PARIS BLUES FLIES HIGH WITH FLARES

Byline: Kristi Ellis

LOS ANGELES — Paris Blues has a flair for flares.
The style has helped this denim-based resource grow into a $50 million multibrand business, with solid positioning among junior resources.
Owner Jose Quant started the company in 1981 with a $3,000 investment, drawing on a fashion background gained from his childhood in Nicaragua, where his parents owned an apparel import company.
With his wife, Carolyn, designing by his side, Quant’s first hit came with pedal pushers, which were styled in a small office building in downtown Los Angeles. Quant recalled that he shared the building with Larry Hansel, president of the fledgling Rampage Clothing Co., which was under another name then, Bongo; Z. Cavaricci, and Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit.
“The contractors parked in the back and hauled up merchandise, so we could see each other’s production, and we all wanted to use the same contractors,” Quant said.
From his success with pedal pushers, Quant expanded into denim bottoms, and then in 1987, he scored again with body-conscious denim dresses. In the late Eighties, the company also ventured into other areas with polyester and rayon challis looks, but it eventually moved out of that business. Although the company today is going into other areas as well, its base remains firmly fixed in denim bottoms.
“That is where the market is,” said Quant.
In addition to the Paris Blues junior denim offerings, the company includes three other divisions: Paris Blues Kids; Luna Blue, a non-denim young contemporary division of tops and bottoms, which was started eight months ago, and Quant Hombre, a men’s wear line launched in May.
The Paris Blues line wholesales from $13 to $40, and Luna Blue is in the same range.
For back-to-school, the Paris Blues line has been successful with 10- and 12-ounce ring-spun denim and 14-ounce regular denim in such treatments as stonewash, sandblast and stencil.
“Our basic right now is our five-pocket flare,” noted Carolyn Quant. However, she added that the silhouette is moderating to a boot cut with less flare.
Whether tempered or exaggerated, flares and bell-bottoms caught fire at the company six years ago, and they have been the company’s strength ever since, she said.
Confirming that, Maria Piazza, a junior denim buyer at Macy’s West, commented, “The whole trend in flare-leg jeans is happening,” Piazza said. “Kids want it, and Paris Blues has it.”
Although its competitors are often “neck and neck” with the resource, Paris Blues is the top selling vendor in the store’s junior denim division, according to Piazza.
Macy’s West carries Paris Blues denim bottoms in 80 doors, and Piazza said that she plans to go deeper in each door with the label.
The hottest selling Paris Blues jeans at Macy’s are in a basic, sandblasted, five-pocket flare. The key wash is a dark sandblast, and Piazza noted that anything with an abrasion to it is selling well. She said the Paris Blues polyester flare pant is also selling well.
According to Piazza, the three key silhouettes for back-to-school have been flares, boot-cuts and bell-bottoms.
“I’m intensifying in all doors by adding new fabrics and styles as the trend continues from holiday to spring,” Piazza said. “As we evolve from the wide leg to the slimmer cuts, we see them [Paris Blues] as a strong player,” she added.
For spring, the Paris Blues line is focusing on skate-influenced silhouettes that include baggy pants, wide legs and flares with triple piping on the side. Embroidered denim in skater-girl motifs is also popular, as well as nylon jeans and polyester twills.
Meanwhile, although the Paris Blues label incorporates some nondenim looks, Luna Blue has been launched to further penetrate the department store and chain market.
“If you are in one department in denim, you have a problem with buyers not being able to buy out of their departments, and it has been difficult for us in larger chains and department stores to get into the nondenim areas,” said Carolyn Quant.
Luna Blue apparently is making headway, being sold in Nordstrom and Federated Department Stores, as well as such catalogs as Delia’s and Zoe.
There are also plans to test the line at Wet Seal/Contempo Casuals, said Alex Bajrech, vice president and fashion director of the Irvine, Calif.-based chain with 370 units. The test is slated for the chain’s newly acquired Rampage stores.
Paris Blues is one of Wet Seal’s main vendors, Bajrech further noted. In addition to the Paris Blues label, the chain has gone into the Quant Hombre men’s wear line for its Limbo Lounge stores. The vendor also does private label for Wet Seal.
Bajrech said that the denim business has been strong with boot-cut, flare and super-bell-bottoms. “There has been a definite void in the junior denim market, and Paris Blues is one vendor that has been pretty steady,” he said.
Keeping his business steady is indeed one of Jose Quant’s goals.
“I don’t want to be doing $200,000 one year, then $20 million the next year,” Quant said.
“I like slow growth and feel comfortable with it. The most important thing is to feel like I can handle it.”
To achieve this pace, Paris Blues keeps most of its production domestic. There is some special ordering done in Mexico, and Quant plans to expand there. But he currently uses 40 contractors here, as well as employing some 130 people at the company’s 80,000-square-foot facility here.
The firm is giving the Paris Blues name more visibility with a $500,000 ad campaign this year in magazines and on 150 buses in New York. It also is using buses and bus shelters in Los Angeles.
The last big ad effort by the firm was in 1987, using a $300,000 budget to spotlight its denim dresses.

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