Denim and leather are inexorably entwined in Americans’ minds as evocative of rock-star chic.

So when Lix Jeans wanted to expand its horizons beyond the basic blue twill, it decided to get into skin.

The two-year-old Los Angeles-based line is introducing a small group of leather pieces for holiday 2003 retailing.

Lix co-owner Sue Eaves said she thought the move would help her brand stand out in the crowded jeans category.

“Everyone’s a little bored with denim,” she said. “It’s nice to throw something out there that can be our niche.”

Eaves said she brought on board Logan Riese to oversee leather design and production. Riese had his own leather company for five years, producing custom Gothic-style pieces with crosses and skulls. Rockers Lenny Kravitz and Jon Bon Jovi were among his customers. He also provided 20 pieces for Ben Stiller’s character in the filming of “Starsky & Hutch,” due out in March.

At Lix, Riese’s contemporary jackets border on baroque artwork with a heavy use of fleur-de-lis designs. The jackets feature cutout flower motifs on their backs, contrast stitching and inlay techniques. On one of the six styles, white leather peeks through a cutout cross on the back of a boxy red jacket with zippered sleeves. Another jacket, tailored like a shirt, is made of white lambskin with blue stitching. The offering also includes a motocross-style, cream-colored jacket and a fitter purple look tailored in the shape of a classic denim trucker jacket.

Some of the jackets feature exotic contrast materials, including shark, python and anaconda skin.

“It’s something you don’t see much of in the market,” Riese asserted.

“It’s not just a plain and ordinary jacket — there’s a lot to it,” said Hailey Greene, owner of Posh, a new boutique opening in Tuscon, Ariz., in September. “There isn’t a lot of shopping in Tuscon so customers are willing to spend for something different.”

The items wholesale from $300 to $1,000, limiting distribution to high-end boutiques where shoppers don’t mind sticker shock.

“We never thought people would spend $150 on jeans a few years ago,” Eaves said. “Now they don’t think twice.Eaves said she hopes to have the leather items in at least six stores by the end of the year and about a dozen next year, with sales climbing from about $100,000 to $900,000 by 2004.

Lix Jeans are currently sold in about 350 stores. San Gabriel, Calif.-based Gene Pool Jeans Inc. launched Lix Jeans about two years ago after it shuttered its private label knitwear operation in South Africa about three years ago. Now, the private label manufactured in Los Angeles represents about 20 percent of the $5 million business.

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