DENIM DISH

NEW FIT ON 501S: Starting with fall deliveries, there will be a new fit for Levi's 501s. The classic button-fly style has been slightly redesigned so the fabric's grain runs along the side seam rather than down the center of the leg, resulting in "more of a boy's fit," according to women's merchandise manager Maggie Hanselman.
Current inventory will be taken back and replaced with the new product, Hanselman said, and the sizing will change from the 3-5-7 range to a waist and inseam system, running from 24 inches to 34 inches with three inseam lengths.
Wholesale prices will stay at around $25.50 for the basic five-pocket.
"Everyone will be able to wear at least two, even three sizes," said Hanselman. "Our shrink-to-fit fabric, from Cone Mills, has a lot of give, and the rise is lower. So, if [the customer] wants a snug fit, she can buy one size; if she wants a classic fit, she can buy the next size, and if she wants it a little baggy, she can buy the next size after that."
The print advertising campaign will play up the "guy's cut," Hanselman said. Silver Tab, Levi's more fashion-forward line, will also have three new boy's cut styles.

STEEL WHEELS KEEP ROLLING: According to Danny Lee, chief executive officer of Steel Jeans, the Los Angeles junior denim house that filed Chapter 11 last November, the firm is on the verge of reaching an agreement with its secured and unsecured creditors.
"A deal should be consummated shortly, "he said. "We could be wrapping up negotiations by the end of the week and be out of bankruptcy by the end of the summer. The paperwork takes 60 to 90 days."
In the meantime, Lee opened a 1,500-square-foot New York showroom at 215 W. 40th St. He also hired Michael Lew, 28, to remerchandise the line. On board since January, design director Lew now heads up a five-member team working to create a new logo and take the junior collection in two directions.
An extensive group of denim basics including jeans in five fits and five colors is complemented by small fashion-forward groups. Featuring about 10 styles each, these groups include: Indian Mustang, a deep blue denim with white contrast stitching; Antique Slub, sandwashed denim bodies with copper rivets, and Vintage Fifties, trousers, capris, and stovepipe jeans in enzyme-washed denim with bar tack details. The new offerings, at $10 to $25 wholesale, are to hit 300 stores, starting in June, Lee said.
The design team is also responsible for producing girls sizes 7 to 14 and toddler apparel. In addition, Lew hopes to introduce men's wear to Steel's mix within a year. Aside from his full-time position at Steel, Lew also continues to run Imaginary Concepts, a contemporary sportswear company, with his wife, Doris Lew. That firm grosses slightly over $1 million a year and garnered the California Mart Rising Star award for its men's wear collection in 1993. Its women's wear was nominated for the same honor last year.MORE FROM SWIFT: Dominion Textile, Montreal-based Canadian textile giant, said it will spend $26 million (U.S.) to increase denim production in its Swift Textiles' plants in Erwin, N.C., and Drummondville, Quebec. Domtex said the investment will boost its North American denim production capacity by 5 to 10 percent, but the company would not elaborate. Denim accounted for $363 million, or 39 percent of the company's total sales of $931 million, for the year ended June 30, 1994. The added capacity follows a 20 percent capacity increase last year.
The increased capacity is scheduled to come on line during the third quarter of fiscal 1996. Domtex does not anticipate any cotton supply problems, noting it has sufficient forward coverage to meet increased denim production.
"This move marks a significant step in our accelerating agenda to focus on the core businesses in which we have distinguished leadership positions," said John A. Boland 3rd, president and chief executive officer of Dominion Textile.
According to John Heldrich, president and ceo of Swift Textiles, a subsidiary of Dominion, "Without further capacity expansion, we would be unable to support the future growth of our customers."
The investment, which relieves a current bottleneck, will result in more flexible operations, and represents a very cost-effective utilization of capital within the existing North American base, the company said. The expansion will create 51 jobs in Erwin, which currently employs 1,330, and 70 jobs in Drummondville, where 670 people work. Drummondville is also expanding its yarn operations to meet the increased denim production. Domtex said the $26 million will come from internally generated funds, with about $3.5 million being spent this year and the balance in fiscal 1996.

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