By  on January 5, 2005

LOS ANGELES — Jessica Simpson, the ubiquitous singer and reality TV star, has added a new apparel licensing deal to her portfolio.

JS Brand Management, which holds the master license for the Jessica Simpson and Sweet Kisses brands, has sublicensed the names to Los Angeles-based Tarrant Apparel Group for junior casual sportswear and denim. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

The fall line, tentatively called Jessica Simpson Collections, will launch at WWDMAGIC in February, showcasing denim jeans, skirts, overalls and jackets along with T-shirts and athleticwear. Tarrant chairman Gerard Guez said he expects the line to evolve with sundresses, cocktail frocks and dressy suits by spring 2006.

When Andrew Kirpalani, president of JS Brand Management, signed the original licensing deal in November, he had planned to produce the junior line at his privately held manufacturing firm, Andrew Sports, which generates $150 million in wholesale volume, but he had second thoughts.

“We thought nobody can do it better than Gerard,” Kirpalani said.

Tarrant is on a brand-building quest as it seeks to diversify its private label denim and sportswear operation. The Jessica Simpson line represents the sixth brand in the company’s portfolio, which includes the American Rag Cie junior program at Federated Department Stores, No Jeans at Wet Seal and Gear7 urban apparel for men at Kmart.

Tarrant projects revenues will grow 40 percent to $220 million to $240 million in 2005, split between private label production ($165 million to $175 million) along with the private brands business ($55 million to $65 million). Guez anticipates that the company will turn a profit of $7 million to $11 million this year, compared with an estimated loss of $96.9 million to $98.9 million last year, because of the sale of its Mexican manufacturing operations in August.

Guez said he contacted Kirpalani because Simpson is “a megastar that has broad-based appeal. Her career can only generate publicity for the line.”

Simpson’s popularity has surged since the August 2003 premiere of “Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica,” the MTV show documenting her marriage to Nick Lachey. The show begins its third and final season on Jan. 26.

Guez said he is banking on a bonanza from Simpson’s role as Daisy Duke in the “Dukes of Hazzard” movie, which is slated for a June opening. In addition, she is to record a new album in the spring with a scheduled release this summer in tandem with a nationwide tour.Simpson already has waded into the product waters with her partnership in Dessert Beauty Inc. Her Dessert line of fragrances launched in April at Sephora and is projected to bring in $30 million in first-year sales.

Though Simpson was unavailable for comment while on personal business in Florida, her business manager, David Levin, said: “She, along with her mom, Tina, will be very involved in the design of the product.”

Celebrity designers are in vogue — from Beyoncé Knowles and Mandy Moore to Gwen Stefani and Eve — providing synergies for the entertainers, manufacturers and retailers.

“Celebrities are important billboards to help promote brands and products,” said Andrew Jassin, managing partner of retail consulting firm Jassin O’Rourke Group. “The convergence of media and fashion makes the use of celebrities a natural choice since they’re on the minds of consumers as well as in front of their eyes.”

How long the trend lasts is open to debate as some of the partnerships have undergone changes.

“Ultimately, it’s about getting the fashion right at the right price for the right customer,” said George Whalin, president of Retail Management Consultants in San Marcos, Calif.

Guez expects the line, aimed at department stores such as Macy’s with retail price points at $59 to $79, to pull in $10 million to $15 million in sales this year, buoyed by a $3 million advertising campaign for the back-to-school season. He projects sales growth to $40 million to $50 million by 2007. Depending on its success, Tarrant also may launch misses’ and plus-size clothes under the label, Kirpalani said. Tarrant also will launch a junior line under the Sweet Kisses label by spring 2006, aimed at midtier distribution.

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