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Denim Dish

Blundell’s Evisu Action<br><br>When Pamela Blundell joined Evisu’s design team as women’s wear designer for Evisu Donna last year, she did her research.<br><br>After meeting with Hidehiko Yamane, the founder and owner of Evisu,...

Blundell’s Evisu Action

When Pamela Blundell joined Evisu’s design team as women’s wear designer for Evisu Donna last year, she did her research.

After meeting with Hidehiko Yamane, the founder and owner of Evisu, Blundell spent time trawling the streets of Japan and rummaging through the label’s design archives.

“Yamane-san was truly inspiring,” said Blundell, who last worked on the British label Copperwheat Blundell and still operates out of London. “I wanted to keep the line very Evisu, so it was important to look at what they have done with the label and where they’re taking it now. I used that as my foundation.”

Evisu Donna was set up in 1999 to complete the development of the label as a full fashion range and not just a jeans brand. It now has 170 accounts worldwide and this year is expected to generate sales between $2 million and $3 million at retail.

Blundell’s debut collection for fall-winter 2003 stays true to Evisu’s roots, but offers a lot more than baggy indigo denim branded with the trademark seagull logo. She explained that there were three elements to the collection: Evisu history, Japanese culture and street influence.

The result is a mix of geisha with a heavy serving of urban London.

“I see Evisu Donna as a person,” said Blundell. “She’s a young Japanese girl who has just arrived in London. All the time, I’m thinking about what she would wear and how she would customize her look and throw it all together. I try to work that into my designs.”

There are also quirky references to British tweed and fishingwear. The latter idea comes straight from “Evisu,” the name of the Japanese Buddhist god of money who is portrayed with a fish and fishing rod.

Evisu Donna fall-winter, which was shown in Milan during fashion week, features low-slung pants in hunting-breeches styles or with billowing sides like riding uniforms. Others are military-inspired, with camouflage prints, drawstring details or tied ankles. Shirts and jackets in the line feature epaulettes and oversized pockets. The collection also includes sexy, low-cut, double-breasted tweed waistcoats. The group includes pleater herringbone skirts as well as straight denim styles.

This story first appeared in the May 22, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Although the Evisu logo adorns everything, it’s a miniature version, in candy pink instead of the usual milky cream.

The line shows Eastern influence in the form of bright red and black Japanese-inspired tops; large, hooded blouson jackets, and silk ribbon-tied corsets, in a print that Blundell lifted from an antique kimono.

Teamed with gloves, flat caps and pearls, the collection has a sassy chic feel to it, which Blundell explained is largely due to the cut: “Above all, the clothes have to be flattering, although some of the styles are baggy, it still has to hang off the butt in that just-right kind of way.

“I introduced new cuts on the jeans, I dropped the waists and made the legs tighter by having zips on the back of legs to gather the jean in,” she explained. Drainpipe styles are tapered at the ankle to elongate the leg and are worn with heels for a chic-urban look.

Although Evisu Donna has a young appeal, Blundell doesn’t want the line to be pigeonholed into an age bracket.

“It’s not so much about this age or that, it’s more about appealing to someone young in spirit,” she said.

There are 26 doors in Japan, including an Evisu Donna store; 49 each in the U.K. and U.S.; 38 doors in the Netherlands, and eight in France.

Although plans for her second collection are still being sketched, tried and tested, this time around Blundell is staying closer to home for inspiration.

“I love to people-watch from my office window in Soho, I can spend hours just looking at how people dress.”

— Sarah Harris

Tarrant Cuts Loss

Tarrant Apparel Group, a maker of private label casual apparel, said its losses narrowed in the first quarter as it tightened operations to offset slower consumer spending.

The Los Angeles-based firm said for the three months ended March 31, its losses slimmed to $3.9 million, or 24 cents a diluted share, from a loss of $6.6 million, or 42 cents, including the cumulative effect of an accounting change. Excluding the change, the year-ago loss was $1.7 million, or 11 cents. Net sales increased 20.8 percent to $78.7 million from $65.2 million, primarily reflecting $10.9 million additional sales attributed to United Apparel Ventures LLC, which was established in July 2001.

“Our seasonally slowest first quarter was impacted by continued slow consumer spending patterns, which caused our retail customers to order more conservatively,” Gerard Guez, chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. “We continue to work with our customers to provide the rapid turnaround and high-quality product they expect from Tarrant while also maintaining a tight focus on reducing overhead expenses and streamlining our operating processes.”

In addition, he said the company is developing several initiatives to enhance long-term growth potential and add diversification to its revenue stream. Specifically, he said it is focused upon maximizing the year-round capacity utilization of its facilities in Mexico, developing and licensing private brands and developing global distribution for these branded products.

“We believe that building our private brand business will be a key driver of topline growth and we are encouraged by the positive momentum we have gained with our American Rag private brand, which is on track to debut in approximately 100 select Federated stores this summer,” Guez said.

As reported, Tarrant acquired half of the voting rights and slightly less of the equity of American Rag CIE II, owners of the American Rag label, in April.

Looking ahead, Guez said, based on the investments and strategic initiatives being undertaken, he is anticipating the company will generate income for the full year.

— Jennifer Weitzman

Calvin’s Gallery Moment

Denim is the inspiration and the substance of pieces of art that are to go on exhibit at three Calvin Klein stores overseas starting Saturday. It’s a program called “Denim as Art” and is intended to showcase the work of emerging European artists at two stores in Spain and one in the United Arab Emirates.

A store in Barcelona will house a mixed-media piece called “Denim as the Container of Energy and Life” by Ferdinando Farina; the Bilbao unit will show a pop-art collage called “History of Jeans” by Paolo Robaudi and “How Deep is the Ocean” by Antonio Ribatti, and in Dubai the company will show a deconstructed pair of jeans called “Denim Art for Calvin Klein” by Diana Da Ros.

The pieces are to remain on exhibit through June 30.

— S.M.

FRX Expands

A year after jumping into the women’s denim game with a line of high-end jeans, FRX Clothing is starting to hedge its bets by expanding into nondenim looks, as well as a men’s line. It’s becoming a common move as companies react to the slowdown in consumer enthusiasm for the basic fabric, which has commanded the fashion spotlight for several seasons.

Yet Michael Suozzi, vice president of the New York-based line, contends the move isn’t just a reaction to market conditions.

“I don’t know that it was so much preparing for a shakeout as it was a move to set ourselves apart,” he said. “You don’t want to have one dimension.”

Guy Kinberg, the company’s president, said he’d initially planned to expand the product offering and pointed out that’s why he named the line FRX Clothing and not FRX Jeans.

“When we first came out we had to focus on denim because we needed to establish the brand,” he said.

Many jeans brands have started to bolster their lines with standard twill pants and corduroys, often subjected to the same washes, sanding and treatments seen in jeans lines. FRX isn’t taking that route, but instead is offering more cleaned-up twill looks.

Suozzi said if the consumer is looking to buy something other than jeans, it doesn’t make sense to offer an alternative look that’s too similar. “The thinking here is diversifying the wardrobe,” he said.

In addition to basic twill pants, the fall line includes a style called the “Champola,” which is fitted with drawstrings on the inside of the legs, allowing the wearer to adjust the pants’ length while wearing them.

The company sold $1 million worth of goods last year after it started shipping in July and expects to do $3 million to $4 million in sales of women’s products this year, according to Suozzi. He expects a men’s line, launching for fall, to bring in an additional $600,000 to $700,000 in revenue. He said that denim still represents about 80 percent of the bottoms sales volume. The line also includes skirts and knit tops.

On the jeans side, the company also has developed aggressive alternate washes as a way of highlighting nonstretch bottoms.

“We found that we were shipping more stretch fabrics than rigid and found that if we wanted to sell nonstretch fabrics, we had to do something special,” he said.

— Scott Malone

Isaacs Sees Red

The maker of Marithé & François Girbaud jeans in the U.S., I.C. Isaacs & Co., blamed declining sales for its slip into the red in the first quarter.

The New York-based company reported a $642,000 net loss, which comes out to 6 cents a diluted share, in the quarter ended March 31, compared with net income of $1.6 million, or 21 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales were down 17.9 percent to $16.5 million. The company also said sales to off-price retailers crimped margins.

“The first quarter of 2003 continued to be a difficult time for the company and the U.S. retail environment,” said chairman Staffan Ahrenberg. But, he added, “The company is proceeding with its plan to become more efficient in delivering its product to the marketplace.”

—?S.M.