FRENCH JENNY: TAKE TWO
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — French Jenny is making a comeback.
At a time when retailers are scrambling to fill in the gap left by what some say is a slowdown in the megabrand business, Richard and Marcia Leeds, the entrepreneurial husband-and-wife team at Richard Leeds International, decided to resuscitate a once-popular brand.
To be introduced in March, the French Jenny collection is aimed at the young contemporary customer who is fashion savvy and enjoys a bit of whimsy when it comes to sleepwear. In its earlier incarnation, French Jenny’s main focus was on foundations, particularly novelty bras. But the highly promotional climate of the bra business at stores — teamed with the big muscle of national brands — made it difficult for French Jenny to compete effectively with Warner’s, Vanity Fair and Bali. So, the brand was discontinued in 1999 after a few years in the market.
Now, the company is poised to reintroduce the French Jenny label with a signature logo — a motif of hot pink lips, point-of-sale materials and a video presentation for retailers that outlines how the sleepwear and related items can be merchandised on the selling floor.
The couple has hired a new team to handle the collection, including Jennifer O’Connell, who was French Jenny’s original designer; Susan Larscheid, senior vice president; Jose Melendez, creative and graphic artist; Holly Price, vice president of sales; Kathy Thomas, account executive for major stores; Serena Swanke, account executive for the Midwest; Lisa Lauricella, sales executive, and Cherie Britton, public relations manager.
Four of the French Jenny team — Larscheid, Price, Thomas and Britton — joined the Leeds firm directly from Joe Boxer Corp.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to launch a great brand,” said Larscheid. “We know the buyers and the market, and we know what the moods of the retailers are. It’s an opportunity to do something innovative and new, and yet still salable.”
Richard Leeds noted: “In talking to Susan about relaunching the brand, she made it clear to me in today’s market, one of the most important things next to newness is the trueness of the brand and making it exclusive to to department stores. It’s important that department stores know that they’re protected, know that its been created for them and that it represents contemporary youth and excitement.”
He would not give a sales projection, but noted that suggested retail will be around $16 for boxers; $26 for pajama pants and novelty T-shirts, and $40 for a pajama set.
Describing the sleepwear, Price said: “It’s hip and young. You want to touch it. It’s something for the department store that wants to be a specialty store again.”
Samples were not yet ready at press time, but trend boards, with illustrations by Melendez, conveyed the image of a dozen groups, including Trippy Chic, comprised of tie-dye looks with fringe and animal-flocked prints; Untamed, which features New Wave tiger stripes; Hello Kitty, a group highlighting a flirtatious Fifties-inspired pinup girl and mischievous-looking cat motifs with a Finicky logo, and Behave, which features warning labels with men’s faces like: “He has a girlfriend, and he lives with his mother.”
The collection also has a group of basics in solid black, heather gray and denim, with a ruffled trim of cotton and Lycra spandex.
A launch party for French Jenny is scheduled for March 5 at Float, a dance club in Manhattan. There will be a fashion show, as well as party favors like milk chocolate lips wrapped in hot pink foil and “dancing girls in cages,” said Richard Leeds.