Nautica Steps Up

Less than a month into her new post as vice president of sales for women’s jeans at Nautica Jeans Co., Leslie Singer said her initial focus will be on building the brand’s sales to its current retail accounts, rather than pursuing new customers.

"My goal is to do more in the doors that we are in," she said in a recent interview at the company’s Manhattan showroom.

The brand is currently sold in 325 U.S. retail locations.

One step the company is taking to boost sales is introducing for spring retailing four styles of "premium" jeans, wholesaling for $38.50. The jeans feature new fabrics and silhouettes for the line: a low-rise boot cut and a slim cut, in a green-tinted denim and a dark vintage finish.

"There was not a lot of denim for Nautica a year ago," said Singer. "We are going to offer the customer newness."

The premium jeans raise the brand’s top suggested retail price point to $79, from $69.

Dow Joins Denim Game

With an an eye toward making it easier to finish denim fabrics without destroying them, Dow Chemical Co. is jumping into the fiber business, launching a polyethylene fiber with stretch properties under the XLA brand.

"People have asked me why are we going into this industry?" said Romeo Kreinberg, business group president for polyolefins and elastomers, referring to the difficult business conditions of recent years in the synthetic-fiber sector. "The answer is very simple. We go into businesses where we think we can make a difference."

The Midland, Mich.-based firm has applied to the Federal Trade Commission to have a new generic label, Lastol, used for the fiber variety.

Antonio Torres, global business director for Dow Fiber Solutions, said at a Manhattan press conference Monday that the company believed the fiber’s primary technical advantages are it is highly resistant to being damaged by chemicals, including chlorine, and it can be processed at temperatures of up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit. That would allow stretch denims made with the fiber to endure the washing and finishing processes necessary to create faux-vintage looks without losing too much structural integrity.He called stretch fibers "a very attractive part of the market."

The fibers are being manufactured in Taiwan by Hualon Corp., in a factory originally built to produce spandex. Spandex prices fell dramatically following the Asian currency crisis of the late-Nineties and many observers blamed that phenomenon on the number of new spandex factories that had opened at around the time demand began to fall off.

The company declined to reveal its sales targets or current production capacity levels for the new fiber.

Mills Cutting Debts

Bankrupt denim producers Burlington Industries Inc. and Galey & Lord Inc. each obtained court permission last week to lower their debtor-in-possession credit lines, a sign that the companies are generating sufficient cash to fund their day-to-day operations.

Burlington, which filed for Chapter 11 last November, got the court’s nod to lower its DIP level from $190 million to $100 million. That, in turn, lowered the commitment fee the company pays to the lenders, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company also received the court’s approval to sell another $31.3 million in assets, so long as the proceeds are used to pay down debt, and to make a cash payment of $33.7 million toward its outstanding debts, which will reduce its interest expenses. In addition, the court extended the exclusivity period, in which only Burlington management can file a reorganization plan for the Greensboro, N.C.-based company, through Jan. 31.

Galey & Lord, which filed for Chapter 11 in New York in February, received court approval to cut its DIP level from $100 million to $75 million. The company, which has its executive offices in New York, said in an SEC filing that it had no outstanding borrowing against the DIP line, except for a $3.9 million letter of credit, and had cash on hand of $34.5 million.

Denim Day Friday

Lee National Denim Day is set to take place Friday. As part of the event, employees of more than 20,000 participating companies are expected to pay $5 each for the privilege of wearing jeans to work.Proceeds of the event are to go to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, which finances research into the disease, as well as funding efforts to educate women about the disease. Lee Co., of Merriam, Kan., expects this year’s event to raise $7.5 million. Over the six years it has been held, the event has raised a total of $30 million for the charity.

Lucky’s Big Night

For the sixth year in a row, The Lucky Brand Foundation is planning to help some children have some lucky days.

The Foundation’s Black Tie & Blue Jeans gala is planned for Nov. 15 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. Hosted by comedian Dennis Miller with a musical performance from country music star Bonnie Raitt, this year’s gala will support the Starlight Children’s Foundation, the National Ability Center, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America and Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services.

Founded by Lucky Brand chief executive officer Gene Montesano and president Barry Perlman, the Lucky Brand Foundation’s mission is to bring hope to disadvantaged and disabled children. Since its inception six years ago, it has raised over $3 million for various children’s charities, such as the $700,000 it raised at last year’s gala for charities including the Children’s Burn Foundation and Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times.

Tickets for this year’s gala are priced at $350 per person and the company anticipates the attendance of about 800 guests from the fashion, entertainment and publishing industries.

Rolling with Calvin

CK Calvin Klein Jeans is helping Rolling Stone magazine celebrate 40 years of publishing.

On Oct. 17, CK Jeans will sponsor the magazine’s "Women of Rock" concert series featuring performances by Alanis Morrissette and Michelle Branch at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom. The concert will follow an array of event promotions through, e-mails to New York City subscribers and a retail tie-in with Bloomingdale’s Manhattan store.

From now until Oct. 9, shoppers at the women’s CK Jeans shop at Bloomingdale’s can enter to win two VIP tickets to the show, as well as backstage passes to meet Morrissette and access to a private VIP room. While CK Jeans is the title sponsor for the upcoming event, other sponsors include Altoids, Redken, BMW Motorcycles, Toblerone and Budweiser.

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