Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio

LAS VEGAS — After reaching a respectable $32 million in wholesale volume in its first year in men’s, Sean Jean, the urban streetwear line created by rap artist Sean (Puffy) Combs, is looking to develop a women’s line under license, to make its debut for fall 2000.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from a number of small junior companies [as a licensee], but we want to go with a big name,” said Jeffrey Tweedy, executive vice president of Sean Jean, which was showing its men’s wear at MAGIC here.
And, according to sources, Sean Jean is exploring the idea with one of the biggest — Jones Apparel Group, the apparel giant whose pro forma volume this year combined with its latest acquisition, the huge footwear company Nine West, should hit $4 billion.
“We think women’s could be a big business for us,” said Tweedy, who noted the men’s business should reach about $48 million in its second year, and the company is in the midst of developing nine in-store shops with department stores.
Tweedy declined to comment on Jones Apparel as a potential licensing partner, but he noted that his firm is looking for a major entity with a strong infrastructure.
A spokeswoman for Jones also declined to comment.
Sources said the discussions with Jones are still in their early stages, but such a partnership would not be surprising. Although Jones Apparel originally built its fortunes on dressing career women in classic jackets, skirts and pants, it has over the past year made strong inroads into the world of Gen X and Gen Y. A year ago, it acquired Sun Apparel, the licensed maker of the burgeoning Polo Jeans collections, and early this year it acquired the Todd Oldham trademark, with the aim of building it into a junior megabrand. The acquisition of Nine West, completed in June, gave Jones another name with a youthful following, and at retail this fall Jones is introducing its Ralph by Ralph Lauren line, a young followup to its blockbuster licensed Lauren by Ralph Lauren line.
At the same time, other firms as well are moving swiftly into the young contemporary act. Liz Claiborne in recent months, for example, bought control of Lucky Brand and signed a licensing agreement to develop junior jeans and contemporary sportswear under the Kenneth Cole labels. Last month, Warnaco Group announced it was buying ABS Allen Schwartz, the fast-fashion resource.