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Executives at junior brand Pink Cookie think they have the recipe for how to expand during an economic crisis.

This story first appeared in the April 23, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Pink Cookie, which started as a socks resource about five years ago, wants to increase annual wholesale volume from $15 million to between $35 million and $40 million by 2010 by adding apparel for the first time, starting with denim, T-shirts and intimates launching for back-to-school. Executives said the ingredients are simple: provide an atmosphere in which employees and buyers can come into the showroom and have fun and add product that comes from living this sort of fun, artistic, not-taking-life-so-seriously type of lifestyle.

The tone the New York-based firm is trying to set is clear upon stepping from an elevator at 10 East 34th Street, where the showroom is located. There’s a slew of vibrant, kitschy graphic prints plastered on the walls and others are decked with brightly colored socks — one pink pair with a pig graphic design reads “kosher” over the porcine image. Shelves overflow with handbags, hosiery, cold weather accessories, costume jewelry, slippers, flip-flops and gift sets. There’s also a bar stocked with Pink Cookie-logoed liquor bottles.

“Our product is all about having fun with art and color, so it makes sense for us to live in this sort of atmosphere,” said Howard Levy, chief of staff at Pink Cookie (everyone is allowed to choose whatever title they want to use). “We are unique in the sense that we have grown from the feet up.”

Starting with socks, the company quickly launched an array of accessories, all in-house. The brand is sold in midtier department and specialty stores including J.C. Penney, Sears, Carson’s and Bon-Ton. With the creation of a full line of denim, T-shirts, intimates and sleepwear for back-to-school, Levy said he is open to meeting with firms about licensing these segments. But he chose to launch in-house first to turn the product over quickly. Levy said he is looking to meet with licensing partners to launch categories such as swimwear and, in the U.S., bedding (which is already distributed internationally through licensing deals).

As for the denim jeans collection, there are three core styles — straight leg, skinny and flare. Each is available in a range of washes and treatments: destruction, fabric patches, embroidery and pink contrast stitching. The jeans wholesale from $12 to $20. A range of graphic T-shirts wholesale at about $5, and intimates and sleepwear wholesales between $2.10 and $6.50. All graphic artwork is designed by Pink Cookie’s in-house team of designers — one of whom, Keren Form (her business card gives her the title “Jedi Master”), said all the designers create graphics they would wear themselves.

“We are all part of the customer base, which makes working for this company easy for us,” said Form, who also dabbles in marketing and product development.

Along with junior apparel, the company plans to start Lil’ Cookie children’s wear, casual footwear, stationery and bath and body in the fall. In addition, this week the company launched to improve communication with customers, who are now able to give feedback and post pictures of themselves in Pink Cookie products.

The company also plans to roll out a “design your own sock” contest soon. The winner will have his or her socks produced within the Pink Cookie line.

“Socks have been a great springboard for us,” Levy said. “But we don’t want to be known for just socks, and now we are seriously building.”

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