Byline: Deirdre Mendoza

LOS ANGELES — Joe Dahan, who made his mark in the early Nineties with a high-volume run on baby T-shirts under the Joe’s label, is poised for a comeback with a collection of high-end denim bottoms simply labeled Joe’s and due to arrive in stores in March.

Dahan said he plans to use European goods and better fabrics to keep the line “modern and classic.” Bells and whistles have been replaced with comfort and understated styling for customers in their 20s or 30s with discretionary incomes.

Five fashion bottoms, retailing from $124 to $155, include a four-pocket style, as well as cropped jackets and a line of basic T-shirts from $62 to $84.

For next fall, Dahan plans to introduce corduroy and indigo denim. He is targeting better department and specialty stores, with the intent of not becoming a monster brand, but by 2002, Dahan plans to hit the $5 million mark.

“Our first year is about building the distribution to the top 100 doors,” said Heidi Davis, who, with partner Hillary Rosen, sells the collection on the East and West Coasts from the Hotline Showroom in New York.

Davis and Rosen sold Dahan’s T-shirts in the early Nineties and were part of the reason he developed a denim line. When they contacted Dahan, he had been keeping a low profile, doing private label and merchandising. The two reps encouraged Dahan to do something that would resonate in an upturned denim market.

“He really wanted to build a signature line and pretty much everything he touches turns to gold,” said Davis.

Dahan partnered with Azteca Productions, a powerhouse “jeaner” with 43 acres of production in Mexico. Azteca has a legacy that includes production for Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Quiksilver and Calvin Klein.

Within three months, Dahan had a sample line ready for the showroom.

“Many fashion people don’t want to touch denim because you have to have a special production line for each style,” said Rosen. “Joe knows how to fit the female form without making the jeans too masculine. It’s a clean jean made for a woman, with darts instead of a yoke in the back.”

Rosen describes the Joe’s look as “low on the waist, but not as low as a Frankie B. It’s made to be worn for work or out to dinner.”

Dahan, 33, is happy to call his new venture a comeback, after having been thrust into the limelight with early success at 18. At WWDMAGIC in 1989, he booked $1 million of men’s “hippie” T-shirts his first day out.

So Dahan is back in the game, but this time with a product that takes him far from the familiar fast-turn territory.

“I’m glad not to have to worry about the next big thing. As my taste grows, so does my customer’s taste,” he said from his office in City of Commerce, Calif.

An ad campaign is under development to establish the brand in the competitive denim market.

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