By  on April 7, 2005

NEW YORK — BCBG Max Azria and BCBGirls will welcome denim into their collections for fall.

“We flirted with it a bit for years. We wanted to impose ourselves as a lifestyle brand and not just a jeansmaker,” said Max Azria, chairman and chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based BCBG Max Azria. “Can we survive in America without denim?” Azria asked playfully. “It’s like being an Italian and not eating spaghetti.”

The introduction of denim was part of the brand’s “natural growth,” as Azria called it. The BCBG Max Azria collection is inspired by vintage details and combines the saddle stitch of the BCBG signature bag collection. The women’s collection, produced from Japanese denim, will include five fits — four of which are named for Azria’s daughters (Agnes, Chloe, Marina and Joyce. The fifth style, Mia, a low-waisted, skinny-leg style, is named for a designer).

Azria said that, while new styles will be introduced to the denim collections each season, his focus is on improving what is already in front of him. “We will probably introduce a style or two in the two collections each year, but we want to stay a bit longer on each cut and improve style.”

The washes range from a deep, saturated shade of blue to a lighter blue, vintage shade. The wholesale price range is between $63 and $118. The collection will be available at all BCBG Max Azria stores as well as key department stores and specialty stores in August. Novelty fabrics such as “true blue retro stretch denim” and “fine count broken twill denim” will be introduced as the season progresses.

“It’s easy these days to mix denim with a beautiful blouse,” said Azria. “It’s easy to mix fashion and trends.” Azria said he predicts the wholesale volume for both collections to reach “between $30 million and $40 million,” though, he added, “denim goes very fast, so it all depends.”

“But we’re optimistic,” he added.

The BCBGirls denim collection also will consist of five styles made from midweight ringspun stretch denim or 100 percent cotton midweight ring denim. The inspiration for the girls’ collection was rock ’n’ roll.“We don’t talk about age, but this collection is a bit more young contemporary — more rock ’n’ roll than the Max Azria collection, which is more sophisticated,” said Azria. The girls’ collection features two mini guitars on the back pocket. The wholesale price range of the collection is between $43 and $63. The collection will retail at Marshall Field’s, Macy’s, May Co. and Dillard’s beginning in July.

“The BCBG name is very strong for us,” said Louis Mastrogiacomo, senior vice president of better sportswear at Macy’s East. Speaking particularly of the BCBGirls denim collection, Mastrogiacomo said: “We feel that we have that customer profile — the young contemporary customer — in our stores. This customer is someone who’s interested in contemporary looks, but is just starting out. There are items in the BCBGirls collection that work well with pieces from the BCBGirls denim collection. They’re very conscientious about making it work well together.”

The go-ahead for the denim collections comes on the heels of BCBG’s announcement last month to add outerwear into the mix for fall.

“The consumer reaction in every category we’re opening has been outstanding,” Azria said. “I feel great about it, but it’s more humble not to talk about it. I feel so good because my consumer understands what I’m doing and I appreciate it.”

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