DENIM WITHOUT JEANS

Byline: James Fallon

LONDON — “One thing we will never do is a basic five-pocket jean.”
That’s a bold statement for a new denim line, but Douglas Cordeaux, design director at Factory Workers, swears it’s true. The line, while using cotton denim and a cotton and rayon blend fabric, offers a variety of casual sportswear shapes — but no five-pocket jeans.
Factory Workers was launched last fall by The SFP Group PLC here, a casual knitwear company that designs and manufactures T-shirts, sweatshirts and polo shirts for clients like Pepe Jeans, Reebok U.K. and Russell U.K.
Last year, SFP had annual sales of about $2.5 million (1.57 million pounds).
But according to Cordeaux, who is also design director for SFP, the company wanted to expand beyond knitted tops and into the international branded business. Thus was born Factory Workers. In its first season last fall, the line did about $157,000 (100,000 pounds).
While five-pocket jeans are bread and butter for most denim lines, Cordeaux said he felt he’d be competing with SFP’s clients, so he decided to focus on premium fabrics and fashion items rather than the basics.
“We want to be a complete departure from basic jeanswear because this is a different price bracket,” Cordeaux said. “My background is in jeanswear. I was always seeing these fabulous denim fabrics from Japan, but I could never use them because they were out of my price bracket. So we decided to come up with a jeanswear collection for someone who would not normally wear denim.”
The key to the collection is the silky feel and quality of the cotton denim and the cotton and rayon blend. Both are treated with a patented stone-washing process called Softwash to make them even softer. While the fabrics come from Japan, Cordeaux said the garments are made in the U.K.
There are 18 styles in the spring/summer line, including loose and tight pants styles, bouclé knitwear, embroidered T-shirts, long halter dresses, V-neck shirts, spaghetti-strap minidresses and wrap skirts. Colors are blue, clay, umber, olive, black and white.
The fall collection, which will be almost 65 pieces, is being designed with the help of Anthony Symonds, a hot young British designer. Cordeaux had been doing all the design himself, but brought in Symonds to help broaden the line. It will include tailored jackets and shirts, outerwear, pants in waxed cotton and suede, loose Polartec shirts and accessories like backpacks and bags.
Wholesale prices of the collection range from $18.84 (12 pounds) for a T-shirt to $76.93 (49 pounds) for a shirt jacket.
Cordeaux said the company plans to open its own flagship store in London this year, and introduce a men’s wear collection. It also hopes to link up with a U.S. agent.
Currently the line is sold in specialty stores in the U.K.
Cordeaux said he’d like to see Factory Workers grow slowly and do about $395,000 (250,000 pounds) a year for the next year or so until production is well established.
“We have given ourselves at least five years to make this work,” he said. “We simply want to build a business that we can comfortably manage and that remains fun to do.”
— Fairchild News Service

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