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Take the Long Way

This story first appeared in the October 10, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Many American shoppers occasionally are unable to find the size of jeans they need in retail stores. But it’s unlikely that many look at their frustration and see a business opportunity.

For years, insurance executive Deborah Cerasani had a hard time finding jeans that would fit her daughters — Melissa, who at 18 stands 5 foot 8-1/2 inches tall and wears a 34-inch inseam, and 14-year-old Adriana, who is 5 foot 5-1/2 inches and also wears a 34-inch inseam. When she could find jeans that fit them, she said, “I could never use the dryer and was always accused of purposely shrinking my daughter’s clothes.”

Fed up with hours of shopping — not to mention the accusations of malicious dryer usage — Cerasani last year decided to launch Bacci, a line of jeans targeted at women who need long inseams in traditional sizes.

“The potential is tremendous,” Cerasani said. “The need is there.”

Recent survey data backs her up on this. As reported, a recent Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor study found that women’s most common complaint about the fit of jeans was length — 39 percent of respondents said they had problems finding jeans that were the right length. That reflects the fact that many jeans vendors offer only a limited range of inseam lengths and sometimes produce fashion styles in only one length.

Bacci is offering seven styles of jeans for spring retailing in inseams of 34 inches, 36 inches and 38 inches, at sizes 2 to 14. Cerasani emphasized that hers is a niche apart from the large-sized realm. Wholesale prices range from $38 to $63.50.

“This is for the woman who is smaller, but is longer legged,” said Cerasani, who noted that at 5 foot 4 she’s technically considered petite, but requires a 33-inch inseam.

Cerasani had no background in the apparel industry, but she said she’s been skilled at sewing for years and had for more than a decade contemplated starting an apparel company. A year ago, she started Bacci LLC as a side project to her full-time job and continuing education. She lined up production in New York and Connecticut, near her home office in Cromwell, and started selling to local specialty stores, as well as to Web retailer longtallwomen.com.

In July, she decided to go full tilt at Bacci.

“I gave up a full-time position and a full-time paycheck. I was crazy,” she said. “But you have to give it your all.”

She’s now working to line up larger-scale production overseas and hoping to land some bigger retail accounts for spring. Cerasani now supplies her daughters with the jeans, and said she’s pleased to have found her entry into the apparel industry.

“I wanted to find something different, that was an actual niche,” she said. “And it’s right here in my own family.”

A Kick in the Pants

Bootcut jeans have been around almost from the days when cowboys realized that the pants then worn by miners looked pretty comfortable.

But Nathanael Harkham, owner of the new line Cheeky Brand, is bringing a twist to the idea. His line includes a style he calls the “cowboy bootleg,” which tapers to a flap at the back of the leg that hangs along the heel of a cowboy boot or other high-heeled shoe.

“It covers the heel, but also lets you see the shoe,” Harkham explained. He said he was looking to tweak the leg opening of jeans because “I don’t think the flare is going to be around forever.”

The Los Angeles-based line is bowing for spring retailing, with about a dozen styles that wholesale for $40 to $48. The jeans are manufactured at plants in Los Angeles, China and Nicaragua.

Rises on the line range from 6 inches to 7 inches, a toned-down take on the low-rise cut that Harkham described as “teasing, but not disturbing.”

New Home for Jill Stuart Jeans

In a move to provide room for its expanding product line, Jill Stuart Jeans is moving next week to a new 5,000-square-foot showroom on the fifth floor of 1385 Broadway in Manhattan. Since bowing for fall 2000, the line had been housed at a 2,000-square-foot space at 550 Seventh Avenue.

“As the new line has expanded to include a complete group of tops and dresses for spring 2003, a new and larger space was needed to house the collection appropriately,” said Charles Jebara, president of the line and a member of the family that owns Alpha Group, the company that holds the licenses for the jeans line.

Haas Honored for AIDS Work

A new organization dedicated to AIDS prevention honored Levi Strauss & Co. chairman Robert Haas at its launch event in Manhattan on Monday night.

The organization, Youth AIDS, plans to educate today’s teens about safe sex and HIV and AIDS prevention. The group plans to run public-service announcements on television featuring stars such as Destiny’s Child, Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake.

“We have been at the forefront of AIDS prevention for about 20 years now,” Haas said before the event. “We really understand the importance of partnerships in order to fight this and reach people around the world. Instead of being lectured, kids are hearing from their favorite artists about the issue. It really gets the point across.”

San Francisco-based Levi’s launched the Levi Strauss Foundation in 1985, which has been dedicated to the support of AIDS research, among other causes, since its inception. The foundation has contributed more than $25 million in HIV and AIDS grants worldwide.

The group also honored William Roedy, president of MTV Networks International and chairman of MTV Networks Europe. Youth AIDS also lauded Sir Elton John for his Elton John AIDS Foundation charity and Patty Stonesifer, co-chair and president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Youth AIDS was started by Population Services International, a nonprofit organization that has worked to improve the health of millions of people worldwide over the past 30 years in areas such as family planning, maternal and child health care and HIV and AIDS prevention.

At the kickoff dinner, held at Manhattan’s Tribeca Rooftop, guests were entertained by two of today’s rising stars from J Records, Mario and Lamya. Singers Angie Stone and Wyclef Jean and actress Gloria Reuben also appeared. The group said it plans to run two concerts, one on Nov. 23 in Cape Town, South Africa featuring Alicia Keys and the other on Nov. 7 in Seattle, with performances from The Dave Matthews Band and Missy Elliot. The concerts will air in a 90-minute commercial-free special on MTV on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day. A short auction took place at the event to raise money for Youth AIDS, with $1,600 going for two VIP tickets to the Seattle concert and $1,000 for a dress designed by Heatherette.

Bendel’s Denim ER

Henri Bendel has a plan for shoppers who have a problem getting the right fit in their jeans.

As part of the New York retailer’s West Coast Week promotion, the Los Angeles-based team from Denim Doctors plans to set up shop at the store Oct. 17 to 19 to custom fit jeans for shoppers. Women stopping at the store can have a new pair of jeans tailored or have a pair of Denim Doctors’ vintage Levi’s customized.

The Denim Doctors can lower a waistband, change the taper of a leg, adjust the butt or make other changes to make a pair of jeans fit. Sean Hornbeak, founder of Denim Doctors, and a tailor will set up in the Denim Shop on the second floor. No appointments will be necessary and finished jeans will be ready in two days.

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