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Denim Digs In

Denim remains a hot commodity, and California is offering a crop of brands that all hope to be the next big blue thing.

LOS ANGELES — It might be an American staple, but breaking into and conquering the increasingly tough denim market has become a challenge. And nowhere more so than in California, which boasts a legacy from Levi’s to Guess and has in recent years reignited the blues chorus with Earl, Seven and Juicy Couture. Forget about basic styles and great fit —that’s a given. Today, buyers and consumers demand ingenious sourcing, unique treatments, imaginative detailing and an even broader offering than just jeans. Here are a few brands ready to break out.

LIX

Founders: Sue Eaves, Patrick Eaves, Jennifer Yang.

Designer: Sue Eaves.

Notable Clients: Jennifer Lopez, Kim Cattrall, Brittany Murphy.

Top Retail Accounts: Bergdorf Goodman, H. Lorenzo, Fred Segal.

Price range: $54 miniskirt to $110 jacket.

2002 Retail Sales: $4.5 million.

Expected 2003 sales: $5.5 million.

Big Hit: Front-seamed jeans with signature western belt loop.

Concept: Styling contemporary denim and corduroy jeans, shirts and jackets in novelty fabrics and a broad color range. Up Next: A men’s line is in the works.

ROCK & REPUBLIC

Founders: Michael Ball, Andrea Bernholtz.

Designer: Michael Ball.

Notable Clients: Sarah Jessica Parker, Salma Hayek.

Top Retail Accounts: Bergdorf Goodman, H. Lorenzo, Fred Segal.

Price Range: $50 T-shirt to $220 jeans.

2002 Retail Sales: $2.4 million.

Expected 2003 Sales: $8.2 million.

Big Hit: Classic five-pocket jean.

Concept: Detail-oriented denim with a comfortable fit.

BLUE CULT

Founders and Designers: David Mechaly and Caroline Athias.

Notable Clients: Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Britney Spears.

Top Retail Accounts: Barneys New York, Lisa Kline and Ron Herman.

Price Range: $55 jeans to $110 jackets.

2002 Retail Sales: $12 million.

Expected 2003 sales: $30 million.

Big hit: The “Gwyneth” jeans, featuring a button front and two patch pockets.

Concept: Offering great fit for the teenager and her hip mom.

SERFONTAINE

Founders and Designers: Mik and Maria Serfontaine.

Notable Clients: Halle Berry, Julia Stiles, Alanis Morissette.

Top Retail Accounts: Scoop, Henri Bendel, Tracy Ross, Traffic.

Price range: $55 to $72.

2002 Retail Sales: $3 million.

Expected 2003 Sales: $6 million.

Big Hit: The low-rise “Easy Rider” that Britney wore on her last tour.

Concept: Creating an edgy fashion denim brand. Presently perfecting an organic wash using no chemicals.

BLUJEANIOUS

Founders: Robin O., David Sack.

Designer: Robin O.

Notable Clients: Meg Ryan, Jennifer Lopez, Pamela Anderson.

Top Retail Accounts: Barneys New York, Macy’s West, Bloomingdale’s.

Price Range: $50 miniskirt to $88 blazer.

2002 Sales: $4.5 million.

Expected 2003 Sales: $6 million.

Big Hit: Slim-fitting military pants in pigment-dyed sanded Bedford cord.

Concept: Appeal to baby boomers, using European stretch fabrics and unique details like a six-piece waistband that doesn’t gap.

Who’s Next

Less than a year into business, these denim lines are already gunning to be the next big blue thing out of Los Angeles.

HUDSON
Founders: Robin Chretien, Scott Drake, Peter Kim.Designer: Robin Chretien.Top Retail Accounts: Ron Herman and Kitson, Los Angeles; Bloomingdale’s.Price Range: $53 to $59, depending on style and wash.Concept: Body-conscious jeans with stylish detailing.

SADDLELITE JEANS
Founders/Designers: Daniel Green, Lukus Eichmann.Top Retail Accounts: Collette, Barneys New York, Fred Segal.Price Range: $80 to $100.Concept: Using Japanese denim, the teenage owners emphasize a shapely cut using quadruple stitching.

YANUK
Founders/Designers: Anouk Guez, Yael Torbati.Top Retail Accounts: Madison, Planet Blue, American Rag, Los Angeles.Price Range: $46 miniskirt to $65 jeans.Concept: A vintage-inspired line using unique washes and details, like a sixth pocket on classic jeans, and focus on fit.

OLIVER TWIST
Founder/Designer: Christopher Enuke.Top Retail Accounts: Fred Segal, Henry Lehr, Big Drops.Price Range: $75 jeans to $112 jackets.Concept: Designer denim with engineered details, like low-rise jeans with a star cut out and inset into its back pocket.