By  on February 13, 2002

LOS ANGELES -- Lucky Brand is banking on its all-American image translating from the sidewalk to the beach.

The denim maker is launching its first women's swim line, manufactured by Anaheim, Calif.-based Lunada Bay, at WWDMAGIC next week, in the same booth in which the deal was signed last August.

"When considering a new line, I look at whether it's a strong brand, the people involved and the timing," said Lunada Bay chief executive officer Susan Crank. "Lucky's distribution is pristine. They're specialty-store oriented, and it's the right time for us to expand without sacrificing what's on our plate."

Lunada Bay makes swimwear under the Bebe, Becca and Girl Star brands.

Lucky president Barry Perlman said he couldn't project a volume yet, because "we're new to the swim business, so we don't have any expectations except to introduce a great product."

Crank noted that the first swim collection would comprise about 10 percent of the merchandise hanging in Lucky Brand stores, saying: "I think they're smart to take baby steps."

The debut line, shipping at the end of April, consists of four groups based on red, white and blue looks in denim; eyelet; pinstripe, and prairie-bohemian prints. Solids, prints, mixed-print and patchwork styles include several reversible styles.

"The biggest challenge for us was to find a denim fabric that no one else had, since that's the focal point of the sportswear," said Patricia Osmanson, vice president of Lunada Bay. The company sourced a new, more liquid-like fabric from Canada that it owns exclusively.

In keeping with Lunada's fit-conscious credo, the 50-piece collection of bikinis, tankinis and cover-ups will be sold entirely as separates, ranging from XS to L and priced from $15 to $35 wholesale.

Key silhouettes include a banded, scarf-tie halter, a tie-back "corset" top, a low-rise, side-tie bottom and front-flap, boy-cut bottom.

"It's easier to break a line [closer to season]. That's exactly when everyone wants their suits, and you can really go for the guts of what's going on in sportswear," said Osmanson.Lucky's first targets are specialty stores near the water, Nordstrom and the 60 Lucky Brand stores nationwide. A new collection will break in July.

Despite Lucky's success in jeans, not all retailers consider their entry into the competitive swim category a slam dunk.

"Every sportswear brand is jumping on the swim bandwagon," noted Helmut Behensky, owner of Bea's Swim & Resort Wear in Woodland Hills and Palm Desert, Calif. "But there are only so many brands that can hang in a store."

In addition to the swimwear deal, Lucky reached a licensing agreement with Garson International last October to produce Lucky's women's and men's leather sportswear. The company also licensed Lucky children's clothing to The Haddad Apparel Group LTD last month. First-year sales expectations for the leather sportswear are between $4 million and $6 million, according to Marc Garson, owner of Garson International.

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