SMART JEANS: Marithe & Francois Girbaud have come up with a new way of marketing their jeans -- panels that graphically show shoppers how the company's various jeans styles differ.

The Girbauds' stores in Paris, one on the Left Bank and one on Rue Babylon on the Right Bank, and their Eighth Arrondissement boutique feature half a dozen jeans styles, most with names in English such as Pedal Pusher, Brand X and No Side Seam. Each style is in a portable shelving unit with a panel bearing an illustration depicting the cut, stitching and shape of the jeans.

From a quick glance at the panel, shoppers can see, for example, that Love X sits low on the hips and Brand X features tiny side pockets.

"People don't have to pull out a whole load of pairs to find out what the different styles look like," explains store manager Didier Defnoun. The Girbauds, who say that they have spent the past three decades in "jeanetic engineering" to develop a "new jeaneration product," call their entire jeans collection Metamorphojean.

STEEL'S REEL: Steel Jeans, a Los Angeles junior denim resource, is going on the air. Starting in March, the company will advertise on MTV. A 15-second and a 30-second spot shot by fashion photographer Peggy Sirota on a beach in the Bahamas will air during key segments such as "Beavis and Butthead," "MTV Sports" and "The Real World." It will run for at least six months, said Danny Lee, Steel's chief executive officer.

PARIS IN THE STRINGTIME: The Gap will open a two-story flagship in Paris on March 15. Gap executives have declined to comment on the project, but according to sources, the store will carry the retail chain's men's, women's and children's lines.

The 14,000-square-foot boutique will be near the entrance to Passy Plaza, a new shopping mall in the well-to-do Passy neighborhood of western Paris. The Gap's only other outlet on the Continent is a shop-in-store in Galeries Lafayette in central Paris.

The Gap's European expansion has been stalled due to a long-running trademark suit brought by Big Star, a Swiss sportswear firm that owns a brand called Gap Star.

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