By  on January 26, 2005

A rose by any other name may still be a rose, but is it a wilted wallflower when it comes to misses’ clothing?

This apparel category, usually catering to the 30-plus customer with a more generous fit, is in the midst of upheaval as the “missy” name has fallen out of favor against the sexier “contemporary” label, sending fashion firms to the thesaurus in an effort to redub and redefine their mission statements.

For the past two decades, it’s been clear when a clothing line fit into the misses’ arena, since there weren’t many category options. But with the advent of the booming contemporary area, an increasing number of California misses’ lines are trying to straddle the different markets in hopes of reaching a younger consumer or appealing to the youthful ways of the Baby Boomer.

Now, they bandy names around such as “updated” or “better” to reflect more forward design cues. Some have even dropped the misses’ moniker altogether in an effort to disassociate themselves from the stodgier reference.

“It’s become the no-name category,” said Ilse Metchek, executive director of the California Fashion Association. “Manufacturers are aware of that customer and realize Baby Boomers are a big market. But they don’t want to be known as ‘dumb-dumb missy’ lines.” 

Dan Mollise, president of South El Monte-based Cynthia Max — an “updated better” line, concurred. “It’s a misnomer. Baby Boomers are going kicking and screaming into middle age, and being branded like your parents has a bad connotation.”

The change should come as no surprise, since one of the biggest success stories in retail in recent years has been Chico’s FAS Inc., known for its easy-fitting yet stylish clothing that appeals to the mainstream. For the third quarter ended Nov. 30, net income for the Fort Myers, Fla.-based chain rose to $37 million, or 41 cents a share, from $27 million, or 30 cents a share last year. The company’s secret? It simply describes its target customer rather than the category.

“Our customer is aged 35 to 55, educated and well-traveled,” said a Chico’s spokeswoman.

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