Retro Brands Ready for Act Two

NEW YORK — The resurrection continues.<br><br>With the hippie-inspired peasant tops and vintage washed jeans of the Seventies returning to the fashion spotlight, denim labels, including Bonjour and Landlubber, that had been relegated to the back...

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NEW YORK — The resurrection continues.

This story first appeared in the August 29, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

With the hippie-inspired peasant tops and vintage washed jeans of the Seventies returning to the fashion spotlight, denim labels, including Bonjour and Landlubber, that had been relegated to the back of the closet are making their return to the stores.

Makers disagree on what’s driving the return of old brands, although some suggest it’s the post-Sept. 11 desire to go back to what is familiar. Whatever the reason, retro jeans labels are coming back in full force. Big jeans brands from the Seventies and early Eighties are launching as lifestyle brands, providing denim as well as other sportswear pieces to complement the collection.

Landlubber disappeared from the scene in the Seventies because, according to owner Steven Rosen, it moved away from what they were best known for: low-rise bell-bottomed jeans.

The relaunched collection, which is slated to hit stores in September, includes a line of denim jeans, skirts and dresses. The rises are low, between five and seven inches, and most of the styles are vintage-inspired flares, Rosen said. He also plans to add logo T-shirts. In November, he hopes to launch a men’s line.

“The men’s line is well on its way, and stores are really asking for it,” he said, adding that he intends to sign a few accessories licenses in the near future. “It’s not all set yet, but I am speaking with some companies to produce handbags, belts, watches. We want to redevelop the entire Landlubber lifestyle.”

Landlubber’s wholesale price range is between $40 and $55, and Rosen said he expects to do between $8 million and $10 million in sales volume the first year.

Bonjour is also trying to make a comeback. Popular with teens in the Seventies and Eighties, the brand is targeting the customer it used to serve.

“These brand names from the past have value because they are familiar to the consumer,” said Carmine Porcelli, managing director of the company. “There is a comfort level for the familiar. It’s as simple as that.”

Porcelli said he sees a tremendous amount of opportunity with relaunching Bonjour.

“We are getting that Forties customer who used to wear the brand when she was a teenager as well as her daughter,” he said. “It’s familiar to the mother and, since we haven’t been around for more than a decade, it’s something new for the daughter.”

Bonjour’s first relaunched collection has been picked up by a variety of major retailers, including Macy’s and Parisian department stores.

“We have gotten a great response from stores,” Porcelli said. “The timing seems to be just right for the launch of this, and, to my surprise, the brand is having a greater impact on people than I thought it would when I was looking to relaunch it.”

Jordache, a denim brand that really never went away, saw its height in the early Eighties. Or so those at the company thought. Today, there are multiple pieces that complete the Jordache umbrella. It was relaunched just a couple of years ago, and while it helps that the vintage trend is in full force, according to Michael Riego, senior vice president of advertising, the brand is here to stay. In 1996, it launched an exclusive junior denim collection with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which this year is exceeding the company’s projections by 20 percent. The company, which also produces Gasoline jeans and the Fubu ladies collection, more recently launched a higher-end denim line, also carrying the Jordache label.

“The jeans are now carried in department stores,” Riego said. “It used to be only in specialty. The high-end price point is now a million-dollar business for us.”

Also on tap is a new TV and print ad campaign planned for fall. This will be the company’s second round of ads since the relaunch. Last year, Jordache reintroduced itself with a print and TV campaign that capitalized on its retro feel.

The new print campaign broke in September issues of teen magazines like Teen People, YM and Seventeen, and the TV spots will air beginning in October. Since the TV ads have yet to be finalized, Riego said he couldn’t release details, but did say the campaign will be a play on reality TV programs. As for advertising the high-end label, ads will appear in Latina and Honey magazines, as well as on billboards in Manhattan.

“There is so much we can do with jeans labels that we are familiar with,” Riego said. “If it is a brand that succeeded before, it can succeed again. Fashion, like so many other things, is cyclical.”

When Sergio Valente launched its first line of jeans in 1974, it became a leader in the denim market. When its popularity began to fade, the company shelved the name and hoped to bring it back when the time was right. In 1999, Steve Miska, president of Sergio Valente, relaunched the brand.

“There are so many options in the denim business today, but the biggest difference is the availability of stretch denim,” he said. “All of our jeans have stretch in them. We do not use any rigid denim, and it used to be that was the only kind of denim available. Now, we are known for our stretch.”

While Alison Mangaroo, buyer at Manhattan’s Atrium, has yet to pick up any of the resurrected labels, she did say she sells a great deal of Levi’s vintage collection jeans. She said the store is doing so well with new labels like Seven For All Mankind and Paper, Denim and Cloth that she hasn’t thought much about picking up the retro labels, but isn’t closed to the idea.

“The retro style is coming back. It’s cool and what’s happening,” she said. “These companies had success with the labels before, so why couldn’t they have success with them again? The kids of now weren’t around when those labels were hot, so to them they are new.”

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