Meet the Met

When a Turkish businessman decides to introduce an Italian brand to the U.S. market, that’s cosmopolitan. Or in this case, metropolitan.

Entrepreneur Iliya Meric last month began showing the Italian contemporary jeans brand Met to retailers in New York, following an unusual business strategy.

For the moment, Meric’s company, IMC Brand Management (USA), which holds the license to sell that brand in the U.S., is selling solely Italian-made jeans produced by the licensor. Yet he insists that, without a U.S. warehouse, he can offer delivery within two to three weeks by flying all his orders in, no matter how small. He plans to start shipping spring deliveries shortly.

While air cargo is an expensive mode of transportation, he said his company will initially swallow the costs "because we really don’t have much overhead." Meric said he believes it’s worthwhile to bear the costs of air freight, rather than shipping products by boat, as is more common.

"The future of the apparel industry in the U.S. is, in short, lead times and meeting fashion needs and reacting to trends quickly," he said. "It’s not about price. It’s about product. It’s about fashion."

The Met brand was launched in Italy four years ago by Eugenio Schiena and, according to Meric, does about $25 million in annual sales. The line is focused on denim, but in keeping with the current cooling in demand for that fabric, includes a variety of other textiles in bottoms and tops. Jeans wholesale for $60 to $90 and the line will offer two seasons a year, with three monthly deliveries within each season.

Meric said he hopes his company, which also has the option to expand into Turkey and the U.K., will bring in $5 million to $7.5 million in sales its first year.

Meric’s entry into the fashion world was as a manufacturer —for 17 years he owned and operated a factory in his native Turkey. He said that he plans to set up a factory in the U.S. with 300 workers and a modular manufacturing setup within the next six months to produce knit tops for the Met line.He also plans to begin producing Met jeans in the U.S., through contractors. At a time when many U.S. brands are moving their production overseas to countries including Turkey, Meric’s plan is a bit of contrarian thinking. But Meric insisted that, in the better-priced market, the speed value of local manufacturing justifies the cost.

"The fabric industry is still here," he said of the U.S. "All the research and development is not going to China."

Still, he acknowledged that even locally made products need to be sharp on price.

"Made in the USA has a value elsewhere, in Europe, in Japan," he said. "But not here."
— Scott Malone

Jordache’s New Hire

Donna Benabou has been named national sales manager for the girls’ sportswear division for the U.S. Polo Association, a division of Jordache Enterprises.

Benabou, who started in that position this week, joined the company from Unionbay, where she was national sales manager. Prior to that, she worked at Guess. Benabou has also held positions at Pepe Jeans, where she worked on the relaunch of the line and at CK Jeans.

As national sales manager at USPA, Benabou’s first objective is to delve into the product line and identify the latest styles that best fit and flatter a demographic she described as "the new niche in the group.

"There is a void out there," Benabou said. "These days, younger girls and tweens looking for age-appropriate stylish clothing don’t have much to choose from. Many early-and mid-teen girls want to be cutting edge, but not necessarily the fastest edge. They want jeans that will cover their underwear."

Benabou also recognizes the importance of parents in the selling equation.

"More and more parents have been expressing concern about younger children dressing too much like their big sisters," she said. USPA’s goal, she added, is to offer "fun, flirty, cutting-edge and confident fashions for girls, while allowing parents to feel comfortable with their children’s clothing selections."

The U.S. Polo Association line offers fashion-forward jeans, T-shirts, polo shirts and accessories sold under the license of the official sanctioning body in the U.S. for the sport of polo.
— Julee Greenberg

Diesel Boosts DiMasso

Diesel USA has promoted Tony DiMasso to the new post of chief operating officer. DiMasso, who since 1995 had served as chief financial officer of the New York arm of the Italian company, continues to report to Andreas Kurz, chief executive of the unit.

"There is a very constructive dynamic between the two of us and we play off each other’s strengths really well," said Kurz.DiMasso will continue to handle his financial duties and there are no plans to name a successor, according to a spokeswoman for the company. DiMasso also overseas information technology, distribution, logistics and inventory control.

He said his current focus is managing Diesel’s retail expansion during the current rough economic times. The company now operates more than 180 stores around the world and plans to open about 30 this year.
— S.M.

In Need of a Larger Dollhouse

In an effort to grow the Dollhouse brand beyond junior denim and sportswear, the company has signed two new licenses, for outerwear and hats, and is launching a new ad campaign concept for spring.

For the new ads, the New York-based firm chose to move away from celebrities and opted for models instead. In the past, it used such musicians as Christina Milian and Amerie to showcase Dollhouse’s fashions.

"We decided to get away from the celebrity endorsements because we wanted to move toward a new direction that concentrates on our new sexier, more contemporary image," said Aretha Sarfo, the company’s director of marketing and public relations. "We no longer wanted it to be about the celebrity, but more about the clothes and the Dollhouse vibe. We will continue doing cross-promotions with celebrities, but more on an event-by-event level. We do realize that our customer base does get a lot of the fashion inspiration from celebrities, but right now we are concentrating more on branding and creating a total Dollhouse look with the help of our licensees."

Sarfo said the company spent about $1 million on the campaign and plans to advertise in more publications than it has in the past. The ads will appear in Teen Vogue, Latina, CosmoGirl, YM, Elle Girl, Lucky, Honey, Jane, Nylon and Vibe, as well as on billboards in Los Angeles and phone kiosks in New York.The company has also signed a license with David & Young to produce a line of hats. Various trendy hat styles will be available at the WWDMAGIC show this month and are made with fabrics such as angora, denim, corduroy and athletic mesh created in floppy, ivy, and newsboy styles. The outerwear license is with JCS Apparel Group and launched last month to buyers. The outerwear and hats collections join other licensed Dollhouse products such as jewelry, shoes and intimate apparel.
— J.G.

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