LEVI’S ENTERS BETTER ARENA WITH NEW LINE
Byline: Miles Socha
NEW YORK — Jeanswear giant Levi Strauss & Co. is jumping into the better sportswear fray for fall 2000, launching a women’s line by contemporary designer Janet Howard.
The line will be sold under the Slates brand, which Levi’s, based in San Francisco, introduced in 1996 for men’s dress pants at the height of the “casual Friday” craze. The men’s Slates line has since expanded into an updated men’s collection concept, backed by one of fall’s most aggressive print campaigns.
Tracy King, women’s brand manager at Slates, described the women’s version of Slates as “modern, intelligent style” based on mix-and-match dressing with an emphasis on stretch fabrics and bottoms.
She described the target consumers as women 25 to 35 and the styling as a “bridge between traditional and contemporary.”
Although she declined to provide sales projections, King said the goal was to launch the brand in 300 doors, including better department stores and specialty stores. She noted that unit sales of women’s dress pants have grown 31 percent in the past four years. Retailers will book the line next March.
Levi’s is attempting to carve a niche in a category between casual and career that other apparel behemoths have also spied. Kellwood Co. is introducing a better sportswear line under the Perry Ellis and Perry Ellis Portfolio labels for fall 2000. Tommy Hilfiger is launching a better career line for spring 2000. And Liz Claiborne is introducing licensed Kenneth Cole lines next year and a better-priced career and casual collection with DKNY in the label for spring 2001.
King said pricing of the women’s Slates line has not been completed, but described it as lower than contemporary.
This is the first time Howard, best known for her sleek, feminine suits, has made a foray into the better zone. Most recently she was head designer at contemporary firm Bisou-Bisou. Before that, she had a signature label and Misc., a contemporary line. Slates, she stressed, “is not designed by committee — it’s designed by me.”
King said the marketing strategy for Slates has not been set, but the plan is to “leverage the fact that Janet is behind this label” and to echo the theme of the men’s campaign, which highlights real-life Generation X entrepreneurs photographed by Richard Avedon.