DENIM DISH

FASHION ON THE RISE: While back-to-school was slow for many basics vendors, retailers noted that they're starting to see some edgier trends emerge.
A spot check of major denim retailers showed that the pendulum may be swinging away from the basic five-pocket toward dark denim, stretch, dresses, wide-leg jeans and the never-ending scooter. Those items helped keep the denim category healthy during a back-to-school season that, according to one retailer, "never really happened."
At Macy's East, fashion director Carolyn Moss said denim was good in the children's, junior and contemporary areas, which she attributed to the store's efforts to bulk up its offerings.
"We became really denim-driven," she said. "There was a lot of success in certain things."
Those things included CK Calvin Klein's easy fit all-over sandblast jeans in the contemporary area, as well as denim vests and jackets. Wide-leg jeans, novelty jackets and vests from Buffalo Jeans also sold well, said Moss.
In the junior area, Levi's was the strongest vendor, with three styles: the loose fit 550, the slim fit 512 and the new "boyfriend-cut" button-fly 501. CK also did well there, with relaxed jeans, shorts and scooter skirts leading the pack, said Moss.
Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president and fashion director at Bloomingdale's, said stretch was the leading trend at his store, from a variety of vendors.
"Dark indigo, low rise hip-huggers, and utility looks like carpenter pants and overalls are selling incredibly. In some cases, sales are more than double last year."
At Sears, Roebuck, a spokeswoman for the company said the store has been promoting denim "aggressively" during the back-to-school period and has seen double-digit increases in the junior area for the category.
The leading color for the store's private label Canyon River Blues line turned out to be black, noted the spokeswoman, while denim dresses, jumpers and skirts led junior selling.
"There has also been a lot of selling in denim-friendly areas, such as embroidered or printed vests, T-shirts, and in the Canyon River Blues line, the mock turtlenecks and logo T-shirts that were designed as part of the line," she said.
A spokesperson for J.C. Penney, based in Plano, Tex., said denim sales for back-to-school were on plan, and slim-fit jeans from the store's private label Arizona brand and Levi's loose-fit 550s were the bestsellers.
Gregory Blow, fashion director for Venture stores, said long denim skirts such as dirndls, sarongs and fringed wraps did well during August, as did long denim dresses in various styles. In addition, he said, the mass chain is starting to test wide-leg jeans.SUIT DISMISSED: A federal court judge in New York has dismissed a suit filed against Jordache Enterprises Inc. by a Panamanian distribution company which was stuck with 180,000 pairs of Jordache jeans it purchased through a third party.
The distributor, Golden Gulf Corp., sued Jordache after it learned it was prohibited from selling the jeans outside of Korea without Jordache's permission, court papers show.
In dismissing the suit, Federal Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said Golden Gulf "has shown neither an existing business relationship that has been or threatens to be disrupted by Jordache nor that Jordache has done anything more than protect its legitimate trademark interests."

THE BLUES IN PRINT: Levi Strauss's biography will hit the stands in November. Called "This Is a Pair of Levi's Jeans," the book chronicles the beginnings and developments of the denim manufacturer. The 320-page book features a foreword by Richard Martin, curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and an afterword by Robert D. Haas, chairman and chief executive officer of Levi Strauss and a grandnephew of the founder.
Key trivia bits include why there's no longer a copper rivet in the 501 crotch and why the stitch design on the back pocket had to be painted on during World War II.

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