DENIM DISH

Hush-Hush Levi’s
Levi Strauss & Co. brought some samples of its new Engineered Jeans to MAGIC International in Las Vegas. But the company wasn’t exactly putting a spotlight on what it calls its most important innovation since the 501. Samples were kept behind closed doors at the booth. Reporters could not even take a peek.
Julia Hansen, Levi’s premium brand manager, said she made appointments with a small number of retailers to test the reaction before making a bigger pitch to the market later this month. She described the initial response as “phenomenal.” The Engineered Jeans, which include skewered side seams and lower slanted back pockets, are due in stores for February deliveries.
Meanwhile, Levi’s created three distinctive booths at MAGIC, which ends today, to separate its Dockers, Slates and Levi’s brands. In the past, the company had one monolithic beige booth.
“We are talking to different consumer segments and we wanted to reflect that,” a company spokesman said.
The trendy L2 and Silver Tab brands were housed in the urban area, while Levi’s premium brands neighbored status brands such as DKNY Jeans and Tommy Jeans.

Vera Jeans?
Vera Wang, whose drop-dead gowns have been seen by millions on stars like Sharon Stone and Oprah Winfrey at the Academy Awards, is reportedly mulling a jeanswear license as one way of reaching more consumers. Reportedly, Wang has already had talks with Aris Industries and its chairman and chief executive, Arnold Simon.
Reached at the WWDMAGIC trade show in Las Vegas, which ends today, Simon had no comment. In a recent interview, Simon indicated he planned to sign another jeanswear license with a “major American designer.” Simon’s stable of jeanswear brands includes XOXO, Baby Phat by Phat Farm, Stetson and, for men, Perry Ellis America.
Chet Hazzard, president of Vera Wang, also declined to comment on any possible deal. He confirmed, however, that the company is “looking at opportunities.” He noted that Wang has spent the last nine years establishing a brand at the luxury tier and that it was time to consider other ways to reach out to its customers.
Hazzard declined to disclose specifics about what options the company is considering, but gave one hint: “Our ready-to-wear collection is high end and eveningwear-driven. We may evolve ready-to-wear as a separate collection, [moving toward a] lifestyle approach.”

In the Swim
Tommy Hilfiger is taking his Tommy Jeans brand to some new places: the beach and the gym. An expanded Tommy Jeans collection for spring 2000 features dozens of styles of swimwear and a junior take on activewear.
“This is our first season of athletic,” said Ginny Hilfiger Mahl, senior vice president of design, showing off cropped pants in mesh with side stripes and jog-bra-style tops. “We just wanted to offer a young athletic look that was hip.”
Meanwhile, swimwear styles take the Tommy Jeans brand in a more feminine, sexy direction, with lots of lingerie-like details. Still, the company expects teenagers to take the swim and active looks to the street.
“It’s stuff that mixes so well with denim,” Hilfiger Mahl said.

Lucky Number
And then there were 10. Lucky Brand Dungarees just opened a 2,300-square-foot store in the Fashion Island shopping complex in Newport Beach, Calif. There are also Lucky stores in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Mission Viejo and San Diego, all in California, as well as Tempe, Ariz., Aventura and South Miami, Fla., and New York.
The Newport Beach location features a “Main Street USA” exterior and the signature ceiling-to-floor jeans wall.

Khaki in Color
Smith’s American has colorful views on khakis. “Our slogan is ‘Khakis don’t have to be khaki,”‘ said Larry Zarsky, president of Smith’s, which is featuring tinted khakis as part of its spring 2000 line.
“You ever washed some clothes and you put something in there you’re not supposed to? It has that look,” Zarsky explained. “We took regular khaki twill and tinted it — overdyed it pink, lilac, mint, gray or a butterscotch color and then enzyme-washed it. It has a real muted color and I’m getting a phenomenal response.”
True to its workwear roots, Smith’s offers its “Kolor Khakis” in a men’s-inspired chino and carpenter pants. But there are also cropped pants, shorts, long skirts and a cropped jacket. Top-booking colors are aqua, lilac, pink, slate blue, yellow and gray, Zarsky said.
In other news, Smith’s has a new partnership with Fessler Knitting of Orwigsburg, Pa., to produce garment-dyed knit tops with a variety of graphics. Fessler, a vertical knit manufacturer, makes knit tops for many specialty retailers and branded firms.

Iza Blues
Contemporary sportswear designer Stephanie Villarreal has devoted more than 30 percent of her debut spring 2000 collection to what she calls “techno indigo denim,” a lustrous cotton and rayon blend. She cuts the fabric, in plain and pinstriped versions, into suits, cropped pants, shorts, sundresses and skirts, some with hook-and-eye closures.
“The way this denim looks, it can be worn so easily from day to night, which is not what you usually find,” she said. “I think denim is such a necessity in someone’s wardrobe.”
Villarreal, 23, designs under the Iza label. Her sister Allison, 25, is in charge of merchandising and marketing at the New York-based company.