DENIM DISH

Pepe’s Premium Power
Pepe Jeans London is targeting a slightly older, more sophisticated clientele with a new premium denim collection dubbed the “Gold Line.”
Designed by the Paris-based father-and-son team Ruven and David Feder, the line is currently available in only two Paris fashion stores, Beauty By and Bleu Comme Bleu. Beauty By recently hosted a cocktail party to introduce the fall collection to its customers, who were invited to have items customized on the spot by local graffiti artists Zeus and Stak. This fall, Pepe will be targeting a wider, but still select distribution in specialty stores in London, Amsterdam and other European cities.
According to David Feder, the Gold Line’s intent is to “innovate and challenge the bounds of traditional jeanswear” and to broaden Pepe’s customer base. He said the target customer is “young and edgy,” yet slightly older and more fashion-forward than Pepe Jeans’ core twentysomething followers.
The Feders, who design the luxury denim brand Ruvenfeder, came to the attention of Pepe in 1999. Pepe’s creative director, Rob Dunk, approached the two designers and asked them to design a premium denim range to elevate the brand image and attract new customers.
David Feder said Gold Line would likely compete with high-end jeans brands such as Andrew MacKenzie and Shinichiro Arakawa, with its niche being “the spirit and concept of a British tailor-made style mixed with a distinct French touch.”
To cultivate an exclusive image, Feder said that fewer than 500 pieces will be produced for fall-winter 2001-2002 and the spring 2002 collection may be even more limited. Each garment will bear a serial number visible only under ultraviolet light. Retail prices range from about $100 for jeans to $260 for a trenchcoat. Other styles include culottes and blazers with finishing touches such as corduroy linings, strategically placed buckles and pockets for necessities like mobile phones and wallets.
In addition to his Pepe collaboration, David Feder works as a consultant to Chefdeville Denim and is currently involved in projects with several French companies, including Antik Batik and Lady Soul.

Jeans Imitate Art
Performance troupe Fischerspooner usually expresses itself on stage through New wave-inspired choreography and music, but for a limited time, the group’s eclectic sense of style will be displayed on a collection of denim items and T-shirts launched earlier this month by Levi’s Vintage Clothing.
Levi’s Vintage Clothing and the avant-garde artists teamed up earlier this year as part of the retro label’s annual Blank Canvas series.
“With Blank Canvas, we work with emerging artists from all around the world and they customize select Levi’s Vintage Clothing products,” said Megan Shenon, senior merchandiser for Levi’s Red and Levi’s Vintage Clothing.”We have always concentrated on showcasing them, but we’ve never sold them.”
The Blank Canvas program began in fall 1999, but the partnership with Fischerspooner marks the first time artist-designed pieces have been sold. The pieces were previously displayed at performances and in Levi’s Vintage Clothing retailers.
Levi’s Vintage Clothing last month displayed the Fischerspooner-designed jeans at free concerts in Los Angeles.
Fischerspooner’s designer created a print — a variation of the troupe’s logo — for the collection, which includes a $250 customized pair of 501 jeans and a $275 customized denim trucker jacket. Only 100 jeans and jackets and “a slightly larger run” of T-shirts were produced, a Levi’s Vintage Clothing spokesman said.
The collection landed in six stores: Kbond, Los Angeles; Sharon Segal at Fred Segal, Santa Monica; American Rag, Los Angeles and San Francisco; The Levi’s Store, San Francisco, and Selvedge, New York.
Shenon said Levi’s Vintage Clothing is “evaluating” whether it will sponsor a similar series of Fischerspooner performances in New York, during Fashion Week in September.

Burlington Denim Sales Increase
Burlington Industries continued in the red in the second quarter, but its denim division reported strong sales and the Performance Wear apparel business returned to profitability after earlier losses.
For the three months ended March 31, the Greensboro, N.C.-based textiles giant reported a net loss of $4.4 million, or 8 cents a diluted share, compared to income of $554,000, or 1 cent, in the same period last year. Excluding a $4 million after-tax charge for restructuring expenses and a $3.1 million after-tax gain on the sale of assets, the loss for the March quarter was $3.4 million or 6 cents a share. The year-ago quarter was affected by a $1.6 million restructuring charge and a $600,000 gain on the sale of assets.
Net sales for the quarter were $361.4 million, down 10.1 percent, from $402.1 million in the same period last year.
The Casual Wear division, which makes denim and some jeans, posted a $1.1 million pre-tax loss, down from a $3.8 million loss in the year-ago quarter. Sales increased to $69.8 million, up 26.2 percent from $55.3 million in the same period last year.
The Performance Wear division, which manufactures wool and synthetic fabrics for tailored clothing, activewear, and uniforms, earned $2.6 million before taxes, down 72 percent from year-ago income of $9.3 million. Sales were $123.1 million, down 19.4 percent from $152.7 million in the year-ago quarter. The division lost $2.7 million before taxes in the first quarter this year.
The sales decline in Performance Wear was due to the closure of manufacturing facilities in Mexico last year and in Johnson City, Tenn., in February.
In a conference call with analysts, chief financial officer Charles Peters said inventory had been reduced by $14 million during the quarter, and by $73 million since last March. The company now carries 63 days of inventory, down from 73 days in March 2000. Additionally, Burlington paid off $16 million in debt during the quarter, for a total of $37 million since the restructuring announcement.
Looking forward to the second half of the year, Peters reiterated the company’s 2001 focus on fully implementing the restructuring plan, reaching the goal of $100 million in debt reduction, and continuing to cut inventory levels. The company is purposefully “sacrificing short-term profit for cash flow,” said Peters.

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