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PARIS — British denim brand Lee Cooper is celebrating its centennial and focusing on the future.
The label, which started as the workwear clothing firm M Cooper Overalls in East London in 1908, is said to be supplying the British Olympic team’s jeans and suits for the opening ceremonies in Beijing that coincides with Lee Cooper’s birthday on Aug. 8. The brand has also created Collection 100, a 14-piece denim and apparel line to mark the milestone for fall.
In addition, about 40 one-off items made in collaboration with a dozen designers and celebrities, including Giles Deacon and Jade Jagger, will be auctioned during Paris Fashion Week. The company hopes the auction will raise more than 500,000 euros, or $790,000 at current exchange, for the Red Cross.
“We’re never going to do a Levi’s-style TV campaign,” said Lee Cooper’s global brand director Andy Rigg. “We market through very desirable, sexy products.”
With Collection 100, which hits Lee Cooper’s stores and wholesale accounts in September, the brand is playing up its heritage. Each pair of jeans comes with a downsized version of Lee Cooper’s 100-year celebratory book inserted in the back pocket, while its metal buttons have a vintage look.
At 80 euros, or $126 at current exchange, for a pair of jeans, Lee Cooper is looking to engage its competitors on pricing. There are three styles for women and 11 for men. Rigg said they are intended to be collectors’ items.
Lee Cooper was involved with major music groups such as The Rolling Stones and The Kinks in the Sixties, Rigg noted, and has a three-year licensing deal with Apple Records to use the Beatles name and images in apparel. It is invoking that rock ‘n’ roll heritage with a European road show featuring up-and-coming bands playing in a double-decker London bus.
“We like to think of ourselves as genuine, original users of rock ‘n’ roll, not just piggybacking,” Rigg said.
Since its acquisition by the private investment firms Sun Capital Partners Inc. and Emerisque Capital in 2005, Lee Cooper has grown to 680 doors from 450 and boosted awareness through high-profile collaborations with French model and actress Lou Doillon and designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac to bring sales last year to an estimated $600 million in 70 countries.