The teen apparel market, with junior sportswear at its core, can be the most fickle of categories, but also among the most lucrative.
This story first appeared in the November 21, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
After all, teens spend a great deal of their free time at the mall looking for the next big thing in fashion. But in order for a brand to be successful, it has to tap into the teen lifestyle, which can vary greatly. If a girl lives in Southern California, shopping for a new pair of Roxy board shorts may be on her agenda. If she lives in Manhattan, a trip to the Macy’s junior department for a new pair of pants from Necessary Objects can be in order.
Whether it’s been the ability to stay on top of the trends or offering teens seasonal basics, teen brands must have the ability to keep up with this fast-paced consumer and present the right image.
Here’s how some of the top junior brands do it:
New York-based junior sportswear firm Dollhouse has only been in business since 1995, but it has built up a solid following. While the company has had a strong sportswear collection since its launch, its latest niche is denim, with novelty playing the key role. With more than $70 million in sales, the company also licenses many product lines, including accessories and sleepwear.
Over the past couple of years, Dollhouse has invested in advertising in magazines and on telephone kiosks in urban areas. It has also capitalized on the music and fashion connection, a relationship teens are paying more attention to as time goes by.
The first round of ads featured Def Jam recording artist Christina Milian sitting on a motorcycle wearing an outfit from the Dollhouse collection. While Milian’s album has yet to be released, she has made a name for herself as an MTV personality, making her visible to Dollhouse customers. The ads were printed in magazines and on telephone kiosks throughout Manhattan.
So, for fall, the company continued this trend by featuring three up-and-comers, each in their own ad. All three artists — Amerie, Jade Anderson and Rose Falconare — are on the Columbia Records label. With a budget of around $500,000, ads were placed in the September and October issues of Honey, Elle Girl, Paper, Jane, Lucky, Seventeen and YM magazines.
While the company has highlighted celebrities for a couple of seasons, Dollhouse has recently hired The Gale Group, a New York-based marketing firm, to develop the next round of ads to hit in the spring. According to a spokeswoman at Gale, they are considering moving away from the celebrity concept and going a bit more sophisticated than in the past.
While its most recent quest is to reenter the U.S. as a lifestyle brand for women, men, teens and children, Esprit is best known to American shoppers as a junior sportswear label.
Beginning almost 35 years ago in California, Esprit has been through many changes over the years. First developing into a California lifestyle junior brand, the Esprit name faded in the U.S. and made a name for itself in Europe and Asia. Today, plans to reenter the U.S. are being made by creating shop-in-shops in department stores and eventually opening Esprit megastores, which will carry the entire collection that is carried outside of the U.S.
Much work has been done since Heinz Krogner, chief executive officer and chairman for Europe and ceo of Esprit International in New York, announced the reentrance of Esprit into the U.S. in February. The company set up its U.S. headquarters at 1370 Broadway in Manhattan and hired a staff to head up operations.
Macy’s West is testing the brand at shop-in-shops in 17 of its stores, and Esprit has signed several licenses throughout the year: shoes and accessories with Jones Apparel Group’s Nine West division; outerwear through The Levy Group; children’s wear by Adjmi; swimwear with Beach Patrol, and loungewear by Carol Hochman.
Krogner said he expects between $50 million and $70 million in wholesale volume in 2003 in the U.S, and does not have plans to begin advertising until the brand is back in the U.S.
While Guess began as a denim brand, the Los Angeles-based company has built its business as a full sportswear collection since its launch in 1981. Guess was founded by the brothers Maurice, Paul and Armand Marciano, who have stuck with their fashion jeans concept throughout the years and cycles. As the story goes, the three-zip Marilyn jeans — sexy jeans for those who wanted to make a statement and express their individual style and attitude — was met with much resistance. But Bloomingdale’s agreed to sell two dozen pairs, and within hours, the entire stock sold out.
Guess had made its mark. Today, it has grown into a $600 million brand that encompasses women’s, men’s, juniors and children’s clothes. It also has several licensed products, including shoes, handbags and jewelry. Most recently, it introduced a new line of lingerie at select retail locations and at its Web site, guess.com. The collection includes bras, thongs, boy shorts, bustiers and nighties.
In addition, Guess is focusing on international growth, recently opening flagships in Beijing, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and Panama, and plans are in the works to open in Paris by the end of this month, which would bring the number of stores to 138.
The company strongly believes in advertising, as it has done so in teen and fashion magazines. After running his own junior sportswear label, Yes, from 1982 to 1995, Moshe Tsabag was ready to enter his next round in the teen market. In 1996, a year after selling the $50 million Yes Clothing Co., he began Hot Kiss Inc. Hot Kiss has reached the same sales level, not including licensing revenue.
“In about three years, we will be a $150 million company with all of our licenses,” he said.
Today, the Los Angeles-based firm has a variety of licensed lines, including watches, belts, socks, swimwear, handbags and eyewear, with intimate apparel soon to follow. Tsabag also said he is now in talks to ink a deal for foreign distribution.
“We want to really develop a lifestyle of Hot Kiss so that the customer can wear it during the day, when she goes out at night and when she goes to the beach,” he said.
Each season, the company shoots an ad campaign based on a specific lifestyle that the customer lives by. For example, for fall, the theme is ballet, and print ads have been featured in the major teen books, as well as in Cosmopolitan.
“I am a true believer in print advertising,” he said. “Three to four million people can see the ad in just one magazine. That is the best way to get our point across.”
With the concept of “creating beauty” high on her to-do list in 1981, Ady Gluck-Frankel began Necessary Objects, a fashion-forward junior line that has stood the test of time. While Gluck-Frankel still designs the collection in the same SoHo loft where she has been for years, it wasn’t until recently that she began to think about creating more than just clothes.
While she still has not signed any licenses, she said she has some ideas brewing, such as cosmetics, accessories, social occasion, home products and furniture. In other words, she wants to add items that are “necessary in a girl’s life.”
In explaining the reason behind the name on the label, Gluck-Frankel said: “When you start out and don’t have much money to spend, you spend it on things that you love. You purchase the ‘must-haves’ of the season. No one needs another article of clothing, so you make a purchase of passion when buying clothes. It’s all in the way it makes us feel. It’s a necessity for the soul, so it’s a necessary object.”
While she has attempted advertising in the past, it wasn’t until spring that she decided to launch her first full ad campaign in magazines such as YM and Jane. Going forward, the campaign will also be placed in In Style and Lucky magazines, as well as in some trade publications, she said. Also, as an introduction to outdoor advertising, the company displays the ad on the top of 400 taxis in New York City.
Designed by artist Marilena Perilli, who works with the team at the D&E Marketing Group, the ads tell the story of two teens, Natalie and Olivia (“N” for Necessary and “O” for Objects). The teens in the ads reflect the lifestyles of the Necessary Objects customer. With the ad campaign, Gluck-Frankel hopes to build the lifestyle of the brand, which will eventually include the licensed products. Necessary Objects has grown to become a more than $50 million company.
Over the past 19 years in business, Rampage has been known as a savvy brand that will grow to a projected volume of $175 million this year. Based in Los Angeles, Rampage has signed several licenses over the years, including eyewear, activewear, footwear, girls’ apparel, handbags, belts, outerwear, sleepwear, jewelry and hats. Today, it is working on building its global appearance and its newly redesigned Web site, rampage.com.
While it has used print advertising aggressively in the past, the company has decided to slow it down a bit for the year, according to Michelle Ovalle, director of marketing at Rampage.
“We are preparing to shoot a spring campaign for some trade and to use in-store and maybe some outdoor,” she said. “We went big with the campaign last time, so it’s just not in the budget for a large campaign for the rest of the year.”
Founded by Larry Hansel, who still heads the company, the firm has showrooms in Los Angeles and New York. Rampage’s design, manufacturing, marketing and corporate headquarters are based in the Los Angeles office, while licensing and public relations are in New York.
Quiksilver was founded more than 25 years ago by Robert McKnight and Jeff Hackman. The friends were avid surfers, but couldn’t find the appropriate clothes to surf in. So, after stitching together a pair of board shorts, the company just took off.
Today, the company has grown to $650 million in annual sales with more than 40 percent of that lending to Roxy, the 11-year-old junior label, which McKnight said has the potential to rise above Quiksilver. The brand stays ahead of the game by having a hand in the California surfing lifestyle and providing the newest surf gear available. The brand has extended beyond the beach to become a popular brand with teens on the street, as well.
In 1996, Roxy made its runway debut at the Girl’s Rule Show in New York, as footwear and watches, two new categories, were added to the line. That same year, a national advertising campaign was launched and it expanded The Roxy Boardriders Team, which supports athletes in surfing, skating and snowboarding.
In 1997, Roxy opened it’s first freestanding store in Hawaii. Quiksilver will open more freestanding Boardriders Club stores, including the third unit in New York’s Times Square set to bow in April.
Roxy continues to grow by practicing its proactive, progressive style of dressing active teen girls for all facets of life. Roxy sponsors surf camps on the East and West Coasts, a stop on the Association of Surfing Professionals World Champion Tour in Hawaii, and two amateur surf contests in Southern California: the Wahine Classic and the Capitola Classic.
Founded in 1981, Unionbay began by focusing heavily on the production of basic items, such as jeans and T-shirts. As time passed, so did teen tastes. So, in recent years, the Seattle-based company has refocused and become more fashion conscious by adding trendier pieces to work with the jeans.
Owned by Seattle Pacific Industries, the more-than $250 million company now produces junior’s, girls’ and boys’ sportswear, as well as several licensed items, such as socks, sleepwear, shoes, eyewear, belts and innerwear.
In terms of promotions and advertising, Unionbay is a partial sponsor of the Gravity Games and the U.S. Snowboard Championship. The brand also participates in in-store promotions at the regional level to create interest in the department and bring consumers in through gift-with-purchase promotions or fashion shows.
For its most recent print ad campaign, the company focused on lifestyle images. According to Barry Bates, president of the Unionbay junior division, the company reaches its consumer by targeting key junior books such as YM, Cosmo Girl, Seventeen, Twist, Elle Girl and Teen People.