NEW YORK — For years, Tony Margolis has been getting a constant question from buyers who looked at his Tommy Bahama collection: “Why are there no jeans?”
For a brand whose motto is “life is one long weekend,” it seemed like a relevant query. But the president and chief executive officer now has an answer.
“From a design standpoint, from a concept standpoint, jeanswear is an art form,” he said during a recent interview at the company’s New York showroom. “What distinguishes a $100 pair of jeans from a $30 pair of jeans [and] from a pair of jeans you just can’t sell is very subtle.”
After years of mulling the move, last fall the company launched Indigo Palms, a collection of jeans aimed at men, still the brand’s core customer. About a year ago, Tommy Bahama brought in a team of designers to develop women’s jeans, which the company plans to roll out for spring retailing, also under the Indigo Palms name.
Explaining the project’s long incubation period, Margolis said, “We don’t jump in and hit our head on the bottom of the pool.”
Margolis has also had other things on his mind this year. In April, along with fellow founders Lucio Dalla Gasperina and Bob Emfield, he reached a deal to sell the company to Oxford Industries for $250 million.
The jeans are targeted at women ages 30 to 55, with a core audience of those ages 35 to 45, he said. They are cut to appeal to a woman who is fashion conscious but doesn’t have the body of a twentysomething.
Margolis described the target customer as “a woman who understands the coolness of a lot of the Italian and hip young jeans brands, but isn’t going to walk around in a low-rise Seven or Earl. Her taste level and her body don’t fit that.”
The jeans come in three core fits. The modern is the tightest option, with a low rise and a slight boot cut, that Margolis described as “the L.A. sexiest, if you will.” The classic fit has a straight leg and a slightly higher rise than the modern. The tailored fit is the most relaxed and likely to appeal to a slightly older customer, he added. The fits are available in stretch and rigid denim, and wholesale for $38.75 to $44.50.They are to be unveiled to the trade at the MAGIC International trade show in Las Vegas later this month.
Each fit bears distinctive tags and is also distinguished by its rear-pocket stitching, or lack thereof in the case of the tailored fit. Holly Blackwell, Northeast regional Indigo Palms sales representative, said the distinctive imagery and tag colors was intended to make shopping easier for repeat customers.
Margolis added that the three fits appeal to a wide range of bodies and tastes: “You can skew this line towards the 30- to 35-year-old customer…or you can skew it to a somewhat older customer.”
In addition to jeans, the collection includes knit and woven tops, jackets and skirts. The tops run toward the dressy side for jeanswear, including Italian cotton tailored shirts and suede jackets.
Margolis said the assortment reflects that while the customer will wear jeans, she likely dresses them up somewhat.
“She’s putting this together already on her own, and we want to make sure all the elements she would expect are there,” he said.
Within 18 months after launching, Margolis believes the Indigo Palms women’s line could be as widely distributed as the men’s line, which is currently in more than 500 retail locations. He declined to provide volume on the line, but said it was a small piece of the overall Tommy Bahama pie. He said that, overall, women’s apparel represents about 28 to 30 percent of Tommy Bahama’s volume.
According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission following the June closing of the Oxford deal, for the fiscal year ended March 31 the brand had wholesale revenues of $189.9 million, essentially flat with the prior year. Adding in retail and restaurant revenues boosted net sales for Viewpoint International — Tommy Bahama’s former parent company — to $285 million, up 12 percent from the prior year. Net income was $23.9 million.
Retail operations are becoming a significant part of the Tommy Bahama model and Margolis said the company plans to open its first Indigo Palms store in November in Newport Beach, Calif. Today, the company operates 32 Tommy Bahama stores, including six “compounds” that also include restaurants.Margolis said the company could eventually operate 60 to 75 stores under the Tommy Bahama banner in the continental U.S., Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
“Indigo Palms might have greater legs as a retail concept because it’s less about resortwear,” he added. “We have more opportunities in upscale malls.”
He believes there’s potential in the U.S. for about 100 to 150 Indigo Palms stores, which would average around 1,800 square feet, compared with 4,000 square feet for the Tommy Bahama stores.
In addition to being smaller, the Indigo Palm stores will be lighter in coloring and, with a large glass front, more open than the hacienda-style Tommy Bahama units.
“You will be able to see into the store, rather than looking in a window box,” Margolis added. “It’s not that rugged cowboy or cowgirl approach to denim.”
Margolis said the brand’s five-member design team had spent much of the past year fine-tuning the fit of the pants to offer a fashionable look while still flattering an older woman’s figure. The fits are currently being market tested in some of the company’s existing units.
He said he suspected they had hit the fit right when he asked his 17-year-old daughter to try them on and she complained “the rise is just a little too high.”
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