LEE CLOSES BELGIAN PLANT: The board of directors of Brussels-based Lee Europe N.V. announced Tuesday that it closed its jeans manufacturing facility in Ieper, Belgium, that day and laid off 480 employees.
The company issued a statement that said Belgium was too expensive to continue to use for manufacturing, and jeans made there could "no longer compete on the international market."
The statement cited difficult international price pressures and heated competition in the jeans market. In addition to high manufacturing costs, a strong Belgian franc was said to be making Ieper-made Lee jeans too pricy at export.
The company is prepared to develop a compensation package for the workers, mainly blue collar, who will be affected by the closing. There are no immediate plans to open another jeans manufacturing facility in Belgium or in Europe, a company executive said. Lee has jeans manufacturing facilities throughout Europe, said a company spokeswoman in the U.S., in such areas as the UK and Poland.
The board said that Lee Europe "will further concentrate on its role as an international distribution and service center, and is convinced it will be able to expand its position on the international market in this respect."
The move came despite Lee's European business having been cited as part of the strong first quarter results reported in April by VF Corp., Lee's parent company. At that time, VF chairman Lawrence R. Pugh said: "Representing more than half of our business, jeanswear has clearly been the earnings driver of the past several quarters."
VF officials also told analysts that its European jeans business was "very strong," with sales up roughly 10 percent.
The closing of the plant does not affect Lee's executive lineup in Europe. Terry Lay, who was named to head VF Jeanswear Europe in 1994, will continue to lead that operation.

MIRACLE BOOST BLASTS OFF: Miracle Boost, the derriere-enhancing jeans made by Sun Apparel for its Code Bleu line, will be officially launched at Macy's East's flagship at Herald Square July 11.
The kick-off will include a classic car and motorcycle motorcade down Broadway with actors and actresses from the musical "Grease," said a spokesman for Sun Apparel, which is based in New York.
There will be a launch party in the store after the motorcade, during which a pair of Miracle Boost jeans will be brought into Macy's in a padlocked box and unlocked. Macy's will have the Miracle Boost jeans exclusively for two weeks, the spokesman said, and after that the jeans will be shipped nationally to other department store accounts.DARK HORSE: The all-important back-to-school selling season started for denim manufacturers this week, and dark denim has emerged as a new trend.
Dick Gilbert, president and owner of Zena, a better denim manufacturer in New York, said: "We've been washing light for so long. All of a sudden, dark is outselling the light, and checking at about 10 percent a week." Gilbert said the sales have been in Zena's relaxed-fit five-pocket jean, which he said will be the leading seller for his line through the back-to-school season. Overall, Gilbert noted, first-week business is "right about where it should be," and ahead of last year.

ITTIERRE SPLITS WITH TRUSSARDI: Ittierre SpA, the Italian jeans and sportswear manufacturer, will not renew its license to produce Trussardi Jeans, Ittierre chairman Carlo Di Risio said.
"We will produce and distribute the spring/summer '96 collection, which will be our final Trussardi Jeans collection, and we have notified Trussardi of our decision," Di Risio said from the company's Isernia offices, near Naples.
Nicola Trussardi, owner and chairman of the $270 million sportswear line, would not confirm the contract's termination.
"Nothing has been decided yet. It's still an open question, and we're evaluating what to do," he said. The company will continue the Trussardi Jeans line, he said.
Ittierre launched the Trussardi Jeans line in 1986, the same year the company was founded. However, Ittierre has grown rapidly in the past few years, acquiring sportswear and jeans licenses for Versace and Dolce & Gabbana, as well as launching its own industrial brands. Di Risio said that the company, which has more than tripled its sales in the past four years, will be looking to add another designer license sometime next year.

YES TO KIDS: Georges Marciano has relaunched Yes Kids, the children's division of Yes Clothing, the Los Angeles junior manufacturer, which he acquired control of in April.
Yes Kids is for girls 7 to 16 and will ship for fall deliveries to better department stores. The line will wholesale from $7 to $20 for basics such as denim jeans and skirts and cotton T-shirts, and from $8 to $24 for fashion pieces such as velvet, stretch nylon and camouflage print A-line dresses, overall dresses and wrap miniskirts.
Baby Yes, a new line, is for newborn, infants and toddlers sizes 4 to 6x for girls and 4 to 7 for boys. Wholesale prices will run from $5 to $12 for newborns, $5 to $19 for infants and $5 to $22 for toddlers. It is slated to ship for fall deliveries.

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