LOOKS LIKE A WINNER
Byline: Georgia Lee / Brenda Lloyd
With eight divisions and approximately $100 million in annual sales, Kenar could have won the DIVA award in a number of categories, but retailers have chosen it for overall better apparel.
“We used to be a niche player with a focus on items, but now we do a little of everything,” said Kenneth Zimmerman, chief executive officer of the 21-year-old New York-based company. “We dress everyone from television anchors to young models to my 75-year-old mother.”
Wholesale prices range from $39 to $129. Though its range is broad, Kenar’s primary target customer is “a well-educated woman with money to spend, mostly in her 30s and 40s,” said a spokeswoman.
Kenar’s main sportswear division includes casual to career suitings in up to 20 fabric weights per season, including triacetates, linen, wool crepe and cotton cashmere.
Kenar Dress, after a 50 percent increase in bookings this year, includes 60 styles this season. Dresses are also more prevalent in the sportswear division.
Kenar Studio offers more forward styling, such as body-conscious stretch separates. And Kenar Etc. is a group of casual items, such as stretch, beaded or silk georgette tops, that coordinate with the other groups. Kenar Petites offers the same sportswear and dress styles in petite sizes.
For spring, Kenar offers satin slipdresses with matching metallic sweaters, as well as camisoles and slim skirts in Kenar Studio.
Kenar also owns the A.J. Bari, Gillian and Schrader dress lines.
Although the company built its business with department stores, specialty stores now represent more than half of total sales, said Zimmerman.
“I just wish there were more of them being born,” he said. “A store needs to romance the line.”
The company has seven retail units — four full price and three outlets. A team of eight designs the line, which is produced in 10 countries. Kenar just licensed men’s neckwear for this fall. Plans include launching a fragrance and other category extensions.
Company: Joseph Ribkoff
Although Joseph Ribkoff has won the DIVA for dresses, the 40-year-old firm has a diverse range of 200 garments per collection, including two-piece suits, jumpsuits and rompers, from daytime dressing to after five.
“Versatility is becoming more important to customers,” said a spokeswoman for the Montreal-based company. “They want pieces that go with other things. We design things that relate to, rather than match, other pieces in the line.”
She added that for specialty stores, which are the bulk of accounts, a unique look is essential.
“Everything we do has European flair, in such details as buttons, pleats and trim, and color is always used in innovative ways,” she said.
Wholesale prices average around $90.
Among its 822 employees, 20 are quality-control people who examine garments daily. Since its inception in 1957, the company has expanded to divisions including Joseph Ribkoff, JR Petite, Joseph Ribkoff Sport, Joseph Ribkoff II and Junior Gala. Last year, the company also launched a line of watches that retail between $250 and $400.
The company has sales offices in more than 40 countries throughout North America, Europe and the Mideast, and also services its customers with a web site and e-mail address. Since 1992, Ribkoff has published Influence Magazine, a fully illustrated fashion publication targeting the general public, which is also used as a selling tool for retailers.
The company is deeply involved in charity work, including the recent establishment of Joseph Ribkoff Fashion Design bursary, a $1,500 scholarship award to fashion design students. The line is represented by Mike Francois, Suite 9N103B.
Category: Traditional Sportswear
About three years ago, when the traditional market started to become saturated and stale, New York-based Bushwacker embarked on a course to revitalize its product.
“We wanted to attract a younger customer and give the existing customer a new reason to buy,” said Ken Gemes, vice president of merchandising and marketing. “Too many companies at all price points had entered the market, and we knew we had to differentiate ourselves.”
To appeal to a younger audience, the company added new fabrics, including Tencel, silk, rayon and microfibers to its denim-driven base.
Updated silhouettes, such as cigarette pants and other closer-to-the-body styles, have been added, as well as new print and color stories, such as a graphic black-and-white group.
To keep the existing customer interested, Bushwacker has focused on more comfort features, such as hidden elasticized waists and more fluid, drapy silhouettes.
The changes have paid off for Bushwacker, which is the recipient of the DIVA for traditional sportswear.
Bushwacker, with an annual volume of $30 million, nurtures its strong specialty-store following by offering a wide variety of styles that can be adopted by both traditional and more fashion-forward stores. The company offers promotional materials — postcards and photos — to help specialty stores establish the brand. And the company doesn’t sell to department stores, discounters or factory outlets.
For spring, three key groups illustrate the diversity of Bushwacker: The “English Patient” group of romantic linen and silk separates with floral and palm tree border prints; “Domino Effect,” a black-and-white paisley-print microfiber group inspired by casual and activewear, and “Bali,” an ethnic-inspired, linen and cotton group with textured, spaced floral prints.
Wholesale prices average around $32.50. Gemes said that the traditional category has undergone a shakeout in recent years that has left a few strong players, including Bushwacker, Susan Bristol and Sigrid Olsen.
“There will always be a traditional customer,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle customer, who relates to a certain style, fabric and color. She has to understand it and feel at home.”
Bushwacker is represented at the Atlanta Apparel Mart by Jim Higdon, Suite 12E112A.
Mossimo Giannulli, designer and chief executive of Mossimo, designed men’s sportswear before launching the Los Angeles-based women’s swimwear line eight years ago.
And although Mossimo has expanded into shoes, eyewear, accessories and an upcoming fragrance, his men’s wear background is still a primary influence.
“We’re not a frilly, soft-and-sweet company,” said the designer. “Our image is contemporary, young, aggressive and fun.”
Graphic, architectural styling characterizes swimwear from Mossimo Swim, designed for the 18-to-28-year-old, and Mossimo Giannulli, his signature collection, which targets women 22 to 45.
Overall sales reached $108.7 million last year.
Bestsellers include a “tuck-and-roll” triangle push-up bra, a lingerie strap tank and athletic-inspired tops and tanks. Wholesale prices are around $20 for separates.
For spring, the line has a strong activewear influence, with unconstructed bras and high tech fabrics. In addition to Tactel, the line uses novelty fabrics such as suede and crochet. Halter tops and boy-leg shorts have been the hottest silhouette this year, particularly in younger markets.
Giannulli draws inspiration from men’s wear and activewear, as well as elements of popular culture, like the barrage of new female singers on the scene.
“I like their gutsy approach, because gutsy is what we’ve always been about.” he said.
Category: Social Occasion
Company: Alyce Designs
Alyce Designs Inc. has done it again. The company and its French-born designer, Alyce Hamm, have won the Atlanta Apparel Mart’s DIVA for social occasion for the second consecutive year.
Hamm, who is originally from Alsace, France, attributes the family-owned company’s success to offering a continuous flow of new looks and new fabrics every year.
Hamm visits Paris once or twice a year to stay abreast of the latest in fabrics and fashions for her line of dresses for proms, special occasions, bridesmaids, mothers-of-the-bride and pageants.
She also credits the Morton Grove, Ill.-based company’s success to a strong sales force.
Alyce Designs is no stranger to the award podium. It has won the Debi Award from Modern Bride magazine for either prom or special occasion for 10 years and in one year won the award for both categories. It also received the Chicago Designer of the Year Award at the Apparel Industry Awards Gala in 1995. Alyce Designs has also dressed young women for the Miss Illinois, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Mrs. Illinois pageants. Most recently, the first runner-up in the Miss Teen Illinois contest was wearing an Alyce Designs dress.
The company introduced a line of white debutante dresses last spring. The line is doing well, Hamm said, and will expand next spring. Also, 1 1/2 years ago, the company launched Jean de Lys, a line of mother-of-the-bride dresses and suits, cocktail dresses and suits and evening gowns for large sizes.
After studying fashion design in Paris and Saverne, France, Hamm came to the U.S. in 1955 and became a designer for Blum & Liebach. She bought the firm in 1967 and renamed it Alyce Designs.
Company: Barse & Co.
Barse & Co., noted for its craftsmanship, gets its name from the artistic Barse family, the most famous of whom is George R. Barse Jr., a fin de siecle artist who has works in the Library of Congress. His grandniece is Nancy Moore, one of the owners of Barse & Co., which has just won the Atlanta Apparel Mart’s DIVA Award for accessories. The firm also won the Dallas Fashion Award as best in jewelry this year. One reason retailers chose the company, according to Michael Gobril, president, is the fashion design of the jewelry; another is the jewelry’s reasonable price.
Gobril and his wife, Melanie, who is vice president, started the family-owned business in 1987 in an 800-square-foot showroom at the Dallas World Trade Center. The other family-member partners are Melanie’s parents, Scott and Nancy Moore.
After operating from a leased 8,000-square-foot space about a mile from the World Trade Center, the company moved in mid-October into its own 15,000-square-foot building — also near the World Trade Center and the Dallas Mart. According to Gobril, sales have grown 30 to 35 percent a year for four years. Last year, its volume was $20 million, up 50 percent from 1995, and sales are projected at $25 million for 1997.
With a team of three designers, Barse & Co. designs 80 percent of its jewelry in-house. The semiprecious stones that the company uses are bought each year at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, where the Gobrils learn which stones are popular. They purchase the stones rough and send them to the Barse & Co. production facilities in Thailand and Bali where the stones are cut, shaped and set. Gobril said Barse & Co. buys the stones raw so it can cut the stones however it wants.
All of Barse & Co.’s jewelry is silver. The best-selling stones now, Gobril said, are lapis lazuli, denim lapis — a lighter stone than the lapis lazuli — gaspeite, a green stone, and fake tortoise shell. The company’s top performing category is earrings, which have an average retail price of $25. The next best is rings, which average $20 at retail. Bracelets retail for $40 to $50, and necklaces retail from $25 to $300.
“We have built our company slowly,” said Gobril, “and we stay abreast of what’s in style. These are some of the reasons why we’re doing so well. Also, our customers are starting to tell us that there is a name recognition there. It’s not strong yet, but we’re hoping to head in that direction in the next five years.”
Category: Intimate Apparel
Company: Eileen West
Eileen West, known for her painterly floral prints and feminine laces, has won the Atlanta Apparel Mart’s DIVA award for intimate apparel this year.
“I like to think we have a great relationship with the retailers,” the designer said. “I think they have an appreciation of the product, which is sweet and romantic. And, Southern women appreciate the lightweight cottons, which they can use 12 months a year.”
Southern women also like her floral designs, she added: “There are a lot of rose lovers there.”
Twenty years after starting her $35 million San Francisco-based company with her partner, Laney Thornton, West now has broadened her product range with several licensing ventures in home fashions and children’s sleepwear. And, Eileen West products are sold in virtually every better department and specialty store in America, including Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue. She is a winner of the Dallas Fashion Award.
West, who is president of Eileen West, and Thornton, chief executive officer, launched their first line, an all-cotton sportswear collection, in 1978. The next year, they introduced Queen Anne’s Lace, a designer sleepwear line of heirloom pieces in luxurious fabrics. The other two sleepwear collections are Eileen West, a bridge line of sophisticated pieces in fresh prints and crisp cottons, and Lanz of Salzburg, a bridge line that uses flannel fabrics.
According to Joan Maxwell, vice president of marketing for Eileen West and Lanz of Salzburg, wholesale prices range from $42 to $175 for Queen Anne’s Lace, from $18 to $48.50 for Eileen West, and from $16 to $35 for Lanz of Salzburg. Eileen West foundations wholesale between $11 and $22. The company usually develops more than 200 prints a year, and all of the products embody West’s signature hand-created prints.
San Francisco Mercantile Co., of which Thornton is chairman, produces the sleepwear and licenses the Eileen West name to other apparel and home fashions producers. Biflex International, based in Moonachie, N.J., produces Eileen West foundations and underwear, which are noted for their use of feminine trims and fabrics.
Eileen West has been expanding through licenses, including the most recent with the Renaissance division of Leschner Inc., which makes a complete bed collection. Also, Eileen West acquired Lanz of Salzburg last year. At the same time, the company stopped producing dresses to concentrate on the intimate apparel and home fashions, but Maxwell said that West envisions licensing dresses at a later date.