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Joie Racks Up Fast Growth in Contemporary

LOS ANGELES — The Joie girl is definitely in her "Me" years. She road trips to spas in Palm Springs with a pack of girlfriends, suffers lunches with daddy and his new girlfriend at the Palm, and keeps regular appointments with her manicurist, her...

LOS ANGELES — The Joie girl is definitely in her “Me” years. She road trips to spas in Palm Springs with a pack of girlfriends, suffers lunches with daddy and his new girlfriend at the Palm, and keeps regular appointments with her manicurist, her shrink and a colonic doctor.

The fictional exploits of Sophie — the name of Joie brand’s alter ego — are detailed in her very own calendar, a popular gift-with-purchase by the year-old contemporary brand, which is becoming known for its hot retail performance as well as its cheeky sensibility.

Stefani Greenfield, owner of the New York-based Scoop boutique, isn’t shy about her enthusiasm for the brand. “We love it, love it, love it,” she said. “We’ve only seen it evolve and get better.” In fact, Scoop quadrupled its buy this season, she said.

Joie’s Breathe cargo pants are currently in the windows of Colette in Paris, and Joie co-founder Sean Barron said the store has reordered the style in suede.

Neither he nor partner Joie Rucker would divulge numbers, yet industry sources say the brand, headquartered in a 14,000-square-foot space in Vernon, Calif., reached roughly $15 million in its first 12 months and is on pace to hit $25 million in its second year.

In this regard, the brand has outshot two of the past launches of Barron’s. He and former partner Katayone Adeli sold their first collaboration, Parallel, to BCBG for an undisclosed sum in 1996. Then, they launched Katayone Adeli, the small but prestigious young designer label in which he still holds a financial stake.

Rucker is a former senior designer with Levi Strauss and Guess Inc.

In one year, the pair have elbowed their way into the saturated marketplace of designer denim. Even retailers who don’t carry Joie — the distribution is a lean 360 specialty doors here and abroad — tout the label’s potential.

“I don’t carry Joie, but I would if I could,” said Fred Segal Flair owner Jeanine Braden, who can’t stock the brand because it’s carried by another boutique in the Santa Monica, Calif., retail complex. She still wears it, though. “It’s one of my personal favorites. And I’d bet money on it that Joie will be the next Seven.”

The brand first hit with So Real, low-slung cargo pants with tapered, slimming leg pockets. Introduced several seasons ago, the style now sells about 10,000 units per month, Barron said. He pays homage to the battered prototype by keeping it under glass in the lobby.

In fact, So Real, along with copycats of last fall’s Balenciaga cargo rendition, has steered bottoms toward baggier, pocketed styles. That mood showed up all over WWDMAGIC in August.

But the Joie team isn’t resting on those laurels. Breathe, side-pocket cargo pants with ankle ties, is doing well in silk, denim and suede. Rucker has high hopes for strong retail performance from Cabanabe, the wide-legged, washed twill pants for resort.

For next spring, Rucker has done raw-edged blouses in men’s shirting stripes, high-waisted pencil skirts and featherweight cashmere sweaters. The colors meander, but Rucker feels strongly about “greeny-blues and a dirty pink.”

“I’m really cleaning everything up,” she said. “We’re doing some higher-waist styles. I believe in lots of slim, long, lean silhouettes for spring.”

The line appears somewhat haphazardly merchandised — but that’s deliberate.

“We’re not making outfits,” Rucker responded. “We don’t sit down and go, ‘This matches this.’ What makes women interesting is when they have personal style.”

Tops range from $20 to $80 wholesale, denim from $54 to $90, and trousers from $60 to $120. Specialty pieces, like the suede version of the Breathe pants, run as high as $239 wholesale.

Rucker clearly enjoys her liberation from a junior price point, running her fingers over the collection’s pricier fabrics with a contented sigh.

“The fabric inspires me,” she said. “This is where it starts.”

Although most fabric is European, the majority of goods are produced domestically, sewn down the street by local contractors and dropped off at Joie’s warehouse, where Rucker and Barron park amid racks of inventory.

The pair spent the past year laboring over the kind of fine points that instill cachet in a brand. Buttons are engraved with the brand name in a lilting script. Styles are named after an eclectic mix of songs (everything from “Tiny Dancer” to “Truckin’”) that Rucker and Barron envision as a soundtrack to their customers’ lives.

No word yet on whether they’ll produce an actual CD of those songs, but they are already readying another calendar, which will resolve the cliffhanger posed by the first. After dating and being disappointed by a series of unreliable boys, Sophie’s calendar notes: “Blind date with Suzette!?!”