By  on February 16, 2005

NEW YORK — On the surface, fashion shoots, with their cameras, sets and the preening of impracticably thin, superficially perfect models, are all about, well, surface.

Such was the case last month at the shoot for Gloria Vanderbilt’s fall consumer ad campaign, which features a trio of fashion’s “It’’ girls, who are so hot that they can get by with just their first names — Kate, Gisele and Daria.

Beneath the sleek exterior, though, the shoot was part of a larger drive by powerhouse vendors such as Jones Apparel Group to make “moderate” less synonymous with “boring” by improving styling and ramping up marketing.

“The main focus is to show our existing customer that we’re moving forward,” said Jack Gross, chief executive officer of Gloria Vanderbilt, a division of Jones.

The campaign is also an overture to customers in the 28- to 35-year-old range. That target is younger than the brand’s current customer, who has a median age of about 39.

In addition to attracting new customers, adding this marketing flash to the moderately priced Gloria Vanderbilt is a way of paying homage to the brand’s roots as a pioneer of designer denim in the Seventies. It takes a large, brand-oriented company to pay this kind of homage, though.

Jones declined to give specifics, but such a shoot with Kate Moss, Gisele Bündchen and Daria Werbowy — yes, they do have last names — can cost $300,000 once the models, photographers, stylists and location fees are paid.

The campaign, which will bow in September fashion magazines, is the brand’s first national ad push in recent years and is supported by an increased budget compared with a year earlier.

The expenditure, however, will help support the line in all its incarnations. Jones produces the brand’s jeans, tops, handbags and footwear, while outside licensees market swimwear, intimate apparel and watches.

“The moderate zone, you’re either big or you’re not in it,” Gross said. Gloria Vanderbilt’s annual wholesale volume is about $500 million.

The campaign will also soften the ground for the 2006 introduction of higher-priced Gloria Vanderbilt Couture jeans, retailing from $120 to $150-plus. “Sometimes where you start is where you finish,” Gross said.

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