By  on April 6, 1994

NEW YORK -- It isn't easy to sell a new jeans line to teenagers. There better be a good reason to buy it, especially if it's going into mass market stores, whose stodgy image has traditionally been difficult for junior apparel.

X-Am (pronounced "exam"), a jeans line developed by Sun Apparel for the mass market, found a good reason in the form of Daisy Fuentes, the MTV veejay and Revlon model. She's now a major part of the advertising and in-store marketing program that X-Am launched earlier this year.

Eric Rothfeld, president and owner of Sun Apparel, said he sees the junior and girls' divisions of X-Am doing about $20 million the first year.

"We signed Daisy last year, because she's a voice and a face that millions of young people across the country know," said Michelyn Camen, director of marketing for the new brand. "X-Am is specifically targeted to this youth generation. We wanted to pick someone who is a real person and who conveys that this is a new brand. Young people today don't want to wear the same brand their parents wear."

"The line seemed really cool," said Fuentes, who spends upwards of 20 hours a week on TV, between her regular MTV job and other programming, such as her CNBC talk show. "It was a new way of looking at a product. My favorite pair remind me of some jeans I had in high school. They're very simple, but arty."

Fuentes is appearing in ads in trade and consumer publications such as Details, Rolling Stone and Spin. X-Am, which makes a young men's and boys' line, as well, is also using Steve Berra, a national skateboarding champion, in some publications. The Berra ad appears in Marvel Comics -- the publications' first apparel ad.

The ads, printed on neon-color backgrounds, feature Fuentes and small pictures of her favorite food (pizza), footwear, places and other personal information.

"We looked at jeans advertising, which seems to be all about sex and the guy and the girl," said Camen. "We tried to take a different approach. One of the things that is really popular in magazines is celebrity profiles, and we wanted to profile Daisy in a way. We asked her to pick the icons that meant something to her. A lot of jeanswear advertisers use celebrities in lieu of product. We asked Daisy to put together the X-Am product she felt most comfortable with."Fuentes will also make in-store appearances for X-Am and will head a panel that will choose an ad designed by a teenager to appear in fall consumer magazines. There are other point-of-sale promotions in development.

"Historically, mass market retailers say, 'We don't have the younger customer,' but we've found that the younger customer is in the store, buying music or cosmetics," said Camen. "In order to bring that customer back over to apparel, we're doing a lot of in-store display, posters and signage. To get kids over to the rounder, you have to track them every step of the way."

X-Am will also have neon-color size dividers on the rounders -- green for boys, yellow for young men, orange for juniors and pink for girls. Key retail accounts include Venture, Target Stores, Caldor and Bradlees. The line started shipping in December.

There will also be some TV commercials -- MTV next year, and possibly some national ads after that.

Even the line's terminology has been tailored. "Fit is such an unhip word," said Clare Tassone, director of merchandising for X-Am. "We call everything 'cuts.' That's sort of how we romance the five-pocket."

There are basic five-pockets on the line, but there is also a wide variety of shorts, vest-and-short sets, surface prints, treatments, stripes and colors. Wholesale prices for the line are $8 to $14.

Another trend that's resurfacing for fall is the tighter-fitting cotton and Lycra spandex blend jeans.

"Stretch is going to be a major story," said Tassone. X-AM will offer it at $11 to $13, depending on the finishing.

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