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Denim Veterans Team Up for Civil Smith

Jeans line Civil Smith uses only selvage fabric.

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LOS ANGELES — In a time of heightened fiscal austerity, Civil Smith hopes to woo customers with hip basics that are as easy on the body as they are on the wallet in its fall debut.

Using only selvage denim, Civil Smith capped the wholesale prices for jeans at $82 for men’s and $65 for women’s. The men’s jeans are cut in a relaxed fit with enough distressing to yield a soft hand and a smattering of holes for character. Women’s jeans come in a weathered boyfriend version sitting low on the hips, as well as another loose style that cinches with a buckle in the back. For women who prefer a sculpted leg, there are also ponte di roma leggings that resemble five-pocket jeans on top with a ribbed hem at the bottom.

Plaid shirtdresses, tea-stained canvas chinos, Western flannel shirts mended with red stitching, cotton-linen jersey tank tops, French terry hoodies and moleskin jackets round out the 80 styles combined for men and women. Wholesale prices for nondenim pieces range from $21 for T-shirts to $82 for canvas pants.

“Right now, the market is not about being flashy,” said Lia Fisher, who oversees Civil Smith’s branding and development. “Every single buyer I talked to was concerned about price point.”

Civil Smith is taking a careful approach to the denim market — based on the experience of its four principals. Fisher previously handled sales, marketing and accounts development at Hudson Jeans and Diesel. Jason Ferro, a Guess Inc. and Levi’s veteran who heads his own premium denim label called Bread Denim, designs the men’s and women’s clothing. Scott Luirette is a trained lawyer who previously worked at Blue Holdings and now serves as Civil Smith’s chief executive officer. Daniel Barton, a former marketing executive at Diesel and Rock & Republic, spearheads the start-up’s advertising push through his Los Angeles-based marketing firm called No Such Agency.

Fisher developed the original concept for the line in September. Barton then drew the marketing plans for a fictitious female character who serves as the label’s namesake. Eventually, Ferro jumped on board to design and Luirette made the investment enabling the company to launch.

Aware of the challenging retail environment, Civil Smith plans to sponsor as many promotions as it can with retailers. In addition to providing a gift-with-purchase, it plans to hold seminars for training sales clerks and to list retailers’ names and addresses in ads.

“It’s to show them we want partners,” Barton said. “We’re not in to make a quick buck and get out.”

Retailers that have ordered the line include Japan’s Beams, online retailer eModa.com and Sy Devore in Studio City, Calif. Civil Smith aims to branch into the children’s market within two years.

Executives would not divulge a first-year sales projection, but industry sources estimated the line could generate between $500,000 and $1 million in wholesale volume in its first year.

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