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SYDNEY — Rachel and James Rose, the husband-and-wife team behind the two-year-old 18th Amendment premium label, are looking to capture a wider audience with a diffusion line dubbed The Beautiful and Damned.
This story first appeared in the July 31, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The line launched this week exclusively with Australian high street chain Sportsgirl, which is featuring six styles in a variety of washes at 40 of its 106 stores here. With prices ranging from 150 Australian dollars, or $142 at current exchange, for shorts to 170 Australian dollars, or $160, for jeans, The Beautiful and Damned retails for roughly half the price of 18th Amendment.
The Roses are counting on the lower price point to entice a larger and younger customer base. It’s also a recognition of the difficulties being encountered in the global retail arena, particularly in America. Rachel Rose acknowledged that 18th Amendment expanded too rapidly in the U.S. This was compounded by an economic downturn that ultimately forced the company to pull out of more than 100 boutiques and left it with a debt of 500,000 Australian dollars, or $471,636. The U.K. and Japan now represent the company’s largest markets.
“Retail is dire [in the U.S.],” said Rose. “We’re spread across 20 markets, but a lot of Australian labels who may only export to the U.S., I’d hate to think what situation they’re in. If we didn’t have things like Sportsgirl in the pipeline and if we had shareholders, we would probably have gone under with what’s happened in America.”
The 18th Amendment line hit the ground running after its February 2006 launch and is now generating between 5 million Australian dollars, or $4.7 million, and 7 million Australian dollars, or $6.6 million, in wholesale business. The line’s retro-glamorous styles, named after silver-screen legends such as Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth, Gina Lollobrigida, Ginger Rogers and Jean Harlow, were swiftly picked up by 300 retailers in 20 markets. The high-waisted Lollobrigida skinny leg and high-waisted Colbert flare became bestsellers. Some London boutiques had waiting lists at one point, with the brand proving popular with celebrities such as Kate Bosworth, Jessica Biel and Mischa Barton.
“We have a cult following with the ‘It’ girl, the real directional-type girl, but we’d never kind of penetrated below that, which I guess is a good thing for our brand,” said Rose, a former premium jeans distributor who created 18th Amendment in collaboration with her husband and Sydney fashion designer Rebecca Dawson.
“But there’s a lot of consumers, especially in these economic times, who don’t want to or can’t really afford to buy a jean for that much money,” she added. “So I saw an opportunity to run something at a lower price point that was still quite edgy and directional. We wanted to attract the younger customer, as well. We felt that we had some designs that weren’t necessarily right for 18th Amendment that would appeal to younger girls.”
The Beautiful and Damned is named after the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel of the same name. The book was published in 1922, two years after the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution established Prohibition, which provided the inspiration for the name of the Roses’ flagship brand.
Like 18th Amendment, The Beautiful and Damned boasts vintage washes and detailing, such as a scarab logo on the waistbands and the brand’s name embroidered on the pockets. Styles are also named after iconic women. There is the Yoko low-rise flare; the Colette high-waisted, lean-leg jeans; the Coco high-waisted short shorts; the Plath skinny-legged style; the Cleopatra A-line skirt, and the Scarlett low-rise skinny jeans.
Next week, Rose will take The Beautiful and Damned’s second season to London, where negotiations are under way for an exclusive deal with Topshop that could see the line in stores by Dec. 15.
The second season has been expanded to 13 styles and is anticipated to retail in the U.K. for between 85 pounds, or $168, and 120 pounds, or $237. The collection features new silhouettes such as the Bonnie low-rise cutoff short and the Matahari high-waisted flare, with some of the original styles given directional treatments such as acid washes.
The Beautiful and Damned is not the Roses’ only iron in the development fire, though.
The company recently moved all its manufacturing to Turkey and will unveil 18th Amendment knitwear, tailoring and men’s denim for spring at Tranoï in Paris in October. A children’s wear line is also in the pipeline.
Denim will, however, remain 18th Amendment’s core product, representing 60 percent of the spring range.
“We’re always going to be denim,” said Rose. “But Rebecca was originally a fashion designer. She’d never done denim before. We’ve tried to hold out as long as we can because we wanted to crack the denim. And this is the first season that we feel that we’ve got the denim to where we want it to be. So we feel ready to do fashion.”�