J.LO, HILFIGER JOIN FORCES IN MEGA DEAL

Byline: Katherine Bowers / With contributions from Lisa Lockwood

LOS ANGELES — You can add “fashion designer” to the resume of singer-dancer-actress Jennifer Lopez.
Lopez and Andy Hilfiger officially announced the launch of Sweetface Fashions, a joint venture between Lopez and Hilfiger’s newly formed holding company, Music Entertainment Fashion Inc., at a news conference at the St. Regis Hotel here Thursday. This confirms a report in these columns on March 2 that a deal was in the works.
Sweetface Fashions will be rolling out a sexy, urban J.Lo lifestyle, in an ambitious plan that includes a contemporary collection and a jeanswear line, and eventually fragrance, swimwear, footwear, accessories and eyewear licenses.
J.Lo by Jennifer Lopez branded product could reap more than $100 million in the next 18 months, Hilfiger said, adding that he expects to begin signing licensing deals within the coming months.
Hilfiger is partnering with older brother Tommy and Tommy’s best friend, Larry Stemmerman, who owned a private label manufacturing company called Woods & Grey and who backed Tommy’s original retail venture, People’s Place, more than 30 years ago. Two other investors hold smaller stakes in MEFI, Hilfiger said, emphasizing that the deal’s financing is separate from Tommy Hilfiger Corp.
The contemporary collection and jeanswear line will launch for holiday 2001, with wholesale prices for the jeanswear ranging approximately from $11 for a T-shirt to $20 for a knit top to $30 for a pair of jeans to $425 for leather pants. Collection pieces geared to specialty retailers will range from $44 for a T-shirt to $100 for jeans to $300 for a jacket.
The line will be distributed to better department stores and roughly 150 specialty stores, Hilfiger said, adding that he is currently in talks with top management at Federated Department Stores.
Although Hilfiger’s new company will be located near other fashion companies in the Bryant Park area of New York, the press conference was held in Los Angeles, where Lopez is filming the thriller “Enough,” with Noah Wylie and Juliette Lewis.
Referencing the Hilfiger empire, Lopez strode out into the gathering wearing a Puerto Rican flag-sequined top, white wide-leg suspender pants, aviator sunglasses and oversized hoop earings. The single “Play” off her latest J.Lo album heralded the star’s entrance while the line’s logo — a chunky, glittered J.Lo reminiscent of urban jewelry — twirled on a pair of video screens.
“I’m coming full circle, creatively,” said Lopez, who described some of her early forays into creating her own looks. “When I was growing up, I would buy a cheap, whack pair of pants and chop off the legs and make a miniskirt.
“I also ripped a Smurf patch off a pair of jeans, that was another episode,” she added.
J.Lo by Jennifer Lopez will be designed by Leiga Morris, Lopez’s costume designer and stylist, in conjunction with the pop star and Hilfiger.
“There won’t be anything in the line that Jennifer wouldn’t wear,” said Hilfiger.
Lopez said repeatedly the line would be “really sexy” and would be geared to fitting a broader range of women, including those with curvaceous figures.
“Lots of stretch,” quipped Hilfiger.
A print advertising campaign prominently featuring Lopez will break next spring, said Hilfiger. They will be doing co-op ads with stores for the holiday debut. Lopez will also wear J.Lo by Jennifer Lopez in videos and during her concerts.
Lopez and Hilfiger gave the press a sneak peek at the collection. Urban-inspired looks included side-slit denim with lacing detail, a sky-blue velour jogging set worn with logo sequined tank and a denim micro-minidress worn with a chain belt.
MEFI was set up to make clothing lines for celebrities. Hilfiger told WWD that he plans to source production for J.Lo by Jennifer Lopez in Hong Kong, China and Guatemala, and will announce a Hong Kong manufacturer shortly.
MEFI has no immediate plans to add more celebrities to its roster.
“We’ll keep doing the J.Lo thing. We’ll do a fragrance, footwear and eventually men’s. Right now there’s no need to do anything else. Down the road, I may think about [adding other celebrities],” said Hilfiger.
With her influence spanning music and fashion, Lopez is thought to be able to reach a broader range of women — from concert-hopping teens to fashionistas who avidly follow every red carpet choice.
Lopez might also earn fashion cachet by association from her former boyfriend, rapper Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, whose Sean Jean collection is rumored to have netted $300 million at retail since its launch.
But romantically, things are said to be long-dead between Combs and Lopez, who is dating Chris Judd, a dancer who appears in her video.
Celebrity stylist Philip Bloch pointed out that Lopez is a fashion megastar, with or without Puffy.
“Jennifer is definitely a girl who knows her fashion,” Bloch said. “She can go from uptown to downtown dressing and be consistent. Guys relate to her. And women want to look like her because guys like the way she looks.”
Hilfiger, a bass guitarist, also has credibility negotiating the connection between music, celebrity and style.
Although he has resigned his position as vice president of public relations for Tommy Jeans, he will presumably pull heavily from connections and experience accrued at Tommy Hilfiger corporate. Andy Hilfiger is credited with helping Tommy Hilfiger blend music and fashion and was the force behind many of the ad campaigns featuring rap and rock stars wearing Hilfiger’s clothing, and getting musicians to wear the brand at concerts.
“It’s important for musicians to hook up with the right fashion companies to get the look they want,” said Andy Hilfiger in an earlier interview.
Hilfiger has already recruited Joe LaMastra as MEFI’s chief financial officer and Brett Myer as a board member. LaMastra has been a Tommy Hilfiger attorney, and Myer is a fashion attorney in private practice. Stemmerman will serve as co-president with Hilfiger.

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