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Teen Firms Riding the Shopping Wagon

NEW YORK — It was a tough back-to-school season, but teens are still shopping with a frenzy and junior sportswear makers are about as upbeat as any apparel vendors.<br><br>Sales of junior apparel registered a 9.2 percent gain to $9.6 billion in...

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NEW YORK — It was a tough back-to-school season, but teens are still shopping with a frenzy and junior sportswear makers are about as upbeat as any apparel vendors.

Sales of junior apparel registered a 9.2 percent gain to $9.6 billion in the first nine months of this year, according to NPDFashionworld consumer data. This comes at a time when total spending on women’s apparel slipped about 5 percent compared with the same period last year.

With the junior category running strong, makers are finalizing growth plans for the next six months, which they hope will lead them into a stronger b-t-s season next year.

New York-based Star City, for example, is making a move to a bigger showroom in January. The current showroom space is in 1407 Broadway but, according to Robert Klein, president of the 30-year-old brand, it has outgrown its space and is ready to relocate to a classier and larger showroom taking up two floors in 530 Seventh Avenue.

“While I’m not looking for dramatic growth, I have seen consistent growth each year in the business,” Klein said of his $75 million company. “So the new showroom will represent that growth. It’s a bit more upscale and much hipper than where we are now.”

Along with the move, the company is considering offering more product categories, in addition to its main collection and in-house lingerie and sweater lines. While it has stayed away from licensing, Klein said he is speaking with a few companies about opportunities.

“I really prefer to manufacture the products in house so I have complete control of what we are producing,” he said.

In other company news, Star City is close to hiring a new designer, but has yet to decide between a few contenders. Also, it will introduce a denim division in coming months to feed the need for fashion-forward denim in the junior category. Star City also plans to begin an advertising campaign in the first half of 2003 on kiosks and billboards, as well as develop cross-marketing ideas with retailers.

Also planning a move is Rocawear. The New York-based urban-rooted company is now a $250 million brand and it just launched junior sportswear a year ago. According to Dana Hill, the company’s vice president of marketing, plans for an even larger 2003 are in the works.

First on the agenda, Rocawear is relocating to a 35,000-square-foot showroom in 1411 Broadway, which will then house the men’s wear line with the junior sportswear and children’s wear collections all in one space. Then, Hill said, in January the company will open an office in Amsterdam to help with its plan for European expansion and begin plans for a runway show during London’s Fashion Week.

Also, the company is now finalizing its spring ad campaign, which will feature Naomi Campbell, marking the first time Rocawear has chosen to use a supermodel for a campaign.

“We were looking for an iconic image for this campaign and I really think our junior customer looks up to her,” Hill said.

Baby Phat by Kimora Lee Simmons is also working on a new ad campaign for spring. This time the company has chosen a new face instead of a supermodel, like Devon Aoki, who it used in its fall ads.

“We were looking for an exotic beauty to fit the theme of this collection, which is Bahama Mama,” said Michelle Perez, marketing director for the New York-based brand. “Meghana from Next fit it beautifully. She has an amazing body and beautiful face and she is completely exotic looking. You can’t even tell what her nationality is.”

The campaign was shot by Terry Richardson and styled by Patti Wilson, with art direction by Raul Martinez at AR Media. The ads are still being finalized, but in the meantime, the $70 million company is actively searching for a shoe licensee, Perez said.

As for the Los Angeles-based Self Esteem, the first half of 2003 will bring the company’s first advertising campaign, which will hit May-June magazines just in time for b-t-s. While Richard Clareman, president of the five-year-old company, wouldn’t comment on details of the campaign, he said it will play off the self-esteem image that the brand portrays.

The $120 million company began by launching junior tops, but has grown to include a lucrative girls’ wear business and it recently signed licenses for accessories and denim. Next, Clareman said he is close to signing a license for shoes and sweaters.

While Clareman stressed that he is entering 2003 with caution, he does predict a 10 to 20 percent gain next year.

“Last quarter was very educational but we remain with very little inventory, which prevents a lot of problems,” he said.

As for trends in the first half of the year, Clareman stressed that surf-inspired prints, as well as Asian, retro and military-inspired items, are booking well.

“We are doing very well with our clean fashion basics,” he added.

New York-based Dollhouse is developing its spring ad campaign. Over the past year, the company has stayed true to its celebrity concept by featuring up-and-coming singers in the clothes. Now, the company has hired The Gale Group to handle the next campaign and moving it in a cleaner, more sophisticated direction. According to a company spokeswoman, Dollhouse is in talks with a few recording artists, but isn’t sure if it will go in that direction.

“We are looking to have this campaign be a lot more edgy and sexy and less cutesy as some of the past campaigns, so we are looking for an artist who fully represents that,” she said. “Otherwise we will go back to using models, but will continue in 2003 to work with the music industry and cross promos with retailers and direct consumer marketing.”

TRENDCAST

NEW YORK — Teens are always looking for the next big thing in fashion. Here, some of the hottest trends hitting the market in the first half of 2003:

Asian-inspired prints.

Military looks, like cargo pants and Army jackets.

Surf-inspired prints and styles.

Retro looks.

TRU’s Top Five

Teenage Research Unlimited asked hundreds of teens across the country what brands they will be looking for in 2003. Here, the top five:

Hollister

Forever 21

Urban Outfitters

Diesel

Paper, Denim & Cloth

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