By  on May 21, 2009

PARIS — This fall, die-hard denim fans could start their day slipping out of their Levi’s moccasins and into their April 77 boots, donning Seven For All Mankind shades and a Notify bag, adding bling with an Acne ring, splashing on a Kaporal 5 scent and popping on a Le Temps de Cerises helmet before heading for lunch at the Diesel restaurant in Milan.

The global financial crisis hasn’t slowed denim labels’ march toward lifestyle brand status, as they seek to enter new retail channels and offer a wider price range via new categories. For the brands, it’s not only a question of image but also of survival, according to Gilles Bellaloum, chief executive officer of Parisian multibrand store Le 66.

“Everyone is looking for additional niches to boost business,” Bellaloum said.

New categories, often developed under license to minimize risk, open up fresh sales channels for denim players faced with huge competition in their core market.

“Our shoes will be sold first of all in footwear stores, then to our network of customers and also in our own boutiques,” said Gil Richardière, co-founder of Le Temps de Cerises, which will also introduce leather bags, watches, jewelry and helmets this fall.

After unsuccessful forays into footwear and leather goods, the Marseilles-based brand decided to take the licensing route for those five new categories this time around.

“Professionals bring their expertise and a distribution network with them,” Richardière said.

Expanding into new product comes hand-in-hand with brands’ continued investments toward developing their own stores. With 30 stores by the end of July, Le Temps des Cerises’ boutique network is big enough to support the launch of new lines, Richardière said. The label will open four boutiques by July, including a test shop in St. Tropez for Little Cerise, its new children’s wear collection, and next year will begin developing franchises.

Others expansions include Kaporal 5, which will open five or six units in France this year to bring its store count to 11. Seven For All Mankind will open its first European store in Paris, bringing its signature chain to 11. Acne has outlets slated for Amsterdam, Sydney and Melbourne this year.

“From the minute denim brands decide to open boutiques, they need to expand their offer,” said Sarah Lerfel, buying director at Colette.

But that can discourage multi-brand clients like Colette, which has trimmed its denim lineup to just one label a season.

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