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Modern Amusement Gets Female Friendly

Modern Amusement's crow logo is landing on another perch.

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SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Modern Amusement’s crow logo is landing on another perch.

The jaunty men’s label worn by celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher is introducing 35 styles in its first women’s sportswear collection. Launching this fall, along with a handful of accessories in a single delivery scheduled for Aug. 15, the contemporary apparel line follows the bikinis and one-piece swimsuits that Modern Amusement began selling for the spring season.

The collection has been in development for two years. Modern Amusement is the latest men’s wear company — others include Band of Outsiders, Trovata and Rag & Bone — branching into the potentially more lucrative women’s market.

“Once you have women’s with men’s, it opens up opportunities,” said creative director John Moore, who oversees sportswear, swim and accessories for men and women.

Modern Amusement dallied in women’s wear when it was designed by founder Jeff Yokoyama but at least four years have passed since then. Yokoyama sold Modern Amusement for $375,000 in 2004 to Mossimo Giannulli, who recruited Moore from New Albany, Ohio-based Abercrombie & Fitch to revamp the men’s business from a Southern California beach-inspired line into a premium label with a global perspective. Two years later, Giannulli sold his namesake company, which included Modern Amusement, to Iconix Brand Group for $119 million, and later bought back Modern Amusement from Iconix for $4.8 million.

Privately held Modern Amusement declined to disclose annual sales and its first-year financial goals for the women’s line. Wholesale prices for women’s sportswear range from $24 for tank tops and Ts to $200 for sweaters and dresses. The target customer is a woman between 20 and 40 who is “old enough to have a global perspective and young enough to get away with anything,” Moore said.

Certainly, a carefree attitude permeates Modern Amusement’s loftlike headquarters in this beachside city. One corner of the space is decorated with a yellow surfboard, red paisley wallpaper, overstuffed armchairs and tequila bottles. Moore, who launched the surf-based Hollister label at Abercrombie, comes to work in skinny jeans and a huge tattoo peeks from under his shirt sleeve.

Inspiration for the women’s sportswear and accessories spans decades, continents and media. Moore admired not only the independent spirit of European chanteuses, including Françoise Hardy and Jane Birkin, but also the way the movie character Annie Hall wore her trousers. Photos of a polkadot-wearing Picasso influenced some prints.

This story first appeared in the February 21, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Modern Amusement also concocted a tale about a fictitious couple named Hunter (“good looks are hidden beneath his facial scruff and his somewhat disheveled layers of clothes”) and Sabine (a sequin factory heiress who “is an educated and refined young woman, well-connected and extremely well-dressed”), who provide the references for the silhouettes and palette in the women’s and men’s lines.

High-end retailers, including Neiman Marcus and Holt Renfrew, have checked out the women’s sportswear. Fred Segal Flair, which ordered the women’s swimwear for spring, purchased the sportswear.

“It was boyish but had a feminine part of it,” said Jeannine Braden, owner of Fred Segal Flair, a friend of Moore who offered her Santa Monica boutique as a lab to sell limited runs and special pieces from Modern Amusement. Braden said the brand can provide value to her customers, including a silk twill scoopneck dress with layered cap sleeves retailing for $260.

Among Modern Amusement’s looks are strapless navy minidresses crafted from raw silk with ruffles in asymmetrical rows from front to back.

“Our girl’s two favorite pastimes are shopping and being social,” Moore said.

That’s not to say that androgynous Annie Hall won’t be able to find anything in the line. There are sheer tuxedo blouses in silk chiffon, sweater vests that have a knit front and a back sewn from purple and black striped silk, and wool-viscose trenchcoats. Accessories include red double-wrapped skinny leather belts with feather buckles.

Jeans are absent. “Modern Amusement has always been known as an alternative to denim,” Moore said. “Over time, there will be a denim piece.”

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