DENIM DISH

Chuck Roaste Lands Patent
After almost two years of effort, designer Toshi Hosogai has secured a U.S. design patent for his reversible jeans.
In a recent interview at his New York showroom, Hosogai said he’s particularly pleased to have received the patent — number 6,182,296 — given the number of people who told him that what he was trying to do was impossible.
“Many people have told me that clothes cannot be patented,” Hosogai said. “But I’m not talking about design things. I’m talking about function, utility. It’s a completely different way of thinking.”
Not that the nay-sayers deterred Hosogai, who sells his jeans under the Chuck Roaste name, in his quest for the patent, which was issued early this month. The designer said he likes a challenge, which is why he started developing reversible jeans in the first place.
The design patent for the next 20 years protects the reversible pockets, fly, seams, fasteners and other details that Hosogai had to develop to make reversible jeans work.
While he was waiting for the patent to be granted, Hosogai had to fight to prevent the design from being knocked off, since inventions that slip into the public domain aren’t protected by the government.
One step he took to protect the design in late 1999, as reported, was suing Paul Davril Inc., a licensee of Kenneth Cole, for producing a reversible style of jeans that Hosogai alleged infringed on his designs. He also sued retailer Burdine’s Inc. for selling the jeans. That suit was settled and terms were kept confidential, Hosogai said.
With the patent challenge behind him, Hosogai said he’s going to focus his attention on fabric development.
“Now, I can work on the wet processing and developing different washes,” he said. “I feel comfortable moving on to the next challenge.”
Another goal is building the business. Hosogai said sales of the spring 2001 Chuck Roaste line, which includes reversible and traditional jeans, jackets, skirts and shorts, came to about $500,000. While he contends that he wasn’t trying to create much in the way of volume before he received the patent, he acknowledges that there isn’t an enormous demand for reversible jeans, which wholesale for $45 to $75 a pair.
“The whole concept is too new for everybody,” he said.
He said he’d like to reach a deal with a large branded wholesaler or retailer to sell the jeans, which he currently produces at New York area factories. He’s also considering designing a line of unidirectional jeans for the junior market, to build a little volume.
But he hopes to keep building his company behind the patented invention against all odds.
“I’d like to continue the line of reversible jeans. That is my signature,” he said. “Don Quixote, that’s me.”

Novel Earnings More Than Double
Increased sales of finished apparel to U.S. customers helped to more-than-double Novel Denim Holdings’ third-quarter earnings. Company executives said they expect to begin to reap the trade-parity benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, this year.
Net income for the quarter was $3.9 million, or 42 cents a diluted share, up from $1.8 million, or 20 cents, a year ago. Results include a $980,000 exchange gain due to the devaluation of some of the firm’s borrowings.
Sales for the three months ended Dec. 31 were up 26.9 percent, to $35.7 million. This compares with sales of $28.1 million a year ago.
The company’s sales of finished apparel for the quarter — it also sells textiles — were split equally between jeans and chinos and increased 35.9 percent, to $28.4 million. On a conference call last week, officials at the Hong Kong-based company said sales to U.S. customers leapt to 51 percent of apparel sales, up from 38 percent in the year-ago period.
Fabric sales for the quarter were up 9.1 percent, to $7.2 million.
K.C. Chao, president and chief executive officer, said that the increase came primarily from existing customers such as Gap and Tommy Hilfiger as well as from new customers such as Kohl’s.
Excluding the impact of currency fluctuations, Chao said, Europe also saw sales increases.
“Our overall business continues to benefit from additional production capacity, increased sales to our U.S. customers and improved gross margins,” he added. “The recent U.S. legislation allowing garments of Mauritian origin to be sold duty-free and quota-free to the U.S. should further increase our sales and potentially improve pricing.”
On the call, the ceo said he saw strong prospects in the trade parity and added: “We already have seen a significant increase in demand for our goods.”
He said the company was discussing the trade parity’s opportunities “in concrete terms” with its customers.
Earnings for the nine months, jumped 77.9 percent, to $8.5 million, or 91 cents a diluted share. Year-ago results totaled $4.8 million, or 51 cents. Sales for the period rose 27.2 percent, to $102.9 million.
Last week, Thomaston Mills Inc., which last year shut its final denim operations, said that two members of the

The Marc Jacobs Fan Club
It’s not often that a brand launch can be called a phenomenon, but Marc Jacobs’s new lower-priced collection — Marc by Marc Jacobs — has found a lot of fans at retail.
Fred Segal Flair in Santa Monica, Calif., had a 70-person waiting list for the company’s $138 permanent-crease jeans before they arrived in its store three weeks ago. Scoop has sold 80 percent of its order, or 466 pieces, in the same time frame at its New York stores. Jacobs’s own store on Mercer Street is selling more than 100 pairs of the permanent-crease jeans a week.
“This is the second phenomenon I’ve ever seen in my career,” said Stefani Greenfield, co-owner of Scoop, who added that the first was the launch of DKNY in 1988, where she worked prior to launching the Scoop retail concept.
Greenfield turned over her downtown store at 532 Broadway to the Marc by Marc Jacobs collection on Tuesday night to celebrate the launch of the line, drawing a number of editors and fashionable friends, like Inca designer Stephanie Hirsch, who bought a pair of yellow pin-striped jeans, and actors Shannon Elizabeth from “American Pie” and “Scary Movie” and Joe Reitman of “The Perfect Storm.”
“Part of this success is that the price point is so sharp, and the styling is amazing,” said Greenfield. “This is a piece of him, but it’s not a diffusion line. This is the ultimate in New York street fashion.”
Jeannine Braden, who owns Fred Segal Flair in Santa Monica, which carries lines including her husband’s brand William B, Joseph, Helmut Lang and Diane Von Furstenberg, also stopped by to compare notes with Greenfield. She said the Marc by Marc Jacobs collection has created such a demand in California that she has had to refuse to hold items for customers.
“The interesting thing is that even though the prices are lower than collection, this has also created a lot of new business for the store,” Braden said. “I’ve been selling more collection since getting the other line in.”
The Marc by Marc Jacobs line has hit about 80 specialty doors, including Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue in the U.S., as well as Harvey Nichols in London and Joyce Boutiques in Hong Kong. The collection is also being produced by Renown Look, Marc Jacobs’s licensee in Japan.
“Our strategy going forward is to increase our business in existing doors,” said Sallie Scripter, vice president of sales for Marc by Marc Jacobs. “We never wanted to be greedy with this collection to begin with.”

A Dynasty Ends
Hightower family, which ran the Thomaston, Ga.-based mill for the last century, have resigned.
Neil Hightower stepped down as president and chief executive officer and George Hightower relinquished his post as president of the apparel fabrics division. In addition, Stewart Davis stepped down as president of the company’s consumer products division.
The board named William Ott acting president and ceo and announced it was beginning a search for a turnaround management firm. Ott had served as chief financial officer.
The two Hightowers and Davis retained their seats on the board.
In a statement, Ott said the company was going to focus on producing low-cost knitted fabrics and home furnishings products.

Lucky Moves
Lucky Brand has moved into a 6,000-square-foot showroom at 1441 Broadway in Manhattan’s garment district. It replaces a 3,000-square-foot space the Vernon, Calif.-based company occupied on West 39th Street.
The company, 85 percent of which is owned by Liz Claiborne Inc., also has a showroom at California Mart in Los Angeles.
The New York showroom will house the label’s women’s, men’s and children’s wear lines.

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