SOUTH GATE, Calif. — Koos Manufacturing Inc., the denim company that produces jeans under the labels Big Star and AG Adriano Goldschmied, is bolstering its brand portfolio with two launches.

This story first appeared in the August 10, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

For fall, Koos is preparing to ship 1974, a moderate-price jeans label that will be a sister brand to Big Star. It also will introduce knit tops for Big Star and AG Adriano Goldschmied for next spring.

The launch of 1974 comes after Koos’ recent acquisition of the trademark for Big Star in the U.S., Japan, Central America and parts of Asia from Switzerland’s Outpost Trading. Koos, which did not disclose the purchase price the brand, held the license for Big Star in the U.S. for the last seven years. With $70 million in annual sales, the largest of Big Star’s 300 retail accounts is The Buckle Inc., the Kearney, Neb.-based teen chain that has 412 stores in 41 states.

With 1974, which like Big Star retails for $88 to $150, Koos hopes to appeal to 18- to 25-year-old customers who prefer clean, refined styles over Big Star’s distressed jeans embellished with thick rope stitching and flashy back pockets. Named for the year that Big Star was started, 1974 will offer men’s styles in slim and boot cut, in addition to women’s looks in skinny, boot, slim and straight legs. The washes are subtle, in hues of gray and dark indigo.

Retailers that have ordered 1974 include Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Atrium in New York and E Street Denim Co. in Highland Park, Ill.

“A lot of people asked for a cleaner jean,” said Evelyn Song, brand manager at Big Star.

Koos has hired sales teams in Los Angeles and New York in an effort to increase sales of Big Star to specialty stores, which now make up 20 percent of the brand’s volume. Yul Ku, Koos’ chief executive officer, said he aims to have specialty stores contribute to half of Big Star’s revenues in two years. His goal is to more than double the brand’s total annual sales in five years. However, his ambition stops at opening signature stores for Big Star and 1974.

“I want to stay in the wholesale business,” Ku said.

Separately, Koos is preparing to offer a full collection of tops for Big Star and AG Adriano Goldschmied next year.

Sandy Oh, a former designer for Los Angeles knits label Zooey, is creating Big Star’s collection of woven and knit tops retailing for $32 to $77. The men’s styles include vintage T-shirts, Henley tops, long-sleeve shirts with raglan sleeves and raw-edge baseball Ts. The women’s group features as many as 16 designs, ranging from striped tanks with slouchy pockets stitched above an asymmetric hem to blouses accentuated with snaps down the back.

For AG Adriano Goldschmied’s knits line, Sam Ku, AG’s design director, has teamed with the founders of T Los Angeles. Joseph Krafka is managing sales, merchandising and production for AG Knits, and his wife, Jacqueline, is designing the men’s and women’s tops. With as many as 15 styles, the men’s collection includes basics such as polos, pullovers, Henley tops and cardigans and exclusive fabrics like a new heathered fabric blended from recycled denim and cotton.

The women’s 40 styles are anything but basic with their boxy silhouettes, supple fabrics that drape well, and details like shirring and pintucks. For example, there’s a linen Henley shirt enhanced with pintucking in the front, a maxidress cut from a Supima-cotton-Modal slub jersey with pleats on the neckline and a nautical-striped, long-sleeve top with cutout shoulders.

Wholesale prices for AG Knits run from $24 for a top to $74 for a dress to between $110 and $180 for cashmere pieces. Everything is intended to be “denim friendly,” said Joseph Krafka.

“It’s a complement to the bottom,” Jacqueline Krafka said. “It’s not a competition to the bottom.”

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