LOS ANGELES — It's a routine familiar to any aspiring actress in Tinseltown — shuffling to meetings clutching a flip book filled with glossy photographs and praying that someone will give her a break.
Recently, Carie Salter trotted through similar motions. Rather than replacing Nicole Kidman on the big screen, Salter, the 29-year-old president of a new denim line called Bogdenoff, hopes to land her pricy jeans in a high-profile showroom and eventually in well-known specialty shops such as Los Angeles' Maxfield.
Dropping by uninvited at nine showrooms to gauge preliminary interest in her four-month-old venture that she plans to launch for the holiday season, Salter heard the same rejection uttered in myriad ways.
"It could be potentially a conflict of interest because they already have other denim lines. Summer is slow for denim. They are not feeling the pants. Their plates were full," were just a few responses, recalled Salter, who, along with her 30-year-old husband, Andy, a private equity investor, is funding the apparel start-up with personal money and partnering with the label's namesake and designer, David Bogdenoff.
Showroom owners have a reason to be wary.
"Frankly, the denim market is down, dramatically down, right now," said Jason Bates, owner of Derelicte Inc., a Los Angeles showroom that carries a single denim line, Bread, among sportswear brands such as Sweden's WeAretheSuperlativeConspiracy and Perry Ellis International's Original Penguin.
Furthermore, at a time when shopkeepers said retail prices for premium denim have settled on the $150-to-$200 range, Bogdenoff's starting price of $239 seems intimidating. The company attributed its lofty prices to the unusual multipaneled construction concocted by its 43-year-old designer. Having customized jeans for Mick Jagger, designed denim for Anna Sui and made patterns for Alexander McQueen, Bogdenoff came up with a concept to divide a pair of pants into 40 panels, with separate sections for the knee, thigh, calf and hem.
"For 100 years, [the jean's] been constructed the same way," Bogdenoff said. "It's rather boring — five pockets and four panels."
One Tuesday afternoon, the Salters toted a black bag stuffed with eight pairs of men's and women's jeans for appointments with Derelicte's Bates and the manager of Showroom 7. While waiting for one of his staff members to try on the jeans, Bates sat on the edge of a white leather couch and peppered the Salters with questions:"Where's your denim from?"
"Is that stretch?"
"You're doing all your production in L.A.?"
"Are they going to be numbered?"
Drawing on her pedigree as a scion of a family that owns Golden Bear Sportswear, a San Francisco-based maker of varsity and leather jackets, and an MBA graduate from Harvard Business School, Salter responded without missing a beat. The fabric is made in the U.S. by Cone Denim, all the women's jeans have spandex and production is done in Los Angeles, she said. Andy Salter said they hadn't thought of numbering the style dubbed the Vixen, which, with a $430 retail tag, will be made in a limited amount, but said they should.
Bates offered a glimmer of hope when he told the Salters that the denim market isn't disappearing. "It needs a shake up," he said.
"Since denim is such a saturated market, [a newcomer] needs to be unique," added Marisa Dictenberg, the manager for the Los Angles office of New York-based Showroom 7.
Dictenberg already carries two denim lines: Kova & T, which is based here, and Dallas' Denim for Immortality, each of which wholesale for about $80 to $110. Still, once every two to three weeks, she receives requests from a different jeans company to be carried in the showroom, which also represents Generra's accessories business and Anna Sui, among other brands.
"I don't know if we want to take any more denim in the showroom," Dictenberg said after meeting with the Salters and recommending samples that the couple should send to Showroom 7's owners in Manhattan. "I do feel they have a unique product."
Salespeople weren't the only industry representatives that Bogdenoff had to convince. Five manufacturing contractors turned it down before New Crew Production Corp. accepted its business. Kris Park, vice president of the manufacturer that has 20 years of experience producing jeans for brands including Raven, Paige Premium Denim and Lucky Brand Jeans, said it will cost a third more and take five times longer to sew one pair of Bogdenoff's jeans in comparison to a conventional five-pocket model.
"To help new companies takes a lot of time and money," Park said. Yet, in the case of Bogdenoff, "I wanted to support that line and see how it works. It's a very interesting jean."Carie Salter said that, while Bogdenoff will focus on pants for the first season, it will offer additional silhouettes later.
"Skirts, dresses, gowns, you name it," said Bogdenoff at his downtown studio.
"In denim, no less," Salter added.
"Denim is my weakness," Bogdenoff said.
The search for a showroom and the firm's first order continues.
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