DENIM DISH

Byline: Scott Malone / Joshua Greene / With contributions from Kristin Young, Los Angeles / David Lipke, New York / Courtney Colavita, Milan

Maurice Malone Women’s Redux
Maurice Malone wants to be known as more than a designer of urban-inspired men’s wear.
He’s pulling the plug on his initial foray into the women’s market, the urban Mo Jeans line, and coming out with a spring line, called Maurice Malone Collection, targeted at the more traditional young contemporary customer.
“The urban business that I had a big following in has become less interesting to me lately,” Malone said in a phone interview last week. Describing himself as “half businessman and half artist,” he added: “The artist side of me wants to do something new.”
The line, which is due to start shipping Jan. 30 for spring retailing, includes about 13 styles of jeans wholesaling from $46 to $90. The trim, low-rise jeans include details such as zippered seams and patterns of studs.
The collection also includes knit and woven tops, some with a cummerbund-style bottom, as well as denim skirts.
Rather than the bold name logo that was the designer’s signature in the urban market, the new line, which is being sourced out of Asia, features a script capital M as its insignia. Irving Glazer, who is selling the line in New York, described it as “kind of subtle.”
Malone said the higher-end line isn’t a total break from his past.
“I’ve always been working toward that direction,” he said, adding that he introduced the Aesthetic by Maurice Malone line of men’s suits in the late Nineties.
“The next step was to start women’s,” he added. The lower price range of the Mo Jeans line, which was launched in spring 2000, proved to be too confining, he added.
“I wanted to be free to create something new, without trying to fit it into a moderate price range,” he said.
While the line may not have fulfilled Malone’s creative ambitions, it had some commercial success, he said, reaching the $3 million annual volume mark.
“We have to sacrifice some sales and I’m willing to give up that existing base to start something new that can eventually grow bigger,” he added.
This has been a year of change for the New York designer. Early in the spring, Malone severed his relationship with his former production partner Simon Sales Inc.
The $100-and-up women’s jeans market has attracted a lot of attention this year, as high-end denim proved popular with retailers and consumers. However, with the economy cooling and consumer spending somewhat shaken, some in the industry have started to question whether demand for premium jeans will remain as strong as it has been of late.
Glazer acknowledged that was a concern, but said it wouldn’t stop the launch.
“It’s a consideration,” he said. “We don’t know until we get out there and sell it.”

Girasole’s New Bag
Ruth Fellah was inspired to launch a line of denim handbags after she cut up a pair of her son’s old jeans to make a diaper bag.
“I wanted to make an interesting diaper bag for a friend who was having a baby and everyone liked the idea, so I continued,” said the Israeli native, who has lived in Los Angeles for the past 20 years.
That was three years ago. Since then she’s built a wholesale volume of about $400,000 a year, and for spring Fellah plans to broaden the line to include canvas totes with handpainted flowers.
Girasole, which means “sunflower” in Italian, is the nickname of a close friend. Currently, the main style comes in 15 versions, with details including handpainted accents, rhinestone beads, leather and fur trims. A denim patchwork bag with leather trim and beads, encrusted with turquoise stones, also will be available.
“It’s a lot of work because I go myself to find the jeans and then I clean them, but I love it,” Fellah said.
The bags are manufactured in Los Angeles and wholesale from $30 to $68.

Diesel Lands D Squared License
Diesel has added another brand to its stable.
The Italian company’s Staff International division last week landed the license for the D Squared men’s line and plans to launch a women’s line under that name in 2003.
Staff entered into a five-year worldwide production and distribution deal with the Milanese design duo of Dan and Dean Caten, the twin brothers who founded D Squared six years ago. The first Staff-produced collection will be fall 2002.
The D Squared line’s revenue this year hit $4 million wholesale and Diesel’s owner, Renzo Rosso, said he could see the brand hitting the $15 million mark within the next few years. He also said that he’d like to open a D Squared store in the near future — the company has been in an aggressive retail expansion mode for the past year and aims to grow its store base from about 60 units to about 160 units by 2005.
Rosso has said that he’s looking to add brands to Diesel’s Staff division, which the company acquired in October 2000. The drive to buy partly comes from a desire to avoid growing the core Diesel brand too quickly, which could damage its cachet.
Staff also produces New York Industrie, Martin Margiela and Vivienne Westwood.
This summer, the company secured a $77 million line of credit to help it buy brands and build stores over the coming years.
The D Squared brand has attracted attention in Italy and Asia in recent years, and the Caten brothers have landed celebrity clients, including musicians Lenny Kravitz and Madonna. However, the brand has a limited profile in the U.S., where it is distributed in a handful of specialty stores.
Rosso said he saw significant expansion opportunity.
“We can easily do 20 customers in the U.S.,” he said. “We have to figure out how to do it, but it’s in rapid development. I’m crazy for this brand.”
Reached at their home in Milan, the Caten brothers said they were happy with the agreement but declined to provide details of the deal. For the past six months, the pair has been looking for a backer to help grow the business, which was last produced by Rimini, Italy-based Gild.
Under terms of the new agreement, the Catens will continue to serve as creative directors and exclusive designers of D Squared.
“We want to be in great American shops that we know and that know our product,” said Dan Caten. “They have to be into the collection and not just someone who has heard it’s selling well.”

Miss Sixty Readies Flagships
Miss Sixty, the Italian women’s denim sportswear brand, signed leases for two flagships, in Los Angeles and New York.
“It really shows how important the American market is to this company,” said Andrew Pollard, Miss Sixty’s director of sales and marketing. “It’s a time when there’s a lot of uncertainty in the market and we look at it as an incredible opportunity for us.”
First up, a 12,000-square-foot, two-level store, marked by the company as the “first American flagship,” set to open on the southeast corner of Melrose Avenue and Crescent Heights by spring. The first level of the store, about 6,000 square feet of space, will house the full Miss Sixty collection of fashion, basics, accessories and shoes. Miss Sixty’s West Coast offices and showroom will take up another 6,000 square feet upstairs.
The company said the store’s interior will be “West Coast-inspired stucco, colored in yellow with Sixty in red and stainless steel accents.”
In the spirit of neighboring retail institution Fred Segal Melrose, which is located directly across the street, the store will offer a cafe as well as a rooftop deck for parties.
Meanwhile, in New York, a 3,000-square-foot flagship is slated to open on West Broadway in SoHo, between Spring and Broome Streets. It’s across the street from Polo Ralph Lauren and a few doors down from a new Tommy Hilfiger shop. The New York unit, also housing the full collection, will open next fall.
Miss Sixty, owned by Sixty SpA, a privately held company based in Chieti, Italy, opened its first U.S. outpost “more as an experimental store,” said Pollard, in the trendy NoLIta area of Manhattan on Mulberry Street in October.
The company plans seven locations across the country by the end of 2003. Miss Sixty also is introducing a “younger sister brand,” called Killah, targeting a 14-to-22-year-old customer. Miss Sixty targets 24-to-30-year-old females. Pollard said the company is “considering” housing that line in both new stores as well.

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