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LOS ANGELES — Lucky Brand Jeans is ready for its first major marketing push since parent company Liz Claiborne Inc. designated Lucky last year as one of its “power brands.”

This story first appeared in the July 17, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The ambitious campaign, christened the “Lucky Few,” features a group of eight people that the Vernon, Calif.-based denim company feels best represent the idea of real people fulfilling their dreams.

During the advertising shoot last week in a cafe in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz neighborhood, the disparate individuals who have been hired could have passed for any other eclectic group of friends casually sharing their dreams: The race-car driver explained the benefits of clean energy, the budding beauty mogul dotted her lips with her company’s new organic balm and the rock photographer cradled her camera.

Kristin Patrick, Lucky’s vice president of marketing, said the company collaborated with New York-based arts organization Gen Art to cast the four women and four men who personify luck and serendipity in the ads. Lucky did not reveal how much the eight are being paid.

Hannah Wood, the pixielike sister of actor Elijah Wood, owns an organic lip balm company called Blabbermouth, and hosts a biweekly art party in Hollywood.

“I always loved [Lucky’s] originality,” she said.

There’s also Leilani Münter, an eco-minded race-car driver who buys one acre of rain forest for every competition she enters. Asked why she decided to join forces with Lucky, Münter, clad in an embellished tank top and denim shorts from Lucky, said, “I only work with companies that are doing positive things.”

The rest of the cast includes musician Cory Chisel, filmmaker Dustin Lynn, painter Kris Lewis, screenwriter Jason Keller, actress Serena Reeder and photographer Hilary Hulteen.


“People, in these trying times, want quality,” Patrick said. “People want to connect to something real.”

The campaign’s message is “about possibility and talent, original thinkers and up-and-coming people,” said Lucky co-founder Gene Montesano, leaning against a tree as photographer Michael Bernard snapped several of the campaign’s photos.

Later, in an interview, Montesano noted that the ads are a vehicle for Lucky to change with the times. Although Lucky may have been one of the most expensive domestic denim lines when the company began in 1989, it’s not anymore. Montesano hopes featuring young artists can help the jeansmaker connect with a new generation of customers who weren’t born when Lucky got its start and may be unfamiliar with the brand.

“You just keep doing things to continue to evolve,” Montesano said. “We have a story to tell. We’re not just taking pictures of pretty models.”

Lucky, along with Juicy Couture and Kate Spade, were tapped as the future growth engines for Liz Claiborne. The designation came after Claiborne decided to jettison smaller divisions such as outdoor label Prana and bridge brand Ellen Tracy. Now, the $4.58 billion conglomerate is counting on Lucky to help fuel expansion.

Lucky’s ads will be splashed on billboards, Web banners and in the October issues of magazines such as Details, Vogue and GQ, as well as those of independent magazines like V and Fader, in which Lucky is advertising for the first time.

Executives declined to disclose how much they are spending on what they bill as their first all-encompassing ad campaign. Claiborne, which spent about $214 million on advertising, marketing and promotion for all its brands in 2007, has said it planned to spend 3 to 5 percent of the power brands’ sales on marketing, up from about 1 percent, totaling more than $20 million for each.

Lucky’s sales last year totaled $421.6 million, up 10 percent from the previous year, as its retail operations grew despite slumping sales in cosmetics. Lucky operates 214 branded shops in the U.S. and Canada, including 35 outlet stores. It also teamed up with foreign partners to open units in Dubai, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand.

“There’s a moment you go from being a blue jeans company to a company that is part of people’s life,” said Liz Muñoz, president of Lucky. “The [Lucky] brand is about e-commerce, international [and] retail. The brand isn’t about one specific thing.”

The eight people featured in the ad campaign will wear jeans retailing from $98 to $160, paired with dresses, sweaters, jackets, jewelry, eyewear, bags and belts from Lucky’s fall and holiday collections.

Lucky has achieved more than Montesano and co-founder Barry Perlman ever dreamed. The rock ‘n’ roll-loving duo began collaborating in 1972, when they opened a denim shop called Four Way Street in South Miami, and aged jeans with bleach in a laundromat. Six years later, Montesano moved to Los Angeles, where he started Bongo Jeans with Michael Caruso. Montesano reunited with Perlman in 1989 to start Lucky as a wholesale business.

In 1999, Claiborne acquired an 85 percent stake in Lucky for about $85 million. It bought additional shares in Lucky from the owners in the ensuing years, with plans to continue making payments through 2011. According to financial documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Claiborne expects to pay about $220 million in total for Lucky.


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