CANADIAN LINES GO SOUTH
Byline: Georgia Lee
ATLANTA — The Canadians are coming…and they’re bringing their denim.
North-of-the-border manufacturers are infiltrating the U.S., targeting misses’ customers with fashion looks that transcend the basic five-pocket jeans.
The North American Free Trade Agreement has made it easier for Canadians to import fabric and export goods, and the strength of the American dollar has made prices more attractive. With a minimum wage at over $6 an hour, Canada has a strong domestic work force and a reputation for quality construction.
French Dressing, a denim line owned by Keystone Industries, an 89-year-old Montreal company, debuted in the U.S. in October. With 200 accounts here, most of them specialty stores, French Dressing will do around $1 million in 1997 U.S. wholesale volume, said Avner Cobrin, vice president of sales.
“Our mission is to bring innovation to the misses’ denim market, which is somewhat lacking in the U.S.,” said Cobrin. “U.S. department stores buy brand names and basics, but why would the consumer want the same thing she already has in her closet?”
French Dressing offers about 75 pieces each season, including denim bottoms with tuck pocket treatments, belts, angle yokes, logos and embroidery. The line also includes sportswear pieces such as vests, blazers and dresses.
Cobrin refers to the line as “dressy denim” and cites such companies as Liz Claiborne as competition. Wholesale prices range from $24 for bottoms to $25-$40 for vests and blazers.
Lea Butkerait, a buyer for Boston Proper, a Boca Raton, Fla., national contemporary catalog company, will feature French Dressing for spring and summer.
“We need fashion and specialty looks that aren’t in department stores,” she said. “We liked the cut and the flattering fit. It’s simple and salable, but not ordinary.”
Fashion for the misses’ customer is also the focus for Aero Garment Ltd., a 50-year-old company. Under the label Seasons, U.S. sales have grown to 35 percent of the $20 million Vancouver company since it entered the market in 1990.
“U.S. customers are innovative and open to new things,” said president Bob Kent. “We’re not a commodity, but a fashion-based line.”
In addition to fashion, Seasons offers new reasons to buy, such as jeans that have tummy control or extra-long lengths. Those are communicated through manuals and hangtags that come with the garments.
With two factories, the vertical manufacturer offers garment-dyed and prewashed denim bottoms in four fits and a variety of weights, as well as coordinating shirts and jackets and a separate line of casual cotton sportswear.
“We’re on the younger side of misses’, leaning more in a contemporary direction,” said Kent. Wholesale prices range from $24 to $35.
Seasons has been a best-selling line for Frank Neff, a multiline sales representative at the Atlanta Apparel Mart.
“Quality is a big concern for buyers now, who are taking fewer chances,” said Neff. “Canadian resources have a reputation for quality.”
Joe Boxer’s New Blues Gig
San Francisco underwear and loungewear company Joe Boxer signed a deal Wednesday with DJ Industries, a division of jeanswear giant VF Corp., for a line of denim and related sportswear for fall selling. It will be called Joe Boxer Jeans.
The news follows a meeting VF held Tuesday with analysts, where president and chief executive officer Mackey J. McDonald announced a restructuring strategy, solid earnings and a record operating cash flow of $711 million for 1996. McDonald also said the company is “actively seeking acquisitions.”
VF also manufactures the Lee, Riders, Rustler, Wrangler and Marithe & Francois Girbaud denim lines.
Joe Boxer’s first season will include only men’s products, but women’s jeans under the Joe Boxer Girlfriend label will be introduced for spring 1998. The jeans will retail for around $39, about 20 percent less than other designer brands such as CK Calvin Klein and Polo Jeans.
While most basic jeans have five pockets — two front, two back and a small key pocket on the right-hand side — the Joe Boxer line will have six. The company plans to play off this six-pocket theme, using such tag lines as “Denim for the Sixth Sense” or “ESP — Extra Sixth Pocket” in its in-store shops.
“Strategically, it’s a very different line, both in terms of its position and in how it will be marketed,” said ceo Nicholas Graham. “We’ll be using a lot of technology and music in the in-store shops, like listening posts where shoppers can hear pre-release music. We’re working on some deals with a couple of record companies for that.”
While Graham and VF declined to give initial revenue projections, the line will be shipped to 1,000 doors in the first year. They will include interactive audio-visual displays, funhouse mirrors and rock music.
Joe Boxer will launch the jeanswear — literally — with a party featuring a rocket launch in the Nevada desert at the WWDMagic trade show next week.
Chic Springs Into Print Ads
Chic, the women’s mass market jeans maker, is breaking a new print ad campaign for 1997 in March magazines.
In the past, said Elaine Scott, Chic’s director of advertising and marketing, the company had put most of its ad budget into TV, with a smattering going to print. This year, Chic has put the majority of its estimated $15 million to $20 million budget toward print to promote merchandise such as its new khakis line, she said.
The new campaign was developed in-house and features women wearing Chic garments, accompanied by copy such as “I may not be curvaceous, but it’s all me,” or “So I’m not perfect. Who is?” with the tag line “Chic. Look like yourself.”
Before developing the campaign, Scott said the company did market research tracking two groups: women who bought jeans and women who shop in mass market stores.
The new ads will appear in People, Vogue and Glamour, among other magazines, and will run through the end of year.
Guess, the Los Angeles denim and sportswear company, has made several executive moves.
Leslie Singer has been named to the new post of director of sales for the young contemporary division. She will oversee sales, retail analysis and strategic planning, as well as developing in-store shops and sales growth targets.
Singer, who was divisional merchandise manager for women’s suits and dresses at Macy’s East, reports to Ken Duane, president of worldwide sales and marketing.
Nancy Shachtman has been named vice president of merchandising for the women’s, men’s and Collection businesses. She reports to chairman and chief executive officer Maurice Marciano. She had been vice president of sales since 1993.
Matthew Youngs is now director of sales for the men’s division, overseeing worldwide sales and marketing. He reports to Duane. Youngs had been director of retail development. Molly Yearick, who was director of merchandising, succeeds Youngs.