DENIM DISH

Changing Todd’s Tune
The Todd Oldham Jeans line is going through another stage in its evolution.
A year into its life under its new name, the line — initially focused on specialty retailers — has come to see department stores as a key element of growth.
In an interview at the brand’s Manhattan showroom, executive vice president Chris Nicola said the strategy doesn’t so much reflect a change of heart as a new step in the line’s development.
“I still believe the coolest kids shop in specialty stores and the way to build a brand is the specialty-store channel,” he said. “The next logical step is to put it into department stores.”
The line is now carried by Parisian and Marshall Field’s, and Nicola said he believes a few other chains are going to begin distributing the line over the year ahead. Today, the junior offering is available in about 3,000 stores around the U.S., with young men’s styles represented in another 600 doors.
Nicola also contends that, if the brand has changed, so have its new retail customers.
“The department-store mentality is getting better,” he said. “They have realized you can’t build these shrines to a few brands.”
One thing that will not change for the Todd Oldham Jeans line, which is produced by Jones Apparel Group, Nicola said, is its position on concept shops: they are not in the cards.
Department-store executives have lost some of their enthusiasm for shop-in-shops, discouraging hard shops and reducing their reliance on soft shops over the past 1 1/2 years.
“I am still anti-shop,” said Nicola. “The customer is really not shopping in that way anymore.”
He stopped short of saying there would never be any Todd Oldham Jeans concept shops: “There may be a day when a Macy’s Herald Square would want to do something special,” he said, acknowledging that such an offer would be a worthwhile exception.
For now, Nicola prefers to spend the brand’s promotional budget on advertising, he said.
In the first iteration of the Todd Oldham Jeans line, which was launched under the TO2 label for fall 1998, a few months before Oldham himself gave up designing his signature collection, concept shops were a part of the strategy. Executives at one point were planning to roll out 100 of them, before deciding the line wasn’t working and that it needed to be reworked.
Many of the other initial changes have stuck. The line remains focused only on jeans and T-shirts, without the other sportswear items that made up the bulk of TO2. Similarly, the opening price points remain below $40, lower than the status price tags that its predecessor line had carried.

Michael Press Joins Rampage
After a few years’ hiatus from the jeans business, Michael Press, early this month, joined Rampage Jeans as president.
In the newly created position, Press — who once held a similar position at Todd Oldham Jeans — is overseeing all aspects of the junior line, including design, production, sales and marketing.
He reports to Albert Nigiri, president of New York-based Liberty Apparel, which produces the line for Los Angeles-based Rampage. Press will be based in New York.
Rampage Jeans made its debut at WWDMAGIC last month in Las Vegas and the fall collection will land in specialty and department stores in August.
Press said his goal is “to bring a sophisticated, better denim program back into the junior market.”
He claimed many jeans companies are neglecting the junior customer in favor of an older customer with more money to spend.
“I walked Coterie and every single person coming out with a jeans program today is going after an older market and is going after the designer market,” he said.
Last fall, Rampage launched R. Wear by Rampage — a collection that includes basic jeans — but Press said the new fashion item-driven line will be positioned differently.
“They’ve been doing denim as part of their collection, but it’s not a jeans program, it’s not a stock program and it’s not something that requires any real estate within the department store,” he said. “We’re going to launch a full-blown denim program to really work into what Rampage is already doing.”
For the last eight months, Press said that he has been consulting for various jeans companies. Prior to that, he worked at trade-show organizer Advanstar, which produces the WWDMAGIC show as well as a number of smaller apparel events. He left Todd Oldham Jeans in early 1999, after a 2 1/2-year tenure.
Before that, he spent four years as vice president of Big Star Jeans.

Taking Matters Into Her Own Hands
What’s a girl to do when she loves the idea of wearing Levi’s, but lately their styling hasn’t been quite as hip as she’d like?
Confronted with that very question, celebrity stylist Wendy Schecter got creative. Using the Original Spin kiosk at Levi Strauss & Co.’s New York store, along with her sewing machine and a local dry cleaner, she’s turned out more than a dozen pair of out-of-the-ordinary Levi’s.
“Everyone I know only wants to wear Levi’s and they would if they could fit,” she said in a phone interview. “I did this out of frustration. I don’t want to wear other people’s jeans.”
Schecter said she’s not the only one with an affection for Levi’s. She claimed to have made pairs for some of her famous clients, who include actress Heather Graham. Schecter also has styled for Courtney Love.
The jeans themselves are low-rise hipsters, fitted and tight through the hips and legs, and flared to about 26 inches at the ankle.
Schecter produces the jeans by doctoring the measurements she enters into the Original Spin machines, which are part of Levi’s eight-year-old, custom-jeans program. She enters larger waist measurements, smaller hip measurements and a longer inseam into the terminal, then when the jeans are delivered, takes out her scissors and sewing machine to make slight alterations to the body.
After that, a trip to the dry cleaner removes what Schecter calls “the phantom hips.”
“I get stopped in the street and asked about these jeans,” Schecter claimed.
For their part, the folks at San Francisco-based Levi’s have no problem with Schecter’s souped-up jeans, particularly if they’re attracting attention.
“This is exactly what Original Spin is about,” said a spokeswoman. “It’s about being able to make the pants your own, whatever your individual preference is. She’s using it exactly the way it’s supposed to be used.”
Schecter estimated that she’s ordered about $1,000 worth of the Original Spin jeans — retailing for about $55 a pair — since last August, when she first started experimenting with the machine.
“I’ve got the key to what I want,” she said, “which is great jeans.”