By  on March 10, 2005

NEW YORK — Jacques Moret, one of the activewear industry’s quiet giants, is making some noise as it celebrates its 30th year in business.

Moret is manufacturing Everlast’s women’s apparel under a new licensing deal and is in the final stage of signing a partnership with fashion designer Alvin Valley.

The company has a large and growing stable of activewear brands that crosses many distribution channels. In addition to Everlast and its core Jacques Moret label, the firm also makes products under license for Jockey, Spalding and Etonic, as well as Danskin’s Freestyle line sold in Target, and private label products for a range of stores.

In an industry sector known for brands that blast their images across different media, Moret founder and president Joey Harary prefers to be subtle about the accomplishments of his firm.

“I like to keep a low profile,” Harary said during a rare interview from the company’s headquarters at 1411 Broadway here. “We aren’t looking for publicity and we don’t want to be in the spotlight.”

He said Moret is on an aggressive growth track, while declining to give exact sales for the firm.

“I think we could be a $500 million company within the next five years,” Harary said.

Everlast is a “significant opportunity” for the company and it will likely become its biggest brand in terms of sales, he said.

“This is an historic brand with a lot of integrity,” he said. “With all of the attention boxing is getting now, the brand is stronger now than it ever was.”

Under the terms of the licensing deal, Moret will pay about $12.5 million in minimum guarantees to Everlast. At the end of that period, Moret has the option of signing a 99-year license for women’s apparel rights for about $30 million.

The 95-year-old Everlast brand is world renowned for its boxing products, and its women’s business recently got a boost from the success of the Oscar-winning movie “Million Dollar Baby,” which features its products. The brand is also getting marketing exposure from the new boxing reality TV show “The Contender” which premiered on NBC Monday night. Everlast is the exclusive supplier of apparel, footwear and equipment for the show.“Everlast has a lot of momentum right now and it’s a reflection of all the effort we have put into building the brand over the last five years,” said Seth Horowitz, Everlast’s executive vice president.

Horowitz said his company is working closely with Moret to develop women’s and build the brand.

“Jacques Moret has vast experience in the women’s activewear market and strong alliances with management at various retail firms,” he said. “And they have great sourcing abilities.”

About 11 Everlast staff members came to Moret to oversee the transition in areas such as design, sales and operations. Harary noted that the Everlast women’s line is evolving and will likely see more product changes in coming months.

For fall, the first season Moret is making Everlast women’s, the line includes a wider selection of technical fabrics and even incorporates them into some of the athleisure looks. Many of the offerings have Coolmax and Everlast’s proprietary EverDri fabric, and among some of the other new looks are a “skant,” a skirt and pant combination, and a cotton, polyester and Lycra spandex collection that includes hoodies and low-waisted bootleg pants.

Harary said Everlast is positioned to be the most expensive brand in its stable, and there is not a lot of overlap with its other lines. Jockey activewear, which is in department stores and sporting goods chains, is skewed toward a slightly older, more conservative customer, while Etonic activewear is a technical running and activewear line that is sold in sporting goods chains and running stores. The Jacques Moret brand is primarily sold in midtier chains and department stores.

An activewear industry executive, who asked not to be identified, said Moret is making less private label merchandise for Target, which may be a reason it is seeking to build up its branded licensed business. Harary said that wasn’t why Moret was seeking more brands and he declined further comment.

While many fashion firms have merged and consolidated in the last few decades or gone public, Moret has remained independent and has grown organically.

Harary founded the company with his father, Ralph, in 1975, and it initially focused on denim. The name stemmed partly from the combination of the names of Harary’s nephews, Morris and Ralph.“We wanted to give it a French spin at the time,” he said.

Three years later, the company began to make bodywear, and over the years it has manufactured activewear for a number of brands, including L.A. Gear and Bonnie August.

Now the company sources globally and has about 120 employees at its New York headquarters. It is still family run, and is employee-owned. Two of Harary’s brothers-in-law, Alan Sassoon and Jack Beyda, are partners in the business, and Ralph still pops into the office to lend his advice.

Harary said his company has been able to survive for 30 years by closely tracking trends and changes.

“We are focused in our customers, and what our customers need from us in service and sport,” he said. “We are not just selling in. We track everything very carefully.”

Nonetheless, Harary said activewear has become a hot category for companies of all stripes, and anyone selling in this sector now is a competitor.

“Nike is king, but the sector — and our competitors — include everyone from Under Armour to more fashion-oriented companies like Juicy Couture,” he said. For us, it’s our focus, it’s what we do. For some of the newcomers getting in, it’s a fad, but our heart is in this business.”

While its focus is activewear, Moret also has an intimates subsidiary called SBH Intimates that produces for brands such as Dollhouse and Looney Tunes characters and also owns the 2(x)ist brand, which is known for its racy men’s underwear.

Working with Valley will be a new experience for Harary, since it brings the company into the designer tier for the first time. Harary didn’t meet Valley through a banker or the traditional methods of how companies come together these days.

“I was with my wife at a Valley sample sale and I was just there hanging out,” he said. “We just really hit it off.”

Harary declined to give many specifics of what the partnership will entail, since details are still being determined, but said he is enthusiastic about the opportunities. Valley makes dresses and pants worn by socialites and uptown girls, and sells to stores including Bergdorf Goodman and Kirna Zabête.“We think he is a wonderful designer,” Harary said. “We see a lot of potential there.”

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