By and  on June 12, 2008

Pitching itself as "comfort food" in economically uncertain times, Juicy Couture continues its ongoing expansion, launching a new sleepwear collection and unveiling new stores in both Chicago and Washington last week.

The economy has done little to slow Juicy Couture, a division of Liz Claiborne Inc., which continues to perform well, said Gela Nash-Taylor, who, along with Pamela Skaist-Levy, founded the Los Angeles-based brand.

"We make people feel good," Nash-Taylor said. "We're a fun, happy brand. And we're having a tremendous year."

In this year's challenging first quarter, Juicy produced 58 percent sales growth and last year exceeded growth projections, with revenues rising 49 percent and comp-store sales up 23 percent.

In stores, Juicy's signature tracksuits, shown in bright shades of orange, lime, lemon and pink, are outselling the fashion pieces, Nash-Taylor said. "It's like comfort food," she noted. "It's aspirational but still within reach."

Juicy Couture looks to capitalize on that sentiment with its new Choose Sleep collection featuring tops, camisoles, pajama bottoms with grosgrain ribbons, plush robes and long-sleeve nightshirts, in cotton, pointelle, Modal and terry, priced at $40 to $125 and set to arrive in stores next month.

The launch comes at a time when Juicy Couture is increasing its retail presence with new locations set to open in Philadelphia; San Diego; Naples, Fla.; Charleston, S.C., and New York, with a flagship on Fifth Avenue, boosting Juicy Couture to some 60 U.S. stores by the end of this year and almost 50 in Asia with its partner, Lane Crawford. Last week, Juicy named Edgar Huber, L'Oréal SA managing director of major markets, as its new president, to lead the business side of the contemporary brand as it continues its overseas push.

In the Windy City, Juicy Couture articulated its whimsical, irreverent vibe at its 5,000-square-foot, two-story Oak Street location with a pale pink knight in armor and a cheeky elk's head donning lipstick, eyeliner and three strands of fake pearls at the top of its dark-wood staircase with pale pink painted brick walls. "It's an incredible blend of all the things Pamela and I love," Nash-Taylor said.Philip Johnson, Juicy's vice president for store design, called the decor "a mix of Hollywood fantasy with English eccentricity," adding that it takes inspiration from the England home Nash-Taylor shares with her husband, Duran Duran bass player John Taylor.

Given that each store possesses unique pieces or artwork (Juicy's Malibu, Calif., store features surfboards and its Rodeo Drive location has a pool table), Nash-Taylor said no two are alike.

"We're not crazy about the cookie-cutter approach in retail," she said.

And in Chicago, it took little time for the pair to zero in on the space at 101 East Oak Street, which was made available when Kate Spade — another Liz Claiborne Inc. brand — moved across the street.

"We picked the street because it's the Rodeo of Chicago," Nash-Taylor said of Oak Street, which is home to Hermès, Graff and Jimmy Choo. "You have to be in Chicago — it's the hub of the Midwest."

The Oak Street store is the only Windy City spot to sell Juicy's Couture Couture line, which features a long, flowing green ruffled gown for $2,400 and a navy sheath dress for $1,200.

Early bestsellers in Chicago include a $298 sweater blazer in blue stripe and red stripe, a $298 black canvas blazer and a mini trench for the same price in yellow and khaki. Shoppers also have sought out Juicy's new sequin Scottie T-shirt for $98 and its velour hoodie, $168, and pants, $138, with the Scottie logo in dark plum and bright pink. In-demand accessories include its Freestyle large hobo bag with signature hardware for $525 and the clutch for $195.

Juicy Couture also opened an almost-4,000-square-foot location in suburban Northbrook Court in April.

In Washington, the brand opened its second store in the area and its first in Georgetown at 3034 M Street. The other boutique is in the Tyson's Galleria mall in Virginia.

The M Street store covers two floors of an early 19th-century town house in a stretch of Georgetown rife with good neighbors. American Apparel is opening a store across the street and Neiman Marcus Cusp is next door. Up the street are Kate Spade, Barneys New York and Kiehl's.The full footprint of the store is just more than 5,000 square feet, with 2,500 square feet of dedicated selling space. The boutique carries the complete Juicy Couture line, including women's, men's, kids', baby and accessories.

The ground floor of the store showcases accessories, jewelry and women's apparel. Men's clothes have a dedicated section in the back, complete with its own entrance and a pool table.

The brand's signature cheeky artwork and graffitied images are featured throughout. Original architectural details such as the mantel and working fireplace on the second floor and leaded glass windows were left in place where possible and augmented by features with the brand's signature "surf fantasy" aesthetic. Silhouetted palm trees were painted on walls hung with old oil paintings covered in graffiti slogans, as well as boa feathers and other whimsical touches.

The company declined to give first-year sales projections for both its new Chicago and Washington units.

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