In•dex vendors compete by sticking close to the principles on which they were founded.

The in•dex pavilion at WWDMAGIC was created to set certain contemporary vendors in a class of their own. Participants are expected to be up-and-coming, hot or relatively new fashion-forward companies. As such, in•dex vendors, including TNA, Bat’s Daughter, 2 Love and BCBGirls, have more basic concerns than economic issues, the impending quota-free era and the November election. Of utmost priority to them is how to produce fresh and innovative styles at competitive prices and get their name and product out in the market without sacrificing the indie spirit of a small operation.

A NEW NICHE

TNA is not a new kid on the block, but the swimwear company has successfully created and maintained a line of original, unconstructed bikinis that have been hot sellers. “We are seven years young with no parent company,” said Lisa Lozano, owner and designer for TNA, “and we have had record-breaking sales this past year.”

Lozano founded TNA based on a long-held belief. “Back in the Nineties, bikinis were irrelevant and ignored in the fashion world. Everything was neon, floral and padded. Simple, unconstructed bikinis in beautiful colors did not exist,” she said. So she created itsy-bitsy bikinis, which average around $52 wholesale. They generated some buzz around Los Angeles and were featured in Vogue, and “after that, TNA hit the ground running.”

To keep its name and look top-of-mind, TNA distributes a slick annual catalogue to its retailers, including Barneys, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Victoria’s Secret and Saks Fifth Avenue, and has a corporate showroom at the New Mart in Los Angeles.

In addition to its advertising efforts, TNA also gets regular editorial coverage, thanks in part to a celebrity following that includes Elle MacPherson, Jessica Simpson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Paris Hilton, among others. Lozano also credits the company’s “great relationships with magazine editors and stylists who call us for photo shoots.”

MAX-IMUM EXPOSURE

BCBGirls, from parent company BCBG Max Azria, is launching at WWDMAGIC. Founded 15 years ago by Max Azria, BCBG was named for the Parisian phrase “bon chic, bon genre,” meaning “good style, good attitude.”“I founded this in ’89 with the guiding principle of offering women designer clothing at affordable price points,” Azria said.

Under the BCBG Max Azria umbrella, Azria has extended this philosophy into several labels, including women’s ready-to-wear, swimwear, footwear, accessories and fragrance. BCBGirls started as a fragrance before branching into accessories and, now, sportswear.

“The addition of a full sportswear line [transforms] BCBGirls into a youthful, hip and energetic brand appealing to a body-conscious, fashion- and celebrity-driven consumer,” said a spokeswoman for BCBG Max Azria Group.

The spring line is a Seventies urban look blended with rich bohemian influences to complement several denim washes, she said. “The BCBGirl is trendy, fun and energetic. She loves to express her personality by playing with her clothes.”

Although the line has a range of fabrics, from washed, distressed silk to canvas and signature knits, the average price will remain competitive, in keeping with Azria’s founding principle. Wholesale prices range from $43 for a basic knit top to $153 for a novelty jacket. Company officials would not predict sales figures.

To market the BCBGirls sportswear line, the company is turning to national advertising campaigns and direct mailings. “Direct mail will play an integral role, with look books being mailed to potential customers at key accounts,” said the spokeswoman.

The company is also focused on getting editorial coverage in top fashion and lifestyle magazines, and plans to launch a Web site in the fall.

“BCBG Max Azria Group will also use its strong relationships with Hollywood to position the brands on brand-appropriate personalities in young Hollywood,” she added.

As for the impact of a still-sluggish economy, she said that when consumers’ confidence is down, the company believes shoppers are more likely to gravitate toward brands that, like BCBGirls, offer a high-end contemporary look at affordable prices. BCBGirls will be in such stores as Marshall Field’s, Dillard’s, Burdines Macy’s and Nordstrom.

STAR POWER

Fairly new to the scene but already on the in crowd’s lips is the Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based 2 Love. Founded by president Kristi Kaylor-Schwartz and chief executive officer Matt Schwartz in June 2003, 2 Love is known for its love-themed, celebrity-designed T-shirts.Inspired by their own romance, the couple formed 2 Love to share the good vibes with shoppers. The line is now sold in more than 500 stores nationwide and is on the path to becoming a multimillion-dollar company, said Kaylor-Schwartz. The company continues to add lines, such as the new Mblem brand designed by singer-actress Mandy Moore.

The company has been careful to grow within the confines of its mission — “2 Love who you are…2 Love what you do…2 Love your style…2 Love others” — and use it as a key element of its marketing initiative. The celebrity-designed T-shirt line, Spread the Love with 2 Love, which donates

a percentage of the proceeds to a charity of the star’s choosing, has raised significant funds for charities, including Step Up Women’s Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening community resources for women.

“Having celebrities’ designs not only has given 2 Love

an edge and insight into trends, but has also generated extensive publicity and awareness of the brand,” said Kaylor-Schwartz.

For the 2003 Emmy Awards, 2 Love supplied gift bags for the celebrity hosts, honorees and award winners. For additional exposure, 2 Love partnered with Macy’s, NBC, “Will & Grace” and GE for the “More Love with 2 Love Sweepstakes ‘Will & Grace’ Adventure” in which a winner and his/her valentine won a trip to Los Angeles, a Macy’s gift certificate and a meet-and-greet with the cast and crew of the sitcom.

In addition to its celebrity Ts, 2 Love also produces sexy thermal layering pieces like a lightweight cap-sleeved T or tank top. The brand is available at Macy’s West, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and specialty boutiques such as Fred Segal and Kitson in Beverly Hills. It wholesales from $22 to $34.

GOOD AND GIRLY

Bat’s Daughter grew out of a need facing many college grads today — finding an appropriate suit for job interviews. Angela Batinovich, president and ceo, found that in her post-collegiate shopping adventures, she could never find a line of clothing that suited women with a love for all things girly, while still looking professional.With an educational and familial background in business (her father is also an entrepreneur), Batinovich decided to start Bat’s Daughter, beginning with a fall 2004 collection. So far, “Sales have been incredible with over $150,000 worth of orders, without a sales rep or showroom,” she said.

Bat’s Daughter is available at Big Drop and Blush in New York, Rabat in San Francisco, Moselle in Santa Monica and the Garnet Room in Los Angeles. Wholesale prices range from $60 to $295 for the spring collection of flirty dresses, trenchcoats and suits.

Instead of advertising, Bat’s Daughter is focusing on public relations and has retained the services of InkPR Group in Los Angeles. There has already been interest from trade magazines and consumer magazines such as In Style, Allure and Glamour. Alicia Silverstone also requested a few pieces after attending a small pre-Oscar party Bat’s Daughter held in a hotel suite. Plans for a spring fashion show are now in the works.

Bat’s Daughter is currently produced in Los Angeles from fabrics sourced in Europe, an expensive choice that Batinovich made with quality in mind. “We cannot rely on ‘cheap labor’ to produce the high quality of garment that our customers expect for the price they are paying,” she said. “Eventually, not many domestic manufacturers will be able to compete with overseas production prices and we will have to explore other options.”

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