BLUE LICENSE: Blue Cult's parent company, Universal Blue, said nZania LLC will produce its junior brand Blue 2 under license in Asia and take over distribution and sales of premium denim brands, including Blue Cult and Sacred Blue. Caroline Athias, co-founder of Vernon, Calif.-based Universal Blue, said the partnership, effective July 1, will help the company focus on designing and manufacturing the premium jeans lines and be more competitive in a price-sensitive junior market. The deal is set up like an international distribution contract under which Universal Blue gives Irvine, Calif.-based nZania a discount on wholesale prices. NZania will receive exclusive rights to manage sales, warehousing, shipping and customer service for Blue Cult, Sacred, Blue Cult Elite and Sacred Blue, Athias said. NZania, which holds the licenses for brands including B.B. Dakota and Levi's Andy Warhol line, also will begin manufacturing and shipping Blue 2 out of Asian factories for October deliveries. Athias said moving Blue 2's production overseas from the U.S. will result in a price reduction of as much as 27 percent, to around $65 from the current retail price of $90.

BLACK-TIE BIRTHDAY: Christian Audigier, the French designer behind the tattoo-inspired brand Ed Hardy and an eponymous sportswear label, swapped his usual T-shirt and jeans for a white dinner jacket and black bow tie to celebrate his 48th birthday on May 27 with a poolside concert by the Gypsy Kings and toasts from a couple hundred friends, including rapper The Game and rockers Joel and Benji Madden from Good Charlotte. The party — six days after Audigier's actual birthday and held in the backyard of his Beverly Hills home — featured a 15-foot screen broadcasting a video of an Ed Hardy fashion show and a black-and-white plastic cow branded with Audigier's monogram in gold. The designer said his birthday wish was "to open a lot of stores." Plans include bowing Ed Hardy shops in New York, Miami and other cities this year. After tallying $15 million in wholesale sales in 2005, Ed Hardy has already generated $14 million in the first half of 2006, Audigier said. But the birthday boy wants more; he will head to Barcelona next month for the trade show Bread & Butter with hopes of securing European distribution for Ed Hardy.

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