Lacoste and Earnest Sewn have teamed up to bring their respective expertise in polos and denim to one another’s stores.

This story first appeared in the October 21, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Beginning in March, a co-branded line of premium men’s and women’s jeans produced by Earnest Sewn will be available in the majority of Lacoste boutiques in the U.S. At the same time, a group of co-branded men’s polos from Lacoste will hit Earnest Sewn stores. Both categories will also be sold to the companies’ wholesale accounts.

“It’s a logical extension of our brands. We know that our customers wear jeans with their Lacoste polos and T-shirts,” said Steve Birkhold, chief executive officer of Devanlay USA Inc., the Lacoste apparel and accessories licensee.

The denim push comes as Lacoste aims to boost its bottoms business, which currently accounts for less than 10 percent of total U.S. sales.

“Having been in denim for many years myself, I understand the specificity of the category and we wanted to find a partner to help us gain credibility in the space,” said Birkhold, who was previously ceo of Diesel USA.

Earnest Sewn used existing fits in its denim assortments for the Lacoste jeans, tweaking washes and details. Lacoste branding on the jeans include a crocodile logo on the watch pocket and a green stitched bar tack on the rear belt loop. Hangtags read, “The Earnest Sewn Co. especially designed for Lacoste.”

“We used identical fits as our best-selling styles and used our L.A. facilities for the product. We brought a lot of expertise to Lacoste,” said Gary Cohen, president of Earnest Sewn. “In return, we get to work with a very substantial brand, expose our own brand to a new customer base and introduce their polos in our stores, where we are expanding our sportswear business.”

The Lacoste men’s jeans will retail from $185 to $195 and the women’s jeans from $165 to $195. Lacoste will continue to sell its existing denim assortments, which are priced from $90 to $135. “What this new product does is get us more into the premium range,” explained Birkhold.

The line will be sold in 50 to 55 of Lacoste’s full-price boutiques in the U.S., out of a total store base of 67 full-price units and 28 outlets. The product is initially focused on the U.S., but could expand to other markets at a later date.

The men’s line includes two fits in four washes, while the women’s assortment has three fits in seven washes, as well as shorts. The washes veer toward cleaner looks, matching Lacoste’s fresh, sporty aesthetic. The Lacoste men’s polo for Earnest Sewn will be available in seven colors and a premium washed fabric, with an as-yet-undetermined retail price. They will be sold in Earnest Sewn’s two Manhattan stores and one in Malibu, Calif.

The collaboration is open-ended, depending on sales results. The two companies have already begun work on fall 2011 product, said Cohen, including potentially expanding to twill and corduroy bottoms.

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