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Pioneering Spirits

A pair of sportswear lines launching at WWDMAGIC trace their roots to the Wild West, and with their debut comes expansion into new territory.<br><br><br><br>Prepare to saddle up at this month’s edition of WWDMAGIC, where a pair of...

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A pair of sportswear lines launching at WWDMAGIC trace their roots to the Wild West, and with their debut comes expansion into new territory.

This story first appeared in the February 18, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Prepare to saddle up at this month’s edition of WWDMAGIC, where a pair of western-inspired collections will make their debut.

Galapagos Studios and The Manuel Collection — the latter designed by Manuel Cuevas, who dresses country-and-western greats such as George Jones and Trisha Yearwood — will launch sportswear lines at the show in an attempt to expand beyond the Wild West.

Cuevas, who is based in Nashville, is known for his richly embroidered jackets. “He’s the one who gave Dwight Yokam those skintight, ripped jeans and that certain block of hat,” said Ted Greve, owner of Irvine, Calif.-based The Manuel Collection.

In the past, only celebrities and the very wealthy could afford one of Cuevas’ handmade custom-designed jackets, with thousands of stitches per inch, brilliant patterns and glamorous spangles. The custom wool jackets cost about $5,200, and they were only available by special order. (Cuevas continues to design custom pieces.)

While the new Manuel line has hints of its original westernwear roots, the clothing does not have any obvious telltale signs, such as yoked backs or small slit pockets in front. “Our jackets are western if you put them in a western context,” Greve said. “But if you put them in an upper-end women’s store, then that’s what they are. People wear them to black-tie affairs and they wear them with jeans.”

The line, which will be shown in the contemporary section of WWDMAGIC, features embroidered gabardine jackets, pants and boots. The collection has coordinating sportswear separates including tops, pants and skirts. Wholesale prices range from approximately $35 for a black stretch wrap top to $400 for a limited-edition red gabardine jacket with floral embroidery and rhinestones.

Greve said the company plans to sell the collection to high-end boutiques and that it may also create special groups for large retail accounts.

Meanwhile, designers at Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Galapagos Studios also will launch a sportswear line at WWDMAGIC in hopes of making a similar transition from westernwear to the broader apparel market. Galapagos Studios had previously been making a nice profit selling a wholesale line of T-shirts and western-style band uniforms to school groups across the country. “We saw the need to take our fashion in a new direction, so we started doing some streetwear for [WWDMAGIC],” said designer Suzanne Pointon.

The new line, to be unveiled in the junior/young contemporary section of WWDMAGIC, is called Can’t be Tamed. “We came up with the name because we wanted to do something young and rebellious,” Pointon said. The line includes T-shirts, tube tops, low-rise pants and activewear jackets to be decorated with two different sets of logos, essentially differentiating the two distinct groups within the collection: one that looks vintage western with a contemporary twist and another that has a harder, urban look. “We’re capitalizing on the same styles for the streetwear and westernwear markets,” Pointon said. “The difference will be the graphics.”

The western-inspired group features the Can’t be Tamed logo on the front with a horseshoe and barbed wire on the back. Printed on the T-shirts is “Rodeo Champion” or “American Sweetheart.” Other T-shirts will feature retro-cowgirls, hearts and flags.

The streetwear group also will have the Can’t be Tamed logo on the front, with tattoo-inspired designs on the back. Some of the tops will have tribal designs, with waves, flames and abstract prints.

Wholesale prices for both groups range from $20 for a cotton fleece zip-front hoodie logo jacket to $10 for a fitted short-sleeved cotton logo T-shirt. Galapagos Studios executives said they are hoping to tap into the current trend toward tougher, street looks in the junior market. They also said they feel that recent world events have sent some shoppers looking for the comfort of vintage, all-American western looks. “It seems to me when times are unpredictable, that’s when people want authenticity,” Pointon said. “They want that nostalgia.”

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