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HYPE STORE OPENS, DENIM ON WAY

LOS ANGELES -- With a new store, a successful tweens line debut and soon-to-be-launched denim and swim lines, Hype has much to get hyped about.<P>The eight-year-old young contemporary brand celebrated its entrance into retail on June 26 at its new...

LOS ANGELES — With a new store, a successful tweens line debut and soon-to-be-launched denim and swim lines, Hype has much to get hyped about.

The eight-year-old young contemporary brand celebrated its entrance into retail on June 26 at its new signature store on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif. The store, at 1325 Third Street, opened in April.

Hype Denim — a line of “cheaper variations of Roberto Cavalli,” according to owner Uri Harkham — is wholesale priced between $40 and $80 and is slated to make its market debut by next spring. The line is expected to do $12 million in wholesale volume its first year.

In the works is Hype swimwear, which could break sometime next year.

The tween-targeted Hype Kids — basically Hype in pint-sizes — bowed 18 months ago. The line has been doing well with major retailers and is expected to break $20 million in wholesale volume next year.

“We’ve carried it for a while now and it’s doing extremely well,” said Kimberly Reason, a spokeswoman at The Bon Marche, Seattle. “We have even a higher penetration this year compared to last year and sales are doing well.”

For Harkham, it comes back to the almighty print. A red Japanese floral tunic notched an unprecedented 20,000 orders for the label this spring at accounts including Anthropologie and Macy’s West.

“My passion happens to be color and print,” said the 54-year-old entrepreneur who turned Harkham Industries, parent of Hype and its sister brand, Jonathan Martin (which has kids, junior and misses’) into one of Los Angeles’ leading manufacturers.

A printed top designed with working women in mind first put Jonathan Martin on the map 28 years ago. And it was a printed dress produced in the family manufacturing business in Australia, that brought him to the U.S. in 1975.

Harkham was born in Baghdad and raised in Israel until the age of 16, when he moved with his family to Australia, where they started an apparel business. A business trip to Los Angeles turned into a permanent stay.

Today, both brands produce a significant volume of original prints and textiles in-house and together pull in $120 million in wholesale volume per year. Creative director Cassondra Ivey, her design team and Harkham oversee the process. About 120 employees work at the company’s headquarters in Vernon, Calif.

Harkham is also known for his real estate ventures, owning an estimated 50 buildings in downtown Los Angeles and, more recently, storefront properties in Santa Monica.

The Hype retail store moved into one of his three spaces on Third Street, a 2,000-square-foot space that became available when a candy shop closed in March.

Third Street attracts a high density of Hype’s core demographic, women ages 25 to 40, Harkham said. It was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“Hype deserved its own real estate. We’re making money on it,” he said, citing a recent single-customer sale of $1,100.

Harkham projected the Hype store will take in between $1 million and $2 million in its first year. An East Coast Hype is also on the horizon, provided Harkham finds a SoHo building with a street-level store space — and penthouse living quarters for its owner. Las Vegas, with its constant stream of tourists, could be another opportunity. Harkham is also in a “nice phase of negotiation” with a Japanese licensor for a joint venture to open 10 Hype stores there.

But Harkham stops short of predicting Hype can become a full-fledged chain.

“I’m not interested in going into the retail business,” he said. “Our priority is fashion and we want to do it with the right people. We don’t want to embarrass ourselves and we don’t want to prostitute the brand.”

The interior of Hype is relatively low-key in comparison to its neighbors, which include attention-grabbing retail spaces, like Hype’s own client, Anthropologie. Harkham said he doesn’t think the business with Anthropologie will suffer, and he hopes the Hype store will only serve to strengthen the brand overall.

Hype’s four-week renovation left the space much as it was: Exposed brick walls, cement-block flooring and recessed lighting.

“Simplicity is very important,” asserted Harkham. “You can overkill with lighting. You can start perspiring. You want shopping to be comfortable.”

Harkham said he’s enjoying more out of life than just work these days. In the same week of Hype’s opening party, he attended the wedding of his third son, Joel. “You get to that period in your life when you don’t have to run,” he said. “You just take your time and stroll.”

That idea is analogous to Hype’s strategy, he added. “We’re strolling. We don’t need to run.”