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Sometimes it’s not all in the jeans, even for denim labels.
Accessories appear to be the new frontier for a spate of denim lines eager to increase their exposure and capitalize on brand awareness through such products as shoes, bags, watches and eyewear. G-Star, Joe’s Jeans, Parasuco, Rock & Republic, True Religion, Silver and Seven For All Mankind are among the companies expanding their accessories repertoire, most of which is produced by licensees.
“Consumers were asking for more from us — so it made sense,” said Susan Kellogg, president of the Contemporary Brands Coalition at VF Corp., of Seven For All Mankind’s recent footwear (fall 2009) and eyewear (spring 2010) launches.
But as much as branching out is a logical response to customer needs — “We’re jean-centric,” said Michael Silver, president of Silver Jeans. “And probably well over 50 percent of those people who are wearing jeans have a belt on” — it’s also integral to longevity in such a competitive market.
Things have changed quite a bit since Parasuco launched 35 years ago.
“At one time we could do our whole business on one item all year round,” said Salvatore Parasuco, founder of Parasuco, which introduced men’s and women’s belts in 2008, and will launch a new high-end handbag collection under the label Salvatore Parasuco for fall. “Now, because of globalization, the speed of technology and what’s available, the way to differentiate ourselves from other people is branding.”
While not usually an immediate moneymaker, most firms feel the potential accessories growth is worth the wait. Parasuco expects accessories to account for 50 percent of its business in the next five years.
Joe’s Jeans first entered accessories in 2007 with handbags, seven years after starting out with premium denim. Belts and shoes followed this spring.
“It’s not the most important thing we’re doing financially,” said Marc Crossman, chief executive officer of Joe’s. “It will take some time before it becomes meaningful to our bottom line. But as we’re rolling out our retail stores and trying to grow the brand name in general, it’s really important.”
Not everyone is new at this. Guess was ahead of the curve on the accessories front, launching watches in 1984, at a time when, as Paul Marciano, ceo and vice chairman of the firm, pointed out, the only fashion watches on the market were Swatch. Flash forward 25 years and Guess has handbags, eyewear, jewelry, belts, shoes, a high-end watch collection called Gc and freestanding accessories stores that opened in 2005 and now total 200 worldwide.
Marciano estimates retail sales for accessories alone to be over $2 billion. They key, he said, is finding reliable partners in licensees.
“We didn’t know how to make watches, so we went to the best,” he said. “To make a shoe and to make a pair of jeans is two different worlds.”