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What’s the word on the street? Well, designers are targeting tweens, lowering prices and seeking new ways to market themselves.
This story first appeared in the February 18, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
When Mike Mohney, the general manager of Lower Manhattan nightclub CBGB, saw an ad for Jaguar cars that featured a tattoo-covered, black leather-clad punk rocker, he realized society has changed significantly since the venue’s early days 30 years ago, when it hosted the likes of the Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie. “It was kind of weird to see punk rock being used as a marketing tool,” he said.
Companies like CBGB, which is launching at The Edge a wholesale T-shirt line, and Tripp NYC, which has a clothing line inspired by its Lower East Side boutique Trash & Vaudeville, said a renewed interest in punk rock has given the streetwear and urbanwear markets a boost. Like all clothing manufacturers, they still have to employ savvy business strategies, such as shifting their demographic mix or livening up their marketing efforts.
SMELLS LIKE TWEEN SPIRIT: Tweens are discovering the cool looks donned during the Seventies by bands like the Ramones, and are bringing in a steady stream of new orders for streetwear companies that offer authentic looks. “We’ve definitely noticed there’s a 12- to 15-year-old market that seems to be really growing,” said Ray Goodman, owner of Tripp NYC. “Kids are definitely growing up quicker and they’re starting to express themselves with what they wear at an early age.” In response to this trend, Tripp NYC has started offering size 1 and XS to fit younger bodies.
And instead of Britney Spears, young women are taking fashion cues from stars like anti-chic rocker Avril Lavigne. Added Goodman, “[Lavigne] is also almost the opposite of Britney Spears, with more of a street type of look.”
Goodman was recently posed with a challenge from his 12-year-old son: make some cool “bondage pants” loose enough to fit in with the skater crowd. Goodman and his designer wife, Daang Goodman, came through. The denim pants were a hit and now they account for about 50 percent of the company’s sales. The pants, which feature removable straps and silver grommets, wholesale for about $30. The lesson? It pays to listen to kids under 15 — a growing segment of the streetwear and urbanwear markets, Goodman said.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT: Many specialty stores are responding to tough times by cutting back on orders, observed Roberta Aley, owner of Newport Beach, Calif.-based vendor Punk Kitty. To compensate for the decline in orders, Punk Kitty is expanding its price point range in order to reel in customers who can’t resist the lure of trendy affordably priced items, usually accessories. At Punk Kitty, for example, small vinyl purses — which wholesale for $10 and are available at Hot Topic — are popular with buyers. “A lot of the girls are still shopping, but they don’t have a lot of money because of the economy,” Aley said.
And on the East Coast, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Uzi is thankful to songstress Lavigne for making leather wrist cuffs popular. Uzi offers the edgy accessory for $4.50 wholesale per pair. “We’ve been able to move thousands of them because our price points are extremely low,” said designer and owner Mari Gustafson.
SAVVY MARKETING: Creative marketing tactics are being employed by several firms to generate buzz about their lines and to support brand identity. Philadelphia-based G Mart, for example, cross-markets its Sailor Jerry Clothing line with Sailor Jerry rum. The rum and T-shirts are decorated with vintage tattoo designs created by Sailor Jerry, an artist who worked in Chinatown in San Francisco during the Twenties. G Mart will be pouring Sailor Jerry rum — and promoting its clothing lines — during a cocktail party Feb. 19 at the Peppermill Inn, a kitschy nightclub in Las Vegas. “We put marketing first,” said G Mart owner Steven Grasse. “What’s the point of designing a line if no one has ever heard of it?”
CBGB will draw attention to its rock ’n’ roll T-shirt line at The Edge by broadcasting concert footage of the Ramones on a DVD player at its booth. At press time, CBGB was also looking into lining up a musical guest appearance. Once a gritty, Lower East Side hole-in-the-wall, CBGB now is courting buyers from retail giants such as Bloomingdale’s and Urban Outfitters, but is still trying to stay true to its roots. “The whole scene is kind of being rejuvenated,” Mohney said. “We want anybody who loves music and loves the underground scene as much as we do.”