Top clothing group Liz Claiborne has launched an unsolicited bid to buy the J Jill Group upscale apparel business for $18.00 per share - about $366 million.

The offer follows previous friendly bids for the business, which J Jill turned down.

Claiborne said it would be willing to increase its offer if necessary, while J Jill said it would discuss the proposal with its advisors but advised its shareholders to take no action at present.

Claiborne chairman and chief executive Paul Charron said: "This strategic combination would enable us to rejuvenate J Jill's well-regarded but underperforming brand.

"As part of the larger Liz Claiborne organization, J Jill would benefit significantly from our product and merchandising expertise, lower sourcing and logistics costs, and increased marketing and advertising support."

Demonstrating his determination to clinch a deal with J Jill, he added: "It remains our strong preference to work together to negotiate a mutually agreeable transaction. However, we are determined to complete a business combination with J Jill."

Liz Claiborne already boasts an impressive portfolio of well-known brands such as Liz Claiborne, Claiborne, Juicy Couture, Mexx and Mambo, as well as holding the exclusive license for a range of DKNY lines.