, VF Corp.

Like many department stores, Kohl’s has been expanding its portfolio of exclusive brands to differentiate itself from rivals.

Kohl’s operates 1,127 stores in 49 states.

kevinh@smdp.com

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