Surfing Into the Jeans Biz

Surf brands Ocean Pacific Apparel Corp. and Miken are looking to make a splash with the spring denim collections after the success of lines such as Volcom, Roxy and Split Girl.

Op is launching for spring retailing a junior-focused line called Op Classic. Op said on Wednesday that it had agreed to be acquired by Warnaco Group Inc. in a deal including $40 million in cash and the assumption of $1 million in debt.

“All of the surf brands that have been successful are fashion-driven, so we see a huge opportunity in this distribution channel both in denim and casual,” said Dick Baker, president of Op, who expects first-year sales for the new concept to exceed $10 million.

Op Classic division is set to replace the retro-inspired Seven2 denim, which launched last year. That name was inspired by the firm’s founding year — 1972, according to the company. Op plans to drop the Seven2 label after fall deliveries.

“We got a great reaction from retailers, but they said the Op name was so good, they wondered why they couldn't use it,” said Michele Carver, vice president of sales for Op’s juniors and girls division.

Set to debut at MAGIC International in Las Vegas in August and to ship in January, the denim collection incorporates jeans, skirts, shorts, jackets and cropped pants in lightweight white and dark indigo fabrics, with heavy play on embellishments, such as scarf belts and quarter-size buttons. An example of a retro vintage look is a reversible blazer with paisley lining. Wholesale prices will range from $17 for a cropped pant to $40 for a blazer.

Styling for the non-denim apparel skews older than the company’s mid-tier line, with tighter polo shirts featuring longer plackets, shorter board shorts and fitted corduroy pants in a rainbow of colors from turquoise to pink. The collection will wholesale from $6 for a tank to $25 for pants.

“It's all about being hipper and more aspirational,” Carver said. “We’re not logo-driven, as we are in the basics business.”

An advertising rollout hits in January in both surf magazines and fashion glossies, such as Lucky and Seventeen, which represents a new direction for the company.“We want a broader marketing push, to reach a new audience,” Carver said.

Miken is also joining the denim crowd. It has grown to a $40 million juniors surfwear company since its inception in 1996. The Los Angeles-based label has inked a licensing deal with Los Angeles-based Access Jeans Corp. for a line of denim debuting in New York this week.

Adding denim to the mix was the next step for the evolving Miken brand, said partner and co-founder Kenny Landy.

“We're in the midst of looking for licenses for shoes, sandals and swim as a growing company, and denim was a key part of our strategy,” he said.

Miken also plans a more sophisticated, vintage approach to the beach scene with stretch denim jeans, jackets and miniskirts with strategically placed holes, angled pockets, double-stitching, contrasting threads and zipper treatments. With wholesale points ranging from $8 to $14, Miken’s denim line will compete against the likes of LEI and Mudd. First-year sales are anticipated to hit $10 million to $12 million, said Ron Cunningham, chief executive officer of Access.

Why would a customer look to a surf company for denim rather than head to the denim pros? Loyalty and fashion preferences are key reasons, said Summer Rapp, director of design at Volcom. Denim is one of the surf brand’s fastest growing categories, representing 15 percent of the business.

“We have a following with our customer, who already likes our brand and is getting educated about all of our offerings,” Rapp said.

Apparel consultants said such customer awareness will also help Op and Miken with their denim ventures.

“It's not like they're starting out like a new denim line with no customer awareness,” said Barbara Fields, who owns a junior sportswear buying office in Los Angeles. “Customers will respond to their name and brand.” — Nola Sarkisian-Miller

Isaacs Income Soars

I.C. Isaacs & Co., the maker of Marithé & François Girbaud jeanswear, said its second-quarter net income almost tripled on a 24.6 percent rise in sales.

For the three months ended June 30, the firm posted earnings of $1.3 million, or 11 cents a diluted share, up from $471,000, or 4 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales were $20.2 million, up from $16.2 million.Peter Rizzo, the chief executive officer, who last month took on the additional post of chairman, said in a statement that the brand had strong growth in sales of women’s and men’s product. Since joining the company in December, Rizzo has overseen a revival of the brand, including “minimizing logos and reducing the size of graphics to enable us to appeal to the ever-changing taste of our youth audience.”

Rizzo was recruited to turn the New York-based firm around after Girbaud and his design partner Marithé Bachellerie acquired a 42.2 percent stake in the firm in 2002. He said in an interview last month that the company is on track to post a profit for the full year, after several years of restructuring and net losses.

For the six months, the company reported $2.2 million in income, 18 cents a diluted share, compared with a $170,000 net loss, or 2 cents a share. Sales were $41.9 million, up 28 percent from $32.8 million. — Scott Malone

CBGB Morphs From Punk to Jeans

The CBGB name, famous to fans of rock and punk music for the nightclub that launched the careers of such bands as The Ramones and Talking Heads, is coming to the jeans world.

Howard Jacobs, of the moderate junior jeans brand Blue Taboo, is launching a denim line for spring retailing bearing the name of the club, which opened on Manhattan’s Bowery in the late seventies.

Jacobs, a veteran of the jeans business who serves as president of Sunlight Holding Corp., a division of the Hong Kong firm Tak Sing Alliance Holdings Ltd., said he got the idea after watching the success of a friend with an office down the hall from his at 1466 Broadway in Manhattan.

“I was watching this little showroom with the T-shirts growing almost accidentally,” he said, referring to Carol Sadick, who for the past three years has handled wholesale for the brand’s licensed T-shirts, tops and other products. The CBGB logo is already available on items ranging from dog sweaters to a shower curtain featuring a print of the club’s black-and-white concert posters.

“It sounded like a name that had a lot of brand recognition,” Jacobs said. “That’s what you need nowadays.”With Sadick’s help, Jacobs convinced the club’s owner, Hilly Kristal, to license him the rights for women’s, men’s and children’s jeans worldwide.

Jacobs said Kristal seemed skeptical until Jacobs showed him the styles developed by Blue Taboo’s designer, Cecilia Anton, who moonlights as bassist in the band Guns for High Street, which has played at the club. Kristal couldn’t be reached for comment.

“You can have a label, you can have great production facilities, but if you don’t have the right stuff on the wall, it doesn’t matter,” Jacobs said. “When [Kristal] saw this, the cash register was ringing in his head.”

Jacobs said the line might generate $1 million to $5 million in sales its first year. He plans to begin shipping in December.

A growing number of names from the hip-hop and pop music scenes — P. Diddy, Jennifer Lopez and, most recently, Foxy Brown — have aggressively marketed their names in the apparel business. So far, there hasn’t been the same rush by rock and punk performers.

The collection, which will be unveiled at the WWDMAGIC trade show in Las Vegas this month, includes about 16 styles of slim-fitting, abused-looking women’s jeans, as well as skirts and denim jackets. Wholesale prices range from $21 to $50.

The styles have names that will be familiar to those who’ve seen the club’s most famous acts: Sid, Iggy, Joey and Dee Dee, which are references to Messrs. Vicious, Pop, Ramone and Ramone.

Asked how these anti-establishment sorts might feel about commercializing their names, designer and bassist Anton said, “I think they’d be honored that someone remembered them.”

Jacobs admitted that to him, many of the names weren’t very meaningful.

“I’m not into this kind of music,” he said. “I’m 49.” — S.M.

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