GETTING THE MESSAGE

Byline: Joshua Greene

Although labels like Seven, Juicy Couture, Earl Jean and Frankie B. are glued to the behinds of the fashion elite, jeans priced from $30 to $60 from the likes of Gap, Wrangler and Levi’s are the mass market’s top performers. With seven of the 10 most popular jeans labels falling into the top 20 of the WWD100, the direct link between mass market appeal and brand awareness is clear.
Levi Strauss & Co. may be the seventh label consumers know best on the WWD100, but it reigns as the number-one jeans label on the top 10. Despite $3.48 billion in sales, the company has consistently reported lower figures in recent years, but has focused on churning out fashion items.
Humorous ads featuring youths in embarrassing situations seems to be Levi’s successful advertising recipe. Whether it’s a twentysomething singing karaoke or being flung from a mechanical bull, Levi’s “Make Them Your Own” ads have been well received by denim die-hards.
Though the other San Francisco-based jeans giant, Gap, reported a loss of $178.8 million for the quarter ended Nov. 3, the retailer held its number-four spot for the third year in a row in the top 10 denim category. The brand kept up its fashion image through TV and print ad campaigns, featuring well-known and lesser-known celebrities.
Coming in just behind Gap in the number-five spot, Guess, largely owned by the Marciano family, featured its third campaign with raven beauty Megan Ewing — a relatively unknown face in the modeling world. The ads appeared on billboards in major metropolitan cities and in magazines.
Gap Inc.’s Old Navy slipped one place to number six in the top 10, but jumped nine places to number 20 overall. The lively 751-unit chain seemed to be suffering from being too focused on youth-oriented fashion trends, but still managed to rake in an estimated $4.6 billion in sales.
Bugle Boy, which tied Old Navy for the number-six slot, was acquired by Schottenstein Stores Corp. after the company filed for Chapter 11 in February, beating out Perry Ellis International and Tropical Sportswear for the label. The company plans to launch boys’ and young men’s Bugle Boy clothes starting in spring 2002.
VF. Corp emerged a winner, with three of its brands — Wrangler, Lee and Gitano — landing the second, third and 10th slots, respectively. Gitano, VF’s newest addition, moved down one place to come in last as it solidified its place among consumers.
While sticking to five-pocket styles, Wrangler stands behind its “Real. American. Jeans.” slogan. By remaining a classic, the label has won over one of the nation’s most influential figures: President Bush, who has repeatedly worn the jeans in public.
The Lee Co.’s main advertising character, Buddy Lee, struck a pop culture chord among consumers. The brand’s recognition has led to licensing agreements for shoes and watches this year.
Retro jeans brands Jordache and Gloria Vanderbilt have crept back into the minds of consumers, re-enforcing denim as a cyclical fashion trend.
With Gloria Vanderbilt being the only new entry in the top 10 — filling the eighth slot — the $400 million company has expanded in recent years to include a junior line, Glo, and licensing agreements for career clothing and swimwear.
Landing in the 10th slot was J.C. Penney’s Arizona Jean Co., popular with jeans-wearing teens on the hunt for the latest denim fashion add-on to their wardrobe.

Denim Top 10
1. Levi Strauss
2. Wrangler
3. Lee
4. Gap
5. Guess
6. Bugle Boy
6. Old Navy
7. Jordache
8. Gloria Vanderbilt
9. Gitano
10. Arizona Jean Co.

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