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LOS ANGELES — Setting 2012 as the year to focus on its newly launched sportswear business, J Brand is aiming to elevate the brand’s profile with its most expensive ad campaign to date.

Budgeted at well more than $1 million, including media buys in magazines such as Vanity Fair, GQ, Love and French Vogue, as well as Web sites such as, the fall campaign marks the first time J Brand has hired an outside art director to finesse its image. Karl Templer, the creative director of Interview magazine, was selected for what Donald Oliver, design director for J Brand’s sportswear division, termed his “minimal, effortless” style. Templer doubled as the campaign’s stylist, picking Craig McDean to photograph the campaign in New York.

This story first appeared in the May 23, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Suvi Koponen, a fresh-faced blonde from Finland, and Shaun DeWet, a South African alumnus of ads for Calvin Klein’s Truth fragrance, Yves Saint Laurent and Gap, personified the confidence and subtle sexiness that J Brand wanted to associate with the company.

“This was the year of elevating the brand,” said Jeff Rudes, J Brand’s chief executive officer.

Projected to grow as much as 30 percent this year from last year, when sales were estimated to surpass $100 million, Rudes said J Brand is in the middle of transitioning from a Los Angeles-based jeans brand to a fashion company. As such, it purposely excluded its trademark skinny blue jeans from the fall images. Highlighting the best of fall sportswear, Koponen donned high-waisted leather pants, coated denim and garment-dyed silk chiffon pajama bottoms with a men’s wear-inspired cashmere coat, cotton moleskin biker coat and leather and tweed peacoat, Oliver said. DeWet, on the other hand, sported dark olive jeans with a banker’s coat, wool blazer and leather T-shirt pulled from other fashion brands, since J Brand doesn’t make men’s sportswear.

“That’s all part of this fashion-brand point of view,” Rudes said. “We don’t need to advertise jeans. Jean companies need to advertise jeans. Fashion companies need to advertise fashion.”

J Brand is making the fashion push as it builds its sportswear business. Barneys New York was added to the list of retailers carrying the sportswear, priced between $275 and $1,500, for fall. Stores that sold the inaugural collection for spring — among the likes of Intermix, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Liberty and Montaigne Market — are continuing their support, Rudes said.

To strengthen its position with retail partners, J Brand is interviewing architects to build new shops-in-shop slated to open in the second quarter of 2013. Merchandised mostly with denim as well as sportswear, the dedicated retail spaces will open at Selfridges and Liberty in London, Tsum in Moscow and Harvey Nichols in Istanbul. Rudes added that he is looking for a store in New York to house a shop-in-shop. In addition, J Brand is planning to revamp its New York showroom. Down the road, without a set date, the company hopes to open its first flagship .

“We’re setting the stage to be the platform of growing a fashion brand,” Rudes said.

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