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Agave Denim and Tesla Motors Mix Fashion, Technology

A new partnership for Agava and Tesla Motors aims to showcase both brands.

Denim brand Agave and electric car maker Tesla Motors have formed a partnership marrying casual fashion and sophisticated engineering.

This story first appeared in the April 30, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Agave has outfitted all of the car company’s dealership employees in its jeans and knit shirts, and is showcasing all-electric Tesla vehicles during Agave promotional events at specialty retailers.

“They were looking for a brand that meshed with theirs, and I think we have similar demographic appeal,” said Jeff Shafer, chief executive officer and designer at Agave, which is based in Ridgefield, Wash.

The denim brand focuses on clean, classic styles in luxury fabrics that tend to appeal to an affluent customer. Agave is sold in about 550 doors, including Nordstrom and Forum Group stores such as Mitchells and Malouf’s.

The partnership was in action Wednesday night at a party in the Frank Gehry-designed InterActive Corp. building overlooking the Hudson River on Manhattan’s West Side, where Tesla featured its newest Model S vehicle, a family sedan. Tesla employees dressed in Agave jeans showcased the sleek, $49,900 vehicle that can travel for 300 miles on a 45-minute electric charge. The Model S will be delivered to customers in 2011, after the Tesla Roadster sports car. More than 300 of those already have been delivered.

“We thought there were a lot of synergies between us and Agave, in that they are a relaxed and casual American brand that is higher-end but not stuffy,” said Colette Niazmand, senior manager of marketing at Tesla. “We made a conscious decision to not have our retail people wear suits. We wanted to create a relaxed environment that isn’t typical of a car dealership. We are selling a high-tech product and the casual look is typical of Silicon Valley and Los Angeles.”

There are Tesla dealerships in Menlo Park, Calif. and Los Angeles. Additional locations will open in Chicago and London this summer and are planned for New York, Seattle and Miami for fall.

Last fall, Agave staged a trunk show at Malouf’s in Burlingame, Calif., where customers could test drive a Tesla vehicle. In June, similar events will be staged at Mitchells of Westport and Richards of Greenwich in Connecticut, and Marshs in Huntington, N.Y. In addition, Agave plans to bring a Tesla to its booth at The Collective trade show in July.

“A number of additional retailers have reached out to us about doing events with them,” Niazmand said.

Agave posted sales of $9 million in 2008 and is forecasting sales of $10 million this year. Tesla was founded by Elon Musk, an early investor in PayPal and the founder of Space Exploration Technologies.