By  on September 8, 2008

Jordache is changing its look and its target customer for spring.

The iconic denim label has opted to turn away from the contemporary segment and reposition Jordache for a junior customer.

“The Jordache brand, because it has a 30-year history, has a very broad appeal,” said Liz Berlinger, president of Jordache Enterprises. “We’ve found that this new junior consumer has right now an attraction to the iconic Seventies and Eighties styling.”

The move signals a departure from the company’s considerable efforts over the last several years to position Jordache as an edgy, contemporary brand targeting women over the age of 25 with a price of less than $100. In the new initiative, retail prices will range from $79 to $99.

Jordache returned to the department store channel after a 10-year absence in fall 2006. The company said it invested between $3.5 million and $4 million on marketing initiatives to support the relaunch. The focal point was an ad campaign shot by photographer Michael Thompson featuring Elizabeth Hurley that was splashed across billboards, taxis and fashion magazines.

Supermodel and “Project Runway” ringmaster Heidi Klum picked up where Hurley left off and has been representing Jordache for two years. The relationship spawned a spin-off capsule collection dubbed Heidi Klum by Jordache. The 20-piece collection started retailing in April and emphasized premium denim priced between $140 and $170. Blouses, luxury knit tops, sundresses and embellished tops ranged from $80 to $250.

Berlinger said Klum has helped establish the brand and will continue, for now, to serve as its celebrity spokeswoman.

“Heidi has been a great face for us because she has established herself as a style icon,” Berlinger said. “Between her ‘Project Runway’ success and her visibility and fashion direction, she’s been a great success.”

But he acknowledged that management has already engaged in talks to sign a new brand representative that better aligns with the new younger target customer.

Management is looking to buy into the junior market at what it hopes is a low. The junior market, and junior denim brands in particular, have been hammered in recent years as its core demographic has gravitated toward more contemporary looks and brands. In February, one of the segment’s leading labels, L.E.I., announced it would leave the department store channel altogether. After an overhaul of the L.E.I. image failed to ignite sales, parent company Jones Apparel Group moved the label into Wal-Mart.

“I do see an opening right now,” Berlinger said. “I think it’s a great business strategy to reenergize the junior department store floors. They’re in need of that right now.”

Jordache won’t be the only newcomer. DKNY Jeans introduced a new junior line for fall in collaboration with actress Rachel Bilson called Edie Rose for DKNY Jeans. It will also face challenges from the likes of Vanilla Star, Southpole and Z Co.

Berlinger and designer Nicole Grimaldi believe the junior customer is gravitating toward the looks that defined Jordache when it launched in 1978. To play to this, Grimaldi has gone back to the archives and updated several vintage styles. The Falcon Crest Skinny is described as a “spin-off” of the original Jordache jeans that incorporates original details. The 20-piece collection of tops and bottoms will also feature high-waisted silhouettes, acid washes, paint splatters and even neon.

“I’m making it more wear-now,” Grimaldi said. “We were a sexy brand and we’re updating it with skinny looks, nothing too wide or oversized.”

Berlinger and Grimaldi hope the line’s vintage styling, along with a hangtag featuring an early ad campaign image, will help the brand stand out.

“I think [the junior customer] wants something that she hasn’t seen before,” Grimaldi said. “I think in the premium market, everyone is kind of doing the same thing. They’re really gravitating to something they haven’t seen before. I think people are starved for that right now.”�

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