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‘Garmento’ Hits Big (and Small?) Screen

NEW YORK — Is Seventh Avenue scandalous enough to warrant an HBO dramatic series based on its shady exploits?<br><br>Michele Maher thinks so. The director, producer and writer of the film “Garmento,” which opens Friday in New York,...

NEW YORK — Is Seventh Avenue scandalous enough to warrant an HBO dramatic series based on its shady exploits?

Michele Maher thinks so. The director, producer and writer of the film “Garmento,” which opens Friday in New York, Maher has approached executives at the cable network about spinning off the film into a series. She even dreams of landing a spot on the lucrative Sunday night lineup once “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos” permanently tune out. The final season of “Sex and the City” begins in January and the future of “The Sopranos” beyond the upcoming season, which kicks off in September, is murky.

Maher has written a script for a pilot episode, which she has submitted to HBO’s series development office in Los Angeles. “I really think this is a great platform and concept for a television series,” said Maher. “I know we are on their radar but there is no green light or pass yet. I think if we are well-received with the film, that will definitely make it a more promising situation.”

In “Garmento,” designer Poncho Ramirez, played by Juan Carlos Hernandez, seeks to reenergize his company’s profile, so he teams up with a group of old-school garmentos to launch a jeans line. There is a clash of cultures between Ramirez’s sleek, chic staffers and the unrefined, number-crunching newcomers. Before long, the garmentos employ some shady business practices, including counterfeiting their own product.

The fashion industry — particularly the jeans world — is familiar territory for Maher, who from 1994 to 1996 worked at Calvin Klein in various positions, including assistant designer for men’s knitwear, jeans and underwear, and as an account executive with CK Jeans, when Designer Holdings LLC produced the line. Subsequent to her stint at Calvin Klein, Maher worked as an account executive at Rafaella Jeans and Jordache Enterprises’ Gasoline division.

Maher is quick to acknowledge the obvious looming question: Is the film based on her former colleagues?

“It is a fictional film based on elements of truth,” she said. “There were things [in the movie] that I was definitely exposed to.”

Maher declined to separate fact from fiction in the film, but she said that Poncho Ramirez, the flamboyantly eccentric designer at the center of the drama, is a compilation of many personalities. “He isn’t modeled after anyone. People say, ‘He reminds me of Isaac Mizrahi,’ but I don’t even know Isaac and it’s not based on Calvin. It’s based on so many people.”

The film’s other clichéd characters include a frosty female executive who barks at a pair of staffers creating an ad campaign, “Give me something sexy, boys,” as well as her assistant, who informs a new hire, “You’ll be broke as shit [working at Poncho Ramirez] but you’ll look like a million bucks.”