DENIM DISH

Byline: Scott Malone / Julee Greenberg / With contributions from Alison Beckner, Paris / Kim Friday, Los Angeles

Keeping the Faith
Don’t plan the funeral for the low-rise jeans trend just yet.
While Bloomingdale’s Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction, recently said he believes fashion-conscious consumers may be bored with the low-rise jeans trend by fall — he’s planning to offer European jeans reminiscent of the Eighties, with rises as high as the navel — several denim executives said they believe the trend still has legs.
“A lot of the Italian and European jeans lines are high, high, drastically high, but in general, how often does a true European shocker take effect in the States?” asked Michael Press, president of New York-based The’ Jean Co. “How many people will jump on board? I think there is a comfort level to low-rise jeans.”
Brands such as D&G Jeans and Diesel showed high-waisted styles for their fall collections in Europe, though Diesel USA doesn’t believe the look will be key for American shoppers.
“Italy offered a high-rise pair, very Eighties. We didn’t include it in our wholesale assortment, but we will be showing it in our retail stores,” said Rosemarie Pullano, national sales manager for New York-based Diesel USA. “We’re still selling our low rises better than our medium.”
While denim vendors and designers said they didn’t think high-rise jeans were likely to become a major trend in the U.S. market anytime soon, they acknowledged that enthusiasm for the ultra-low styles of the past year is dwindling.
“I don’t see it going back to high rise,” said Allen Kemp, design director at Winnipeg-based Silver Jeans. “I do see that girls are deciding, within the realm of low-rise, how low they want to do. At one point in time, they were in the mode of they wanted the newest and the newest was the lowest. Now it’s more a matter of ‘Let me find the jeans that I like.’ Whatever rise that is, is the one they will want. But more conservative rises are starting to show up as solid sell-throughs.”
Jean Co.’s Press believes the long-term impact of the low-rise trend will leave average jeans rises about an inch lower than they had been — about two inches below the belly button, rather than at the daring depths that required women to carefully consider what sort of underwear could be worn with a given pair of jeans.
“I think, in women’s, the mentality will develop where seven and eight inches will be the norm, rather than eight and nine,” which were common rises before the start of the trend about 1 1/2 years ago, he said. “Women have found where they may not have been comfortable with five-inch rises because they were too low, getting that waist to fall just below their belly is a comfort level. It’s going to be hard to get that girl to go all the way back up.”

Borrowed From the Blues
All too often, brides find that after a vigorous day of climbing in and out of limos, dancing, and dodging their new husbands’ efforts to shove cake into their faces, the delicate fabrics used for most bridal gowns show serious signs of wear.
So designer Michelle Roth is turning to a more heavy-duty fabric.
At her show Friday, April 12, Roth plans to unveil a collection of bridal dresses in white stretch cotton denim. This collection, called “denim dreams,” consists of ball gowns, mermaid sheaths, two-piece boned corsets and fitted skirts with embellished trains.

Votre Nom’s Jeans Push
Votre Nom Collection plans to unveil a new jeans line, called Jeans Votre Nom Collection, when Los Angeles’ next market week kicks off on Friday.
The collection is designed by Charly Marciano, who works out of Paris as the creative director of the firm — which was founded in France 15 years ago and is now based in Los Angeles. The intent is to marry contemporary design elements with a slightly more conservative cut. Distinctive fabrics — including cross-hatch, ring-spun and waxed denims, stretch corduroy and leather — are the group’s core, with treatments such as whiskering and dirty, vintage and colored washes used to add additional interest.
The line features 70-plus styles and include jeans, skirts, blazers and jackets in denim as well as coordinating knits and cotton tops. Wholesale prices range from $45 to $70.
The company last sold a small denim group within its main collection under VN Jeans, which was launched in 2000 and now has been dropped. Chief operating officer Victoria Shilton said requests from customers and the strong performance of the denim category convinced the company to launch a full, cohesive denim collection.
“Our customers love the way we do jeans with a French edge,” chief executive David Guez said.
The main Votre Nom collection is currently sold in 400 U.S. doors including a flagship boutique in Beverly Hills, Calif. The company expects first-year sales of the new jeans collection to come to $5 million, and will turn over 20 percent of the boutique’s floor space to the new line.

The Prescription: Jeans
With its eye on the better denim market, Frx Clothing — which bills itself as “the fashion prescription” is launching a jeans collection for fall.
The collection focuses on jeans with a small selection of denim skirts. Washes include a vintage-inspired “smoke” treatment — made by applying a gray tint to black denim — as well as light and dark cross-hatched denim. Fits include straight leg, flared and trouser styles.
“We want to accommodate that contemporary jeans customer who doesn’t want to pay more than $100 for a pair of jeans,” said Michael Suozzi, vice president of the New York-based company. “We are trying to concentrate on great quality fabrics, a great fit and great price.”
Most of the items in the line wholesale from $44 to $49, though a few pieces go as high as $85. Suozzi said he plans to target better specialty stores. The line is manufactured domestically.
“With the domestic manufacturing, we can accommodate store reorders within a couple of weeks, something very important in the contemporary market,” Suozzi said.
Kimberly Bowser, a veteran of Polo Jeans Co. and Nautica Jeans Co., serves as design director.
“These jeans are different from others since we concentrated on the fit so much,” she said. “The waistband is contoured to fit the body and hug the small of the back. The leg seam is moved forward to offer more room in the back and allow for a more flattering hip area.”
Suozzi said he plans to keep the company focus on jeans, but would consider expanding into some knit tops, leather and corduroy to coordinate with the denim. He expects to see $5 million in sales before the end of the year.

La Redoute’s Online Blues
Following a 160 percent jump in Internet sales in 2001, La Redoute, part of the Pinault-Printemps-Redoute retail stable, has a case of the blues. The French catalog just launched “Espace Denim,” a jeans-focused Web site boasting the largest online selection of denim brands in France. The site, at laredoute.fr or jeans.laredoute.fr, offers styles from companies such as Levi’s, Tipster and Lee Cooper for women, men and children. Shoppers can then browse by price, fit and cut, wash or brand. The site offers additional features like descriptions of various styles and washes, a zoom function, multiple product views and La Redoute’s suggestions for complementary articles. There are approximately 30 women’s models available, with prices ranging from a promotional price of $17 for Activewear relaxed fit jeans to $66 for Levi’s Red Tab models.

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