A New Soul

Denim vendors continue to see room in the niche between status and premium jeans.

The latest entrant to that retail party is See Thru Soul, a jeans line launched by Swat-Fame Inc. targeting retail prices of $69 to $89.

Mitchell Quaranta, president of the $125 million company, which also produces the Speechless junior line, said See Thru Soul’s goal is to emulate the style of premium contemporary jeans at prices that are more affordable for  young shoppers.

“Contemporary denim isn’t accessible to most of the country and we thought there was a niche there to make a well-made quality jean that’s really value-priced,” he said. “By not allowing price restrictions to hamper our creativity, we think we can provide fresh product for this marketplace.”

Since STS began shipping in June, the line has amassed an account base of 500 doors that include Nordstrom, Von Maur, Dillard’s and Rampage. Reversing the more typical industry approach, Quaranta plans to court the specialty store segment next.

The brand launched with three jeans silhouettes, ranging from flared to bootleg, and two skirts done all in stretch fabrics. Quaranta has since expanded the product mix, adding bermuda shorts, cropped pants and jackets for the spring line, along with some styles in non-stretch cotton fabric and white denim.

The line is made in China of ring-spun denim and styles feature grinding, abrasions and tears. Another signature detail is that the rear pocket embroidery uses multiple colors, such as navy and yellow, and is different for each style. Styles feature a contoured waistband to give a low-rise look without a rear gap.

Wholesale prices range from about $29 for the skirts to $48 for jeans with rhinestones on the back pockets.

“We like the line for its contemporary feel for our junior customer who isn’t afraid to go from the $30 jean up to the $88 jean,” said Kim Meek, divisional merchandise manager for Von Maur, a 22-unit department store chain based in Davenport, Iowa.

Quaranta expects sales in 2005 to reach $20 million as distribution grows and the line evolves with new fabrics such as corduroy.To back the sales effort, Quaranta launched the line with the help of a $300,000 advertising campaign that boosted awareness before the product hit stores.

“The advertising helped build momentum and excitement for the line and we plan to grow the budget,” he said. — Nola Sarkisian-Miller James Enters Premium

James Jeans, the Los Angeles-based denim company, is launching a premium label next week at select stores nationwide.

“With the original label, we were restricted and couldn’t really use high-end fabrics and incorporate new wash techniques that we really wanted to,” said James “Sway” Chung, co-owner of James Jeans.

The wholesale price range of the premium collection is $82 to $88, compared with $64 to $70 for the original label. Chung said the premium jeans will feature more time-consuming treatments. For instance, they’ll be subjected to up to 40-minute drying processes, compared with five minutes for the original line.

Designer Seun Lim has developed a new washing technique involving a permanganate potassium treatment, which is used to create a faded look. Typically, the treatment is sprayed on. The treatment for the premium label will be painted on, creating a more distinguished, handcrafted look.

Also setting the premium label apart from the original line is three-dimensional whiskering and the sanding process of the whiskering, which takes eight times longer than the process used with the original label. The threading is handwoven and meant to prevent shrinkage and stretching, and the hardware is made of a higher grade metal.

Chung said the premium line includes jeans made of a cotton-cashmere blend denim, which he said offers a softer feel than traditional all-cotton denim.

Chung expects the wholesale volume for the premium label to reach $10 million in 2005, with sales of the original line on track for $20 million, meaning an overall volume of $30 million.

The premium label will launch Jan. 14 at Barneys New York, Scoop, Ron Herman, Luna and Blue Bee. The label will be sold exclusively at these locations until April, when it will expand its launch to more specialty boutiques and department stores nationwide. — Lauren DeCarloLesser Is MoreLos Angeles-based sportswear firm Barbara Lesser Fibers is on a growth track in more ways than one.

The contemporary and misses’ company late last year moved into a larger New York showroom, a 1,600-square-foot space on the fifth floor of 214 West 39th Street that executives said will help support the firm’s new ventures. It had occupied 900 square feet of space in the same building.

“We really just outgrew it,” said owner Mark Lesser.

He said the space will provide room for the Barbara Lesser brand’s sportswear and jeans collections, as well as a new Internet venture. In March, the company plans to launch an e-commerce Web site, Barabaralesser.com, that will sell limited-edition apparel.

In the fall, the firm will introduce washable suede tops and pants into the sportswear collection.

Last year, the company’s sales exceeded the $10 million mark, Lesser said, adding, “We’re looking to increase that figure by 20 percent this year.”

The Barbara Lesser denim collection wholesales for $49 to $59, nondenim pants for $35 to $60 and T-shirts from $25 to $45.

“We’ll be doing a lot of white denim for spring and summer,” he said. “We’re also doing a sun-washed vintage wash.” — L.D.Guess Buys Licensee

Guess Inc. on Wednesday said it had closed on its purchase of its European jeanswear wholesale and retail operations.

The Los Angeles-based company in October said it planned to acquire the 90 percent of licensee Maco Apparel SpA that it did not already own, as well as the leases and assets of 10 European Guess stores operated by Fingen SpA. Maco was a venture between Guess and Fingen.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Guess has targeted Europe as a key growth market for the brand in the coming years. The company operates stores in cities including Rome, Milan, Paris, Amsterdam and London. — Scott MalonePromotions at Avondale

Denim mill Avondale Inc. on Wednesday reorganized executive duties in its apparel fabrics division.Dominic P. Colapietro was named vice president of workwear. He last served as vice president of sportswear.

Anthony F. Strickland was promoted to vice president of sportswear. His last post was as director of product development for sportswear.

George W. Lansdowne Jr. was named vice president of piece-dyed business development. He had served as vice president of workwear fabrics.

All three report to John G. Hudson Jr., president of marketing and sales for Avondale Apparel Fabrics. — S.M.

To unlock this article, subscribe to WWD below.

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus