Mudd: Ready for Prime Time

Mudd Inc. executives believe their jeans are so cool they have a life of their own.

That’s the not-so-subtle message behind the company’s upcoming TV ad campaign, which will mark the New York–based brand’s debut in that media. The ads, due to break on MTV Dec. 9 and run through the first week of January, feature a day in the life of a pair of low-rise, whiskered jeans — that get around quite well without any apparent occupant.

Pam Prahl, executive assistant to Mudd president Dick Gilbert, said the moving empty jeans follow a pattern the company established in its print ads.

"Our formula is not having an actual person or model representing the brand. We think the product is the best thing that can speak for our brand," she said. "So the ad focuses on the product, on our jeans. What we’re trying to communicate is that Mudd is trendsetting jeans and if you’re in Mudd, then you are on target with what’s hot and fashionable."

The ads begin with the jeans seeming to be pulled onto an invisible wearer. The jeans — the brand’s Limbo style, with a 21-inch flare — then dance their way through a series of animated backdrops, including a city, a field blossoming in spring and a snowstorm.

WWD viewed a 30-second development version of the ads, though Prahl said the company is trying to cut the spots, which have no voice-over, down to 15 seconds to allow the company to air them more frequently.

"The question is if we can get a clear message in 15 seconds," she said.

The ads were created by Brand New School, an ad agency with offices in New York and Los Angeles, according to Kelly Payfer, Mudd’s director of licensing. The spots will air during MTV programs "Total Request Live" and "FM Nation," as well as other prime-time programs, Prahl said.

The company chose MTV to air the ads because of demographics.

"We wanted to go on TV and we just had a conversation as to what is the best way to get to our 12- to 24-year-old consumer," Prahl said. "We didn’t want to spread ourselves too thin with the dollars we have to spend."The company did not disclose its budget for the campaign.

The competition in the junior denim category has heated up in recent years, with newcomers looking to cash in on a strong market, and LEI — Mudd’s biggest direct competitor — this year lining up the substantial backing of Jones Apparel Group. The TV campaign is a move by Mudd, which last year had a wholesale volume of nearly $300 million, including royalties for licensed products — to flex its muscles and show staying power in the category, Prahl acknowledged.

"We’re ready to take that next step," she said. "We’ve grown quickly over the last few years. We’re now an international brand."

As reported, Mudd expanded into Asia this year.

— Scott Malone

I.C. Isaacs Slips Into Red

The sluggish retail environment and a disappointing response to its fall line led I.C. Isaacs & Co. to a third-quarter loss.

The Baltimore-based maker of jeanswear and sportswear under the Marithé & François Girbaud brand said for the three months ended Sept. 30 it recorded a loss of $510,000, or 7 cents a diluted share, reversing profits in the corresponding quarter last year of $1.7 million, or 22 cents. Sales for the period were $16.3 million and were entirely from the Marithé & François Girbaud brand. Last year, sales tallied $24.9 million, of which $22.1 million were from that brand.

Robert J. Arnot, chairman and chief executive, said in a statement: "We believe that the loss that we experienced in the third quarter was due to a sluggish retail environment, as well as a weaker-than-anticipated consumer response to our fall product offering."

He said he expects the fourth quarter to be difficult and anticipates the company will end the year with a loss. "We anticipate that the economic environment in general and the apparel retail environment in particular will continue to have a negative impact on our sales and margins," Arnot said, adding that the West Coast dock lockout significantly increased airfreight costs from Asia in both the third and fourth quarters.

The company said it now expects to report a yearly loss.Danny Gladstone, president of the Girbaud division, said the repositioning of its women’s Girbaud collection into a contemporary line is proceeding as planned. He noted that while it is currently having a negative impact on current sales with jeanswear accounts, he expects it will improve the firm’s opportunities for future growth. He said beginning this spring, he expects the line will be available in stores such as Fred Segal, The Atrium and Urban Outfitters.

Income for the nine months increased over 30-fold to $1.4 million, or 13 cents, compared with income of $41,000, or 1 cent, for the same period last year. However, sales dipped 20.4 percent to $53.5 million from $67.2 million.

— Jennifer Weitzman

Denim for Benard

Harvé Benard is putting its hands in the jeans pool.

The New York-based firm, known best for its moderate coat collection, has built its label to include sportswear and accessories, and is adding denim.

The 17-item denim collection, ready for spring retailing, includes jackets, blazers, shirts, long and short skirts, and jeans. Bernard Holtzman, the company’s president, said: "After looking in the market and seeing a lot of young denim makers and frumpy misses’ denim, I thought there was a need for this kind of denim," said Holtzman, noting that his customer is a career woman between ages 25 and 55. "So I made young-looking styles. I readjusted the fit for a misses’ customer."

All made of 12-oz. denim, the line features a military-inspired jacket, a short blazer and cargo capris. For fall 2003, Holtzman said he will add coordinating pieces in canvas and corduroy.

"There is a whole lifestyle with denim," he said. "Denim plays a big role in the market and this line is perfect for the career woman who wants to look a bit more casual on the weekends. I know I am doing something right when I came into work and saw my sales staff wearing the denim. These are the women I am aiming at: 30s career women."

The line wholesales from $40 for a shirt to $80 for the jackets. Holtzman said he projects sales of $3 million to $5 million in the first year.— Julee Greenberg

Check the Index

Giorgio Armani is speeding up fashion’s already quick pace by offering new, fresh injections of trendy items to his Armani Jeans regular seasonal collections. The capsule, item-driven flash collection was launched this fall and dubbed Index. The line features eight to 10 designs for men and women.

"Index stands for the must-have pieces," said Robert Triefus, the group’s vice president. "Armani Jeans is our most accessible line: With Index, it will benefit from fresh injections midseason." Triefus said Index offers "true fashion pieces." Accordingly, the collection draws from currently popular trends. For fall, Triefus said relevant items were pleated miniskirts in contrasting fabrics, military-style jackets with fastenings reminiscent of the uniforms of the Austro-Hungarian empire, stretch T-shirts and cargo trousers with laces that tie around the calves. "Consumers tend to buy more on impulse and, since we offer jeans through the season, with Index we create excitement," said Triefus.

Index will be available in all Armani Jeans and Emporio Armani stores and in high-end department stores.

For the time being, Armani and a team of designers put together the collection twice a year, but Triefus said the company is considering increasing that frequency. Triefus said the Index project is feasible because it is directly controlled through in-house production. The line is produced by Armani’s Simint manufacturing operation.

— Luisa Zargani

Lucky Break

Lucky Brand Dungarees cofounders Gene Montesano and Barry Perlman strode onto the stage Friday night at the Black Tie and Blue Jeans gala in Beverly Hills to announce that LEI founders Mel and Sue Geliebter, had donated $100,000 to the Lucky Brand Foundation.

Speaking about the evening’s mission to help children with physical disabilities, Montesano reflected: "We don’t know how lucky we are to be able to tie our shoes in the morning." The gala netted $750,000, thanks to support from Hot Kiss, California Market Center, Volcom, Cherokee, Hard Tail and others who turned up at the Regent Beverly Wilshire to listen to Bonnie Raitt and the verbose musings of emcee Dennis Miller.

The foundation has raised more than $3 million since its inception in 1997, benefiting various children’s charities.— Kate Bowers and Kristin Young

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