LOS ANGELES — Premium denim label Ranahan is evolving from its Western roots into a more sophisticated look in a lower price range.

This story first appeared in the September 18, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Started three years ago by sisters Amy and Allison Gammon, the Los Angeles-based company relaunched for the fall selling season under new ownership. John Rhee, who worked for a private consulting firm specializing in the development and financing of real estate, bought a minority share in the company last year for an undisclosed sum. Trent Park, Rhee’s friend and an original investor in Ranahan, holds the majority stake.

“The line needed to evolve,” Rhee said. “We had a really strong niche market. People loved our jeans. They loved our Western feel. It didn’t have a wide enough appeal.”

Rhee said he wants Ranahan to exude “a sexy Hollywood-cowboy vibe, rather than an I’m-on-a-ranch cowboy vibe.”

Jazmin Kim, formerly of Hudson and GoldSign, has taken over the design reins and is looking to elevate Ranahan’s appeal with core female customers between the ages of 17 and 35.

Although Allison Gammon is now a stay-at-home mother, her sister continues to provide design and merchandising input for Ranahan, whose name, in cowboy lingo, connotes a ranch’s top cowhand.

Kim’s efforts to revamp Ranahan included switching to pima cotton weighing 9.5 to 10.5 oz. She also removed trousers from the array of offerings. Instead, she focused on about six styles, ranging from ankle-zip jeans and boyfriend fits to straight legs and skinny styles. She stitched another seam on the back yoke of the jeans, adding a new dimension to the look and fit. She also dyed denim in rich hues of purple and teal and designed vests in a rainbow of colors, as well as shirtdresses and rompers cut out of denim.

Wholesale prices run from $42 to $82, a step back from the line’s original wholesale prices of $48 to $95. The average wholesale price is $73, a 14 percent decrease from before.

Lowering prices while using costlier materials, such as pima cotton, and maintaining a manufacturing base in Los Angeles resulted in smaller profit margins for Ranahan. But Rhee said the move is justified in a slowing economy.

“Consumers nowadays are very careful with their spending dollars,” he said. “We want to give the consumers the most for the look.”

Rhee said his goal is to hit $1 million in wholesale sales in the first year through specialty retailers, including Singer22.com; Blue Heaven Boutique in Kenosha, Wis., and Wink in New York. He also wants to woo back Nordstrom: Blue Bee in Santa Barbara, Calif., and other retailers that carried Ranahan when the Gammons were in charge.

“Besides the fact that it’s fun and creative, there’s a lot of potential in fashion,” Rhee said of his first venture in apparel. “I came into Ranahan to oversee the management, if small things were being run accurately. I found out that I have a passion for it.”

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