WET SEAL’S SCHOOL STYLE

Byline: Teena Hammond

FOOTHILL RANCH, Calif. — Wet Seal/Contempo Casuals showed its back-to-school style in a June 12 fashion show at its headquarters here.
The show was not only for the press, but for the junior company’s district directors, who were there to learn how to promote clothes for back-to-school.
About 100 people saw a collection of styles that included:
Pedal-pushers and capri pants.
Cardigan sweaters and zip-front hooded jackets.
Skirts — pencil styles with side slits, maxis, minis and pleated.
Cowboy hats and tall biker-style boots.
Athletic looks – university logoed T-shirts, tennis shoes, striping on jackets.
Fake fur and maribou trims on jackets, sweaters and dresses.
Motifs — butterflies, Union Jacks, Oriental symbols, flowers.
Plaid shirts.
Ski sweaters.
The clothing was chosen by vice president and fashion director Alex Bajrech.
Following the show, WWD talked to Bajrech about the firm’s development of Arden B, a new retail division aimed at the young contemporary shopper. Wet Seal is opening its first two Arden B units in October and expects to introduce another five by yearend.
The first stores will open at San Francisco Center in San Francisco and Sunset Place in Miami. The next five units are slated to open at Santa Monica Place and Glendale Galleria in the Los Angeles market, at Fashion Valley in San Diego and at Palm Beach Garden in Palm Beach, Fla., and at South Shore Plaza in Braintree, Mass., said Bajrech.
Two more units are tentatively scheduled to open in March 1999, at the Houston Galleria and at Ala Moana Mall in Hawaii, he said.
Most of the units will be converted from Britches stores, the chain Wet Seal acquired this month.
“If everything goes well with the acquisition we just did of Britches, we should have 50 Arden B stores by the end of next year,” Bajrech said. And Wet Seal is looking for other acquisitions to convert to Arden B.
“I’m not saying we’re going to open a zillion stores, but we will open 75 to 90 a year,” he said.
The Arden B line was introduced nine months ago in Wet Seal and Contempo Casuals and has been doing well for the firm, Bajrech said. It is a young contemporary line that aims for a slightly older, more career-oriented audience than Wet Seal’s. “It’s targeting a woman who’s anywhere from 16 on up. It compares to Bebe in styling,” Bajrech noted, citing the successful contemporary chain. Arden B items retail from the mid-$20s for a short-sleeved top to $120 for a two-piece contemporary skirt and jacket.
“We’ll see that $120 price a lot,” Bajrech said. “It seems to be a great price for a two-piece outfit.”
There will be a few items above the $120 price point, such as a $150 leather jacket, he said.
Eventually, the Arden B stores could carry additional lines, but initially will feature only the Arden B line.
“We could spin off a line, such as B, for the basics,” Bajrech said.
Meanwhile, the Arden B label will be removed from Wet Seal and Contempo Casuals to encourage customers to shop at Arden B.

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