By  on March 8, 2013

LOS ANGELES — Joe Fresh and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. are giving shoppers here a preview of how the brand will look inside the retailer’s stores a week before it launches there with a pop-up open from today to Sunday.

The pop-up is meant to generate buzz for Joe Fresh’s introduction into Penney’s and familiarize West Coast consumers with a brand that they may see down the line in permanent standalone form. The Canadian brand, which is sold in about 350 locations in its home country, including 14 of its own stores, has only six units in the U.S. concentrated in New York and New Jersey, but Joe Fresh founder Joe Mimran has plans to spread retail to California.

“We are on the doorstep of opening 683 [J.C. Penney] locations in America and the West Coast is of particular importance to us. We just felt it was important to expose the brand,” said Mimran. “Pop-ups are certainly not a new thing anymore, but they are still fun. It is a great way to give a pop of excitement to the brand.”

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Housed in a glass-rimmed 4,000-square-foot space on the corner of Melrose Avenue and Crescent Heights Boulevard across the street from Fred Segal, the pop-up’s assortment has some 35 Joe Fresh styles, about half the number that will be available in the brand’s in-store shops at Penney’s, according to Siiri Dougherty, Penney’s senior vice president, general merchandise manager, women’s apparel. “It includes dresses and crochet shorts to T-shirts, tank tops and colored denim. It pretty much runs the gamut,” she said. “This is a good representation of what we are going to feature.”

Design and merchandising at the pop-up mirrors Joe Fresh’s design and merchandising elsewhere. Clothes are grouped by color stories. They are mostly on racks lining the walls, which are white with orange accents, but there are also shelves dedicated to colored denim and T-shirts, notably the $10 Slub V-Neck Tee styles that are bestsellers for the brand. Outfits are repeated on mannequins similar to the way Joe Fresh makes statements about key looks in its stores.

“We tend to be very clean in the way we merchandise,” said Mimran. “We don’t dense up for the sake of densing up. That belies the price point. In a lot of the fast-fashion retailers, because of the price point, they are forced to put a lot of product on the floor. We do too, but we still want to maintain a certain integrity to the merchandising. It has to have that feel of being more than just stuff.”

Before it rolls out to Penney’s on March 15, Joe Fresh hit the retailer’s Web site at the end of last month. Mimran said the brand has racked up three times the volume Penney’s expected online so far and “became the number-one brand immediately.” Dougherty reasoned that the brand is attractive to Penney’s customers because of its universal appeal, repertoire of styles and inexpensive price points. The majority of the merchandise at the pop-up is priced from $10 to $69.

“It is a very broad-based assortment and that is the beauty of it,” said Dougherty. “There is something for everybody. It is a great way to bring affordable style to people across the country. It’s modern, stylish product. It’s a good combination of basics like a great T-shirt, and fashion pieces like a great crochet short or a great dress.”

Joe Fresh is not depending on Penney’s alone for expansion in the U.S. The brand has another standalone store in New York in the works and is looking into locating stores in Los Angeles and San Francisco. “We are completely committed to growing our business in the United States,” said Mimran. “Our approach is going to be much more urban because we believe JCP has the suburban covered.”

Although he is intent on growing in the U.S., Mimran acknowledged Joe Fresh isn’t going to be an overnight sensation in its own stores in the U.S. because it lacks the name recognition. Discussing its New York stores, the first of which opened in 2011, he said, “We are realistic about what we can accomplish in a short period of time. This is a really tough, tricky industry. You have to stay at it. You have to be there. There is not a brand that has come to America that has knocked it out of the park in the first two minutes.”

The pop-up launch party Thursday night could help Joe Fresh’s awareness issue. Nikki Reed and Paul McDonald performed at the party and, earlier in the day Thursday, Joe Fresh was expecting 400 people to attend with Hollywood represented by the likes of Stacy Keibler, Jessica Lowndes, Rumer Willis and Louise Roe.

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