BCBG RAISES FASHION ANTE IN JEANS
Byline: Miles Socha
NEW YORK — Knowing the market for basic five-pocket jeans is flatter than a supermodel’s stomach, BCBG’s Max Azria decided to turn up the fashion volume on his new jeanswear line. Way up.
He’s got strapless dresses in iridescent denim; knee-length, raw-denim skirts cut on the bias, and 14-inch leather miniskirts. Fashion, Azria insists, is what’s been missing from the jeanswear market.
“It looks like people forgot that you can take two yards of denim and make something other than a pair of five-pocket jeans,” said Azria, not one to shy away from sweeping pronouncements. “We’re trying to be more innovative. Denim for us is not only a fabric, it’s a complete collection. It’s a lifestyle.”
The first shipments of BCBG Max Azria Jeans are scheduled to reach department and specialty stores Feb. 15. The summer collection breaks in November.
Azria, president and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles-based contemporary sportswear firm, said its first jeanswear delivery generated $7 million in sales. He projects 1998 wholesale volume will surpass $30 million for a broad-based sportswear line priced roughly 50 percent less than his contemporary collection, BCBG Max Azria.
Retail prices range from about $45 for knit tops to about $250 for leather jeans. Most bottoms, in denim and fashion fabrics, will retail from about $75 to $120.
But Azria prefers to talk about his jeanswear label more as a sportswear collection. After all, less than 20 percent of the styles are made with denim. And the offering has everything from terry sweat pants with satin trim to shimmering evening suits.
“It’s very feminine, very sophisticated,” Azria said.
Although many designers introduce jeanswear to reach a broader audience with more basic products, Azria said he’s not necessarily going after a new customer with BCBG Max Azria Jeans. Rather, he’s offering more casual and weekend options for his core customers, whom he described as women 13 to 55.
Azria said he has no intention of licensing his jeanswear business. Production will be half domestic, half in Asia.
And, for the moment, department stores intend to house the product on the contemporary floor, he said. All of BCBG’s freestanding stores — there will be 52 in America by yearend — will receive the jeans label, but only large-scale units will create separate areas.
Marketing and advertising plans have not been completed, but Azria probably will not feature any jeanswear items in his runway show Nov. 4 at the Chelsea Piers.
In launching jeanswear for BCBG, Azria returns to his roots.
In the early 1970s, he worked at French firm Daniel Laurent, which produced and exported a product then much in demand: five-pocket jeans.
Last year, BCBG posted volume of $74 million for its contemporary collection, and has ambitions of growing to $125 million by the end of this year. Overall volume, which includes Parallel; Francine B., its upper moderate line, and its two junior labels, To the Max and Rumours, should hit $174 million this year.