DTI Backing DDCLooking to broaden its distribution, New York streetwear brand DDC-Lab has landed what it calls a “significant” infusion of capital from DuPont Textiles & Interiors. Neither company disclosed the amount of the investment.Savania Davies-Keiller, an owner and co-designer of DDC-Lab, said the investment will allow the company to expand its wholesale and retail distribution, and also give it easy access to new developments in textile technology from Wilmington, Del.-based DTI.“They have a wealth of emerging technology and the technologies that are out there are very interesting to us,” Davies-Keiller said in a phone interview, adding that she was looking forward to “going down and poking around the laboratories.”Last month, DDC-Lab named Frank Pizzuro, a former Dolce & Gabbana and Diesel executive, to the new position of global sales and retail director.“We have plans to open a second store by Thanksgiving,” Davies-Keiller said. “We are looking in SoHo and Union Square. We also considered uptown, but we don’t think we’re there yet.”DDC-Lab’s store on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side opened in 1998 and occupies 1,000 square feet. Davies-Keiller said the next location would be around 2,500 square feet. After finding its next Manhattan location, the company aims to open one store a year.The have also hired David Coury and Brad Jaco to handle North American wholesale sales, Davies-Keiller noted.Davies-Keiller said DDC-Lab is also close to completing talks with a large Japanese company to handle wholesale and retail distribution in that nation.“We’re scheduled to close that within a month,” she said, declining to name the company in question. She also plans to adopt a more aggressive advertising and promotions strategy, including a fashion show this fall.Zena Hooks Aris ExecJoe Purritano, vice president of sales at Aris Industries, has been named president of the Zena brand, effective July 1. His first mission will be to relaunch the misses’ jeans brand, which is owned by Mudd Inc. and produced under license by W.E. Stevens of Nashville.He’s targeting the brand at better department stores and his pitch is a simple one: Take it easy on the markdowns and make more money.“The department store channel now needs brands with extremely clean distribution they can sell day in and day out at regular price,” he said in a Tuesday interview.The Zena brand has been through several incarnations. Through the Eighties and early Nineties, it was a moderate junior brand — in a niche similar to that occupied by Mudd today. In 1995 Mudd president Dick Gilbert decided that a deal to sell it exclusively at Target stores hadn’t paid off and since then it has had a limited distribution. A test marketing of redesigned Zena jeans at J.C. Penney Co. last fall convinced Gilbert that the brand still has legs, though after that test ended, the company decided to aim for a higher price point.Early in his career, Purritano launched the Rio moderate jeans brand, which in the mid-Eighties was a direct competitor of Mudd. Gilbert said he saw the irony in now working with a man who was once his “biggest competition.”Purritano aims to wholesale the jeans for about $19 to $21 a pair, with a targeted retail price point of $46, for targeted initial margins of 58 to 61 percent. His hope is that higher initial markup will allow retailers some room to promote the brand without needing extensive guaranteed margin agreements.“The evolution of vendor margin guarantees is destroying the relationship between the manufacturer and the retailer,” he said. “Retailers need to take responsibility for some of their buys.”While he’s not throwing down the no-markdown gauntlet, he said, “I have a very firm point of view that the decision on markdowns will have to be one that is clearly understood by both the vendor and the retailer before any vendor margin agreement is agreed to. Business decisions need to be made jointly, not unilaterally by the retailer.”Purritano will report to Walter Marianelli and Gordon Gerragina, co-owners of W.E. Stevens, which operates factories in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic, and also works with Asian contractors. Dean Dergarabadian has been named vice president, reporting to Purritano.Purritano said he aims to place the brand in 250 to 400 better department store doors for its fall relaunch. Within the first three years, he hopes to hit the $50 million sales mark, a growth rate that he said he believes he can maintain without overselling and building himself a markdown problem.“I’m in no hurry,” he said. “I have to show profits, and the way to show that is not by dumping your inventory.”Designs Loss WidensSlimmer industry-wide inventories pinched outlet retailer Designs Inc.’s margins in the first quarter as closeout merchandise became hard to find.Net losses for the quarter at the Needham, Mass.-based company, which operates Levi’s and Dockers Outlet stores, widened to $1.8 million, or 12 cents a share, against the year-ago deficit of $1.4 million, or 9 cents.Sales for the period ended May 4 lapsed 7.5 percent to $36.4 million from $39.4 million a year ago. Comparable-store sales were down 9 percent. Designs, which operates 105 outlet stores in a statement attributed the net loss to “lackluster sales in April” when unseasonably cold weather reduced traffic in outlet malls.First quarter gross margins shrank compared to a year ago and failed to improve as planned since Designs is “experiencing a lack of availability” in close-out goods and has had “to purchase merchandise at higher costs.”However, the company did make “several opportunistic purchases of higher-margin fall merchandise” which should help back-half margins.Results for the quarter do not reflect the firm’s May 14 acquisition of bankrupt retailer Casual Male Corp. At the firm’s annual meeting in August its board will recommend the Needham, Mass.-based company change its name to Casual Male Retail Group Inc.Horn’s Soft SellDespite the name, Horn isn’t exactly trumpeting its denim. Rather, it’s taking the word-of-mouth approach in marketing the jeans brand to connoisseurs of high-end denim.The vintage-inspired line, now in its second season, is available at more than 40 sales points in the U.S. First-year sales were about $500,000. The company expects sales volume to triple this fall. Horn’s founder, Los Angeles-based designer David Horn, introduced the women’s line after a five-year stint designing men’s wear under the Otto label. His target, according to Horn’s commercial representative Paula Haberichter, is “fashion-conscious women.”Produced in Los Angeles, the 10-piece line includes a slim, low-waisted style with pintucked front seams and flat-pocket jeans in indigo. The jeans wholesale for about $50.View’s New DenimAfter incorporating denim into his contemporary sportswear lines for the past few seasons, Walter Baker has decided to launch a denim arm for his View Collection.While the group will not have its own name, Baker, president of View, said he will treat it as an independent operation. “It’s the way everyone is dressing now,” he said. “Denim is a uniform.”The denim line for fall will include denim blazers, trenchcoats and jackets and jeans in a dirty denim wash, flocked denim jeans and coated denim. The denim pieces are designed to complement the rest of the fall collection, which includes peasant-inspired looks with floral printed tops as well as men’s wear-inspired looks with pinstriped pants.Baker said he has set the wholesale range between $46 and $49. He hopes the denim group will hit $4 million in sales this year.— With contributions from Alison Beckner, Paris

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