NEW YORK — The designer jeans era of the Seventies is long gone, but Bonjour isn’t forgetting the woman who once sported its denim pants.
Bonjour, most popular with teenage girls of that generation, is now shooting for the attention of those same Baby Boomers by resurrecting the label for spring into a better-priced sportswear collection — but designed to fit a more grown-up figure.
With lots of stretch for comfort, today’s Bonjour jeans are far different than the tight-fitting numbers of decades past.
"We’re dressing the same woman, but she’s older now," said Alex Cole, design director at Bonjour. "We’re giving her fashion that’s not too youthful, so she’ll feel hip but not look like a teenager."
The new Bonjour goes beyond just jeans, but all styles are still denim-related. Cole said features such as cross-hatching, asymmetric seams, ringspun denims and incorporating stretch into everything will provide the right look and fit for this customer, who is likely in the 25-to-60-year-old range. The initial collection includes about 45 pieces spread over denim jeans, jackets, vests, skirts and woven separates. Prices wholesale from $19 for pants to $48 for jackets.
The Levy Group, the large outerwear firm that also produces the 10-year-old Wildlife sportswear line, holds the license for Bonjour sportswear and jeans. The line is expected to generate sales of $7 million to $10 million in its first year.
Carmine Porcelli, managing director of Bonjour, who’s charged with relaunching the brand that last appeared on store shelves in 1987, said he thinks there’s a need in better sportswear for fashion that’s not too youthful, not too expensive and not too "missy."
"She’s not buying the most expensive thing, and she’s not buying the least expensive thing and she definitely wants fashion," said Porcelli, who likes to use Julia Roberts as inspiration for the perfect Bonjour-wearing woman, someone with a healthy figure. "This woman is sexy — not anorexic."
Still, it’s never easy to launch a brand — especially one that has a prior and much different life. During its heyday, Bonjour jeans were sold alongside other "designer jeans" labels like Sergio Valenti, Sasson, Jordache and Gloria Vanderbilt.But women still have fond memories toward their designer label jeans, Porcelli said, making the challenge of reviving the Bonjour brand lessened because of that.
"Their daughters also like it for the retro sensibility," said Porcelli, who helped to relaunch the Halston brand in the mid-Nineties. "The good thing [about the brand] is, because it was absent for so long, it actually became a virgin brand again, so there was nothing to apologize for."
In keeping with the new look of Bonjour, the label has also been updated. On the jeans’ pockets is a burnt orange wave-like swoosh, with the name Bonjour written in cursive. The inside label is also burnt orange, with a deeper toned orange reading: Bonjour Leading Life.
To make finding one’s size easier, the tags will be color-coordinated so that a size 8 will always be purple and a size 6 will always be pink, for instance.
"We’re trying to make it friendlier for the customer to shop," Porcelli said.
Another important component of selling the brand will be in-store shops. The first one will open at Marshall Field’s on State Street in Chicago in the spring, followed by other department stores. The shops will be about 450 square feet and will feature the full collection in a cozy, yet clearly divided, selling space.
Liz Haesler, senior vice president of ready-to-wear at Marshall Field’s, said of the line: "It’s updated, sophisticated fashion at an affordable price. Names don’t necessarily drive people to purchase or not purchase as they used to. Some people know the name, but it really represents something a bit more exotic and sexy. I respect the details, the trims, washes and tops. They’re building a brand, and addressing the marketing and positioning of it."
Bonnie Junell, corporate merchandiser at Nordstrom, likes Bonjour for its "fashion integrity" and "true missy fit at great price points."
"While the product reflects current trends in cuts and washes, it’s designed to fit and flatter a wider range of figures," Junell said. "We think women are going to love having more choices in shopping for style-conscious denim."Meanwhile, Porcelli has big dreams for Bonjour, everything from "clothing to home furnishings, skin care and not just fragrance."
"We really see it turning into a full lifestyle brand," he said.