JOOP'S HIGH HOPES: WOMEN'S JEANS

Byline: Bridget Foley

NEW YORK--"God is not a celebrity."
Now that he has your attention, may Wolfgang Joop interest you in a new pair of jeans?
The jeans are from the Joop Jeans collection for women the designer is launching in the U.S. this spring. And the musing on the Almighty is another quip from that line's ongoing "just a thought" ad campaign. This one, with a depiction of a crucified figure with a guitar slung across his torso, will break in early 1995.
The women's jeans, priced at $50 to $70 wholesale, will hit stores in January, a season after Joop's men's jeans premiered in 20 doors across the country. Both were launched in Europe in 1988.
Produced by Mustang Jeans, a family-owned operation based in Kunzelsau, Germany, Joop Jeans is one of the designer's 13 licensees that range from men's and women's ready-to-wear to fragrance to eyewear. There are eight freestanding Joop boutiques around the world, with additional openings likely for Singapore and Korea. Joop says the company's worldwide wholesale volume will hit about $310 million ($450 million deutschemarks) this year.
The 35-piece jeans collection is virtually identical to that sold in Europe, except for some signature embroideries that have been modified or eliminated for the U.S. Five basic finishes--stonewashed, distressed washed, sandblasted, jet black and washed black--form the core of the collection, while other fabrics include "lefthanded" denim and cotton blends with Tencel or Lycra spandex.
In a recent chat with WWD, Joop talked about coming to America, Jil Sander, and the correlation between foot size and the emancipation of women.

Q: With the launch of the jeans line here, do you expect to be spending more time in the U.S.?
A: Absolutely--life is so sexy in America. The streets are so full of life. People used to think that America had no taste. Now, if you want to be inspired, you'd better be here than in Paris. Paris is very bourgeois. It's all tourists. And Hamburg is like a funeral.
There is no culture in East Germany right now. This will change, but it will take 10 years or more. New York reminds me of Berlin in the Twenties, in terms of its cultural scene. Also in New York, you have this incredible architecture, but the beach is right nearby. It's like science fiction, like "Blade Runner."
Q: What do you think of Los Angeles?
A: Los Angeles is not my place, I must say. Every day it's the same temperature, and at 11 p.m. everything is closed. For me, as a foreigner, it's too private. There's no scene in the streets.
Q: Do you expect to be taking more of your licensees to the U.S., the women's ready-to-wear, for example? (Currently, only the fragrance, jeans and men's wear are available here.)
A: There are two growth areas we're concentrating on right now--Asia and the U.S. In fact, I'm planning to start a new company, Joop America--to coordinate all of the business of all of the licensees in the U.S. That's in the works, and should be in operation by next year.
Q: What adaptations do you have to make for the American market?
A: In America, you deal with very professional people. In Europe, they're less prepared. As for the lines themselves, I'm believing in small collections--1,000 pieces is just ridiculous. But in America, there are so many different climates and so many seasons. We are used to doing two collections, spring and fall, but we have to accommodate the retailers here, who want all those seasons. In a way, it's very modern how the American market works. We're probably moving toward a time when there will be 12 collections, one each month.
Q: Besides jeans, what's your viewpoint on fashion now?
A: I'm always into clothes that are tailored, sexy, sophisticated--but not anything that's overdecorated. I like fabrics that look a little bit vintage, fabrics with dignity. All this plastic, rubber, vinyl stuff--we can't talk about recycling and do fabrics like that. Fake fur is also perverse in that way. I love the idea of going back to the classics, to the elegance of [Richard] Avedon and [Irving] Penn. This kind of elegance, style and care are what I like. But I think fashion needs humor also; the pinup girls of the Fifties I like very much.
Q: What about the Seventies revival? A: There was nothing beautiful about the Seventies. It was ugly then and it's ugly now. Helmut Newton was bourgeois then and he's bourgeois now. The photographs we've been seeing, anybody can do it--you only need a flash, horrible makeup and high heels. I have seen too many bitches in my life. I don't want to idolize the bitch. As far as I'm concerned, with that Neiman Marcus catalog, this trend reached its end immediately.
Q: Elegance, yes, but no high heels?
A: These too-feminine sissy shoes are not what I like. I like Forties pumps. If it's too sissy or too feminine, you cannot walk the streets. The shoes of the Forties--a woman can stand in them beautifully, and walk beautifully. The small foot is not in fashion. Women with big feet are secure. Women used to have their feet bound, women with small feet were ruled by men. It's a twisted idea. Women are emancipated, they're not prepared to give that up.
Q: Your firm's growing, Escada is firmly established in fashion's mainstream and Jil Sander has moved beyond her cult following. Do you think this is the age of the German designer?
A: German designers are very understandable for the average person. It seems that you can't compare Jil Sander and Escada. Sander is very dressed, but finished, clear and plain. Escada is no-risk if you like decorated clothes. But you can compare them in a way. Both have no sense of humor, nothing thrilling. I like clothes that are sexy and have a little humor. I like to play with mistakes. German collections are not very sexy, do you think? Maybe that's my place in fashion.

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