C & C’s Jeans Move: The founders of C & C California didn’t stop for a breather after selling a controlling interest in their firm to Liz Claiborne last week in a deal worth at least $28 million.

This week, co-presidents Claire Stansfield and Cheyann Benedict said they’re rolling out jeans for summer retailing.

The initial collection features stretch and rigid Italian fabrics in four bodies: a cropped pant, a cigarette leg and two boot-cut styles. Reflecting the brand’s carefree, easy-fitting T-shirts, the denim doesn’t rely on over-the-top embellishments, but focuses on fashion restraint with antique-looking buttons, pocket embroidery in multicolor threading and the line’s cheery logo on the inside waistband.

“There aren’t going to be holes in the pants; they won’t be dragged behind a truck with sand marks,” Stansfield said. “We don’t want to repeat what’s been done out there.”

The denim options will range from light to dark washes, and will coordinate with C & C’s bright-colored T-shirts, tube tops and dresses. Mango, lime green and light, neon cherry are among the eight shades offered.

With wholesale prices averaging $78, C & C hopes to sell the jeans to the 800 boutiques nationwide and 300 department store locations that currently carry its T-shirt line. First-year sales for the line, which ships in April and May, are expected to reach $8 million, Stansfield said.

Next up is preparing the line’s corporate showroom, a 2,200-square-foot area opening in the Cooper Design Space in downtown Los Angeles by summer — they’re operating a temporary showroom on the building’s ninth floor — along with the firm’s first billboard campaign, which is expected to hit Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood in July.

In the ad, they hope to capture the simplicity of a girl wearing a T-shirt and jeans in a laid-back lifestyle. They said much of that inspiration comes from the Seventies.

“Think of Farrah Fawcett in those tight jeans, riding a skateboard,” Stansfield said. “Those are the authentic images we hope to emulate.”
— Nola Sarkisian-MillerRich Hippie Hits Retail: The day when women sat at home with flowers in their hair embroidering decorations onto their jeans is long gone.

But the owners of Rich Hippie are betting that shoppers will still be willing to pay someone else to trick out their pants. To that end, the recycled denim wholesaler has opened a shop for its women’s and children’s clothing in Dallas.

Though Rich Hippie has been stitching appliqués and embroidery onto old Levis since it opened under the name ReDenim in 1990, its styles were previously sold in the U.S. only at Fred Segal in Los Angeles. The bulk of Rich Hippie’s roughly $1 million annual volume comes from Europe and Japan.

“We sell at shows in London and Berlin because no one copies us there,” said Eric Kimmel, Rich Hippie’s flamboyant founder and designer, as he curled a Rich Hippie orange marabou and multicolored knit scarf around his neck with one hand and clutched an unlit cigarette with the other. “Here, if something sells well, they copy you.”

In addition, the company’s colorful novelty styles and vintage decorations were more warmly received abroad.

“In Japan, they want to look different,” Kimmel said. “Here, they want to look the same.”

Still, the American market has clearly jumped on the vintage train and Kimmel felt the time was right for a retail outlet for his products in his hometown.

His partners in the store are his sister, Nikki Solomon, who is the head buyer, and Mindi Kahn, who owns United Southern Waste in Dallas. USW buys used clothing by the pound from various charities and grades it, with some of it winding up as decoration on Rich Hippie’s denim and knitwear.

Kahn, who last year became a partner in Rich Hippie’s wholesale business after 15 years as a supplier, said she saw the store as an opportunity for USW to retail its products. Currently, most of USW’s clothing is shipped overseas to Third World countries, where impoverished consumers often choose used clothing since it’s cheaper than new products.

“We want to be vertical and control our own destiny,” Kimmel said. “We’re trying to build our own brand and beat our own drum.”The trio hopes to perfect the 1,800-square-foot concept with an eye on rolling it out to New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London and Paris. They opened the store in October and expect it to generate about $1 million in sales through its first year.

Painted with peace signs and other symbols, the shop’s decor sets the mood for its bohemian yet fashionable merchandise mix. Most of the goods are from Rich Hippie, including patchwork appliquéd jeans, French military pants with fuzzy floral embroidery and dip-dyed thermal T-shirts with whipstitched leather heart appliqués. The store also offers custom pieces for customers — such as stitching bits of a child’s soccer jersey onto jeans for mom to wear to a game.

Most Rich Hippie pieces retail from $48 to $198.

For the remainder of the shop’s merchandise, Solomon concentrates on hip fashion that she can retail exclusively in Dallas. That includes Little Big Denim jeans, Tatiana’s semiprecious chandelier earrings, Below the Belt studded leather belts and Michelle Roy’s sparkle bracelets, as well as a selection of sweaters, handbags and beauty products. A leased department of Outerluxe’s fashion-forward furs, shearling and outerwear rounds out the mix.
— Holly Haber

Tommy in Berlin: Take Two: Tommy Hilfiger opened a 2,500-square-foot Hilfiger Denim store late last month in eastern Berlin’s Mitte District, marking its second such store in Germany and its ninth in Europe.

A spokesman for Hilfiger said the company chose the Mitte neighborhood because “the whole area is filled with creative, young urban energy.”

“It’s where music, fashion and art collide,” the spokesman said. “The dynamic creativity that rules Berlin’s Mitte inspires Hilfiger Denim and is reflected in the collection.”

The denim business is playing an increasingly important role in the Hilfiger empire, and the men’s and junior denim lines make up approximately 25 percent of Hilfiger’s total turnover in Germany, according to the company. Hilfiger’s total European revenues — across all product channels — came to $412.6 million for the fiscal year ended March 31.

The Hilfiger Denim collections in Europe are comparable in price to Tommy Jeans in the U.S. According to Marcel Fruth, manager at the new Berlin store, the designs of the clothes are slightly different from their American counterparts.“The European lines at Hilfiger Denim tend to be a bit edgier and narrower in cut than the American Tommy Jeans collection,” he said.

In 2003, Tommy Hilfiger opened its flagship in western Berlin and clearly regards Germany as a key market.

Germany is Hilfiger Denim’s largest market in Europe and is responsible for around 20 percent of its total European revenues. Hilfiger Denim currently has other doors in Belgium, Holland and Ireland, with openings planned for Zurich and Dublin this spring.
— Damien McGuinness

Seven Aids Mankind: Seven For All Mankind is living up to its name. The company will donate 10 percent of the profits from its May 30 summer delivery to seven charities aiding the victims of last month’s tsunami in South Asia. The seven charities are Unicef, the Red Cross, the U.S. Agency for International Development, Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, Save the Children and The Humane Society.

A company spokeswoman said she expects the total donation to be “a few hundred thousand dollars.”
— Lauren DeCarlo

VF Names Two VPs: VF Corp. on Wednesday named Stephen Dull to the new post of vice president of strategy.

Dull, 46, reports to Mackey McDonald, chairman and chief executive officer. His responsibilities will include identifying growth opportunities for the $5.21 billion company.

Prior to joining Greensboro, N.C.-based VF, Dull worked at the consulting firms Accenture and McKinsey & Co.

In a separate development, VF named Jeff Kuster, 38, vp of business operations for its international intimates operation. He will be based in Barcelona and report to Pere Prat, the firm’s president of international intimates. He last served as vp of strategy integration.

In some ways, the position of vp of strategy replaces the vp of strategy integration. However, a VF spokeswoman noted that the new post is more senior-level — for instance, Dull is a member of VF’s operating committee, while Kuster was not. The strategy integration position, which Kuster held for a year, had been intended to be a temporary post.
— Scott Malone

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