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WWD Denim In Depth issue 11/06/2008

Coming off a difficult back-to-school season, junior denim firms are working extra hard to wow shoppers with a range of new trends for spring.

This story first appeared in the November 6, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

But it isn’t just about the new trends, which range from neon-colored jeans to destructed denim. Manufacturers are finding that, in order to survive in a bad economy, they have to be positioned correctly in the market.

“We have a lot of brands at this point, and with our private label business, we do quite well,” said Deke Jamieson, senior vice president of licensing at Dollhouse.

Besides Dollhouse, the company also produces Blank, a premium denim line sold at high-end specialty stores; Paris Hilton; Danity Kane; Jou Jou, and a new line called Hollywood & Vine, which is being launched as an item-driven line.

“Stores are telling us they want great items to fill their needs,” he said. “That’s what Hollywood & Vine will do. The idea is to provide those volume drivers for the retailer.”

Jamieson said the company is currently working on gaining a stronger presence online, having just opened e-commerce for Dollhouse, Danity Kane and Paris Hilton. He said it also is working on making Dollhouse the power brand — hoping to position all categories including apparel, footwear, outerwear, handbags and hosiery in a much stronger way in stores.

Tyte’s chief executive officer, Alden Halpern, agreed that proper positioning is key to survival. “You have to build consumer confidence by offering high value at a great price,” he said. “Business is good right now for those people who retailers can trust. You have to be able to deliver great product, consistently.”

For spring, Halpern said he will offer a lot of bright colors on skinny jeans, roll-cuffed jeans, tight capris, denim leggings and skirts. The trends head into a more casual, bohemian vibe, he said.

“I think spring will be huge for skirts,” he said. “They will take a lot of last year’s shorts business.” The Tyte business brings in about $120 million annually.

For the Iconix Brand Group-owned Bongo, Kimberly Lee Minor, vice president of brand management, said that after adding more value, she is feeling enthusiastic about her spring deliveries.

“She will shop, but only if she can see the value in the product, and we really do have a lot of newness for spring,” she said.

Among those new items are boyfriend-style wide-leg jeans, which Minor said have become popular since Katie Holmes was seen in the style. Bongo also will offer a wide range of shorts, ankle-length jeans, Bermuda shorts and short shorts. They also will introduce many more denim jackets to work well with the boho skirts.

The Bongo line wholesales from $10 to $14.50. Also owned by Iconix, Mudd will offer a great deal of bohemian-inspired looks for spring.

“There will be a lot of boho-chic going on this spring,” said Lanie Pilnock, senior vice president of brand management for Mudd. “This is a great look for us, since it’s close to our heritage at Mudd.”

Mudd will offer a range of “ripped and repaired” styles on skirts and shorts. There also will be a lot of bright highlighter colors like pink and yellow. Mark Levy, partner and president of Vanilla Star, hopes to keep shoppers interested this spring with his brightly colored denim jeans and dusty neutral color denim in styles such as short shorts, zip-ankle capris and Bermuda shorts.

“We are sticking to our fits, which the customer already loves, but making sure to give that added value with new colors and treatments,” Levy said. “Times are tough right now, but we are doing things to make sure we stay strong.”

Levy said he is cutting goods closer to season than ever before, which hasn’t been too hard since he manufactures in China, where they are able to work quickly.

In order to create more excitement, Levy said he chose to feature Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin in his ad campaign as well as launch a Nastia Gold Collection line of active-inspired apparel such as yoga pants and T-shirts.

“Nastia is a great face for us, she is such a good example to young girls,” he said.
The Vanilla Star line wholesales between $7.50 and $17.50 and the Nastia Gold line wholesales from $15 to $22.

James Ferrell, vice president of marketing at Apple Bottoms, the $300 million young contemporary line by Nelly, said that his business is strong in department stores — particularly Macy’s where the brand is in 900 doors.

“Our specialty store business has suffered a bit, but we are planning on a boost this holiday since we are doing more giveaways and things like that,” he said. “We are also seeing a great deal of growth in our plus sizes.”

Looking forward to spring, Ferrell said Apple Bottoms will have a lot of raw cut denim jeans in both light and dark washes, as well as a range of bright colored jeans, including orange, red and purple.

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