Byline: Cynthia Redecker

NEW YORK — Donna Karan International is the latest sportswear giant to jump on the lucrative junior bandwagon with the launch of a DKNY Jeans line for junior areas of department stores. It will bow at retail in February.
In August, Ralph Lauren launched Ralph, its junior line, and Tommy by Tommy Hilfiger is slated to bow for next spring.
DKNY Jeans is manufactured under license by Liz Claiborne Inc. and targets the 12-to-18-year-old customer. Claiborne also produces the misses’ DKNY Jeans and DKNY Activewear lines. The junior line is distinguished from DKNY Jeans for women by a fuchsia double slash between “DKNY” and “Jeans.”
“This is our first venture into the junior market, and it’s decidedly different,” said Susan Davidson, president of DKNY Active and DKNY Jeans. “We are targeting a whole new age group, but also expect to attract the crossover customer.”
Analysts have welcomed the move and predict strong performance of the line, based on the strength of the DKNY labels and the manufacturing capacity of Liz Claiborne as well as favorable demographics.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they did over $100 million in a few years,” said Laurence Leeds, managing director at Buckingham Research Group. “The junior market is hot as a pistol.”
Carol Pope Murray, an analyst for Salomon Smith Barney, said the time was ripe for megabrands to capture a customer who traditionally shops in specialty stores.
“It’s a natural market extension of the brand to go into juniors because of the performance of the DKNY missy labels, and it will certainly do well,” said Pope Murray. “The floor is getting crowded with many different brands, but certain design labels will have a market share.”
On the fashion front, the line — which is 30 percent denim and 70 percent fashion items in stretch poplin and 1-by-1 rib cotton — will be novelty-driven.
“We are offering Donna’s great fashion for a young girl. She took the ideas she saw in the market and decided to really get creative,” said Anne Gorfunkle-Merriman, design director for DKNY Jeans and Activewear. Color is the prevailing theme, she said.
“We’ve decided to focus on what’s cool right now. The junior customer loves color, so we’re emphasizing that for the spring,” said Gorfunkle-Merriman. “We’ve taken a lot of the themes from Donna’s other lines, but we’ve added something different.”
The line, which will be available in sizes 0 to 13, will carry hangtags identifying the clothes as juniors.
The collection will consist of a variety of cuts with a 9-inch rise, and will be available in either tie-dyed treatments or overdyed in pigments like fuchsia, apricot, green and indigo. The clothes are embellished with embroidery, patchwork, tar and glitter, rivets, stencil prints, suede tassels and beads.
The bulk of the line consists of cut-and-sew tops in rib cotton with holograms, gauze or applique print logos and stretch poplin tops.
Basic tops will be available in approximately 15 colors. Fashion tops include “recycled” tie-dyed tanks, slashed tanks, stretch poplin tops that tie in the back and suede halter tops.
“We are emphasizing the tops because you get a faster turn in junior,” said Gorfunkle-Merriman.
The line will be manufactured domestically.
Gorfunkle-Merriman added that new styles would be added every two weeks.
“We’re going to incorporate whatever the newest trend in the market is into the line because this girl is all about fashion and fun. It’s a departure from the sophistication of DKNY Jeans [for women],” she said.
Wholesale prices for tops range between $9 for a shrunken camisole to $44 for a suede top; jeans range from $24 for basic styles to $42 for embellished novelty versions.
The line will be rolled out to department stores around the country and housed in in-store shops, measuring between 400 and 600 square feet, in junior departments.
The shops will feature steel and fuchsia plastic fixtures and beefed-up visuals.
“We are planning a rollout to 300 doors initially, which will increase to 500 in the fall,” said Denise Seegal, president of Liz Claiborne. She declined to give a volume projection for the first year.
The launch will be accompanied by an ad campaign in spring in major teen magazines, including Teen People, Jane, Cosmogirl! and Seventeen.
The face behind DKNY Jeans for juniors is still to be determined, according to Davidson.