Angels Makes its Mark

Angels Jeans is starting to spread its wings.

The five-year-old, moderate-priced, junior jeans brand is gaining some prominence in a market where it’s long been overshadowed by larger competitors like Mudd and LEI, with several retailers citing the brand as a standout performer during the back-to-school shopping season.

"We feel very positive about the performance of the Angels product during the b-t-s period," a J.C. Penney Co. spokesman said. "We very much support the Angels brand and the fresh and trend-right products they are offering."

The family-owned-and-operated company, incorporated as So Sweet LLC, is headed by Carl Eckhaus, president, and his wife, Elyse, vice president of sales.

The pair ran the Blue Star line in the early Nineties, leaving that venture after they sold it to Jordache.

"We left to start this five years ago," Carl Eckhaus said in an interview at the company’s offices at 1407 Broadway in Manhattan. "We’ve typically been grouped with the secondary jeans companies…but we feel we’ve pulled away from the pack."

For much of the past five years, the junior moderate jeans market has been dominated by the Big Three brands:Mudd, LEI — now owned by Jones Apparel Group — and Paris Blues.

Eckhaus said he expects to hit the $70 million sales mark this year, and reach $100 million in 2003, partly with the help of his 22-year-old twin daughters, Jessica and Farah, who recently joined the company in the sales department.

The company sells denim jeans and skirts, with wholesale prices of $11 to $16.50, but no tops, jackets or outerwear. All its products are made in Asia of stretch fabrics, and current key styles include wide-waistband and no-waistband jeans.

Angels built its business by keeping ahead of the quick-changing trends in the junior category. But Eckhaus said duringthe past year, he believes consumers have started to respond to the Angels name, as well as the product.

Despite the growing recognition, Eckhaus said he’s not seeking explosive growth.

"I’m 52 years old," he explained. "Ten years ago, maybe I’d want to have grown it as big as I could. But we’re satisfied to have slight growth. We’re not looking to expand into other categories. Maybe we’d do it through a license, but not on our own."The company’s core consumers are aged 12 to 20, slightly younger than its junior competitors, which is one reason the company recently started shipping girls’ size jeans. The company also during the past year began offering junior plus sizes, up to size 24.

"It’s the exact same product that the junior girl wants," Eckhaus said. "Everything we sell in junior we sell in junior plus sizes. She wants the same styles, the same look as her friends."

Eckhaus said he thinks one reason his line has grown in recognition in the past year has been that mercurial teen shoppers don’t stick with the same brands for too long.

"Without a doubt, they have been looking for new names and that has helped us," he said. "She does want things to be very fresh."

Here Comes the Bride

Jordache is planning to close the Seventeen magazine sponsored Girls Rule show with quite the dress.

The New York-based company, which originally planned to showcase its denim wedding dress at the WWDMAGIC show in Las Vegas last month, chose to hold the surprise until this Friday at 6 p.m. at the Girls Rule runway show at the New York Public Library’s Celeste Bartos Forum. The long, flowing white denim gown was encrusted with 3,000 Swarovski crystals, but was sent back to the factory to add another 6,000 crystals to make it even more dazzling for the Girls Rule show. The gown also features a bundle of white denim roses where the train meets at the back.

"This white denim dress is Jordache’s way of pushing the envelope on this point," said Michael Riego, senior vice president of advertising. "Plus, it’s just pure fun and fantasy — isn’t it every girl’s dream to wear a beautiful wedding gown someday? Except this one’s got cool."

Buon Giorno Cappopera

Italian denim maker Cappopera Jeans is coming to the U.S. this spring, looking to attract an audience wanting the Roberto Cavalli look, but not at Roberto Cavalli prices.

Based in Milan, the novelty denim collection features skirts, tops and pants with embellishments like rhinestones, flower prints, gold and silver metallic embroidery, striped denim with suede appliqués, color stitching and tiger and snake prints. Prices wholesale from $35 for a T-shirt to $60 for a woven shirt to $60 to $80 for denim pants.The goal is to open in 20 doors in the U.S. this spring, according to a spokeswoman.

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