Double-Duty

Berlin is now a two-Diesel-store town. The Italian jeans maker last month opened a Diesel concept store in Berlin’s trendy Hackesche Markt/Mitte neighborhood, and drew crowds with a playful "Santa Bunny" party on Friday.

The almost 2,000-square-foot concept store — larger than the Diesel concept stores in Milan and New York — is the company’s third store in Germany.

Diesel opened its first German store on Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm in 1996, which is slated for a renovation the day after Christmas. The company chose Dusseldorf for its second German retail site, and plans openings in Cologne and another, yet-to-be-determined German city in 2003. The German market accounts for about $60 million in primarily wholesale volume for Diesel annually.

"The goal is to have 15 to 16 of our own stores in Germany," said Dietmar Axt, general manager of Diesel Germany. As for having two stores in one city, "Berlin is big," he said, "and very different in the various cultural corners. Ku’damm is more mainstream, whereas Mitte is more scene-oriented. And both stores are quite different in terms of merchandise. Worldwide, the assortment isn’t the same anywhere. We select what fits the location."

In Mitte, Berlin’s equivalent to Manhattan’s SoHo, fashion, regardless of price, is the name of the game.

"This is the only store in Germany to have Lagerfeld Gallery, and we’re as good as sold out. Denim jeans cost about $300, but they’ve been very strongly accepted. Everything that’s fashion is what’s selling, no matter what the price is," he said.

Axt wouldn’t disclose first-year sales targets at the new store. However, he said, the "first month has been great. We’re very satisfied."

The decor is a free-form stylistic mix. There are rustic wooden floors and the jeans are presented in an indigo wooden cupboard as well as on a long table made of barn doors and burlap. Belts are displayed in a recessed neo-baroque picture frame, an old steamer trunk is used to highlight men’s wear, there are futuristic, tubular fiberglass fitting rooms, as well as little cabinets in the back with stucco accents.Seating areas are interspersed throughout the merchandise, decorated with handpicked finds like 1970s shag rugs, tile-topped tables, ceramic vases, an unusual wooden armchair complete with lamp, or metal and tufted velvet 1950s chairs.

"We left a lot of room," Axt said, "because this isn’t only a store. It’s a meeting point. There are a lot of interesting people in this area."

— Melissa Drier



Japanese Custom

A small SoHo shop is about to take denim to a new level.

R by 45rpm, a 25-year-old Japan-based company, will offer customized clothes in its only U.S. store beginning in April. Located at 169 Mercer Street, R by 45rpm has only been open for two years. But after a successful run in its more than 30 Japanese shops, head designer Yasumi Inoue and chief executive Taka Hushi have decided to bring the custom trend to Manhattan.

The store hired a tailor to come in four times a year to meet with customers looking for the perfect fit. While jeans are the company’s forte, the tailor will work with whatever the customer wantsto customize: jeans, jackets, suits, even T-shirts.

"We strive to make the best quality, special denim out there," said Henry Hsu, a U.S. representative for the brand. "Customization is the next step in bringing that to the customer."

While customers are encouraged to bring in pieces they already own for customization, the store will also offer a collection in the store, ready for customization. But this doesn’t come cheap. Customized denim pieces will start at $1,000 retail. Suits retail between $2,000 and $3,000, but the price depends on the fabric used and work involved. The company expects first-year volume of about $500,000 to $600,000 from the new service.

This is the company’s first venture into customization in the New York store, but it has consistently offered one-of-a-kind pieces. Inside each garment is the personal trademark of one of the five artisans who worked on the denim. Realizing that jeans originated as an American casual lifestyle garment, Hsu said Japanese culture is alive in everything from the styling to the store’s interior, which was designed and built by Japanese craftsmen. Wood, mud, straw and lacquer comprise the decor, while the floors are made of hand-chipped Japanese concrete. To evoke a mood of serenity and harmony, the air is even infused with a light scent.— Julee Greenberg



A Little Too Lethal

The Mustang Group, of Künzelsau, Germany plans to pull the plug on its Wild & Lethal Trash collection after delivery of the spring 2003 season. The licensed W< shoe collection will continue, company officials said.

Mustang has been involved with W< for nine years, first working directly with designer Walter van Beierendonck on the fashion-forward jeans and sportswear collection, and later taking design of the collection in house. Mustang president Heiner Sefranek said despite the brand’s strong past performance, the ongoing pressures in the apparel and retail market have convinced the company to will focus on strengthening and upgrading its core jeans brand. He would not comment on future plans for its licensed Joop! jeans and Bogner jeans collections.

However, given ongoing pressures in the apparel and retail market, the Mustang Group has decided to concentrate its resources. The company said it will focus on strengthening and upgrading its core (jeans) brand Mustang, as well as continuing its licensed Joop! Jeans and Bogner Jeans collections. These two licensed collections have always been operated as separate profit centers, Jacqueline Arandjelovic, manager of Mustang’s licensed business pointed out.

With its cartoonish and anatomically correct male mascot, Puk-Puk, and memorable show events in Paris at the Lido or the Elysée Montmartre, W< built up a following among trendsetters in Japan, Italy, France, Germany and the U.S.A. Moreover, in 2002 — a difficult year by all accounts — W< sales nonetheless grew by about 30 percent, van Beierendonck said. He did not disclose the brand’s sales volume.

In 2001, the Mustang Group generated total sales of $139.7 million.

Although Mustang will no longer produce the W< collection, the German jeans maker is looking for suitable licensees for both apparel and other classifications.

"We’re sure that under another constellation, such a good idea as W< will continue in the apparel as well as other fields," Sefranek said.

— M.D.



Bella’s New Logo

The Bella Dahl name is getting a makeover.

The Los Angeles-based company, which launched in December 2000, has boosted its profile by attaching its name — through its jeans — to celebrities including Britney Spears, Sarah Jessica Parker, Heather Locklear and Tara Reid. Now, the company is planning to revamp its logo (which is written in an artsy-looking cursive) to better distinguish itself to consumers from the crowd of high-end denim brands on the market.The new logo was created by the brothers who own the company, Kerry and Steven Jolna. The new identity will be extended to trade booth designs, hang tags, packaging and all other promotional and marketing materials beginning with the spring-summer 2003 collection.

"The new logo is cleaner, easy to read and modern," said Kerry Jolna, president and chief executive officer. "The old one was a little fuzzy and we wanted the new one to stand out."

— J.G.

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