Byline: Scott Malone / Joshua Greene / With contributions from Katherine Bowers, Los Angeles
Gloria Vanderbilt Pushes On
Gloria Vanderbilt Apparel Corp. is expanding beyond jeans, with licensed career separates on the way for spring and plans for intimate apparel, loungewear and men’s wear by 2003.
“We have a lot of opportunity. Our goal is to gain market share,” said president Jack Gross, who noted that licensee Tracy Evans expects to start shipping the career line in December for spring retailing.
“They’re more business-casual clothes that can coordinate with jeans and not be so structured that they’re only good for one use,” he said.
Isaac Dabah, chairman and chief executive officer of the New York-based company, said the brand’s sales have remained steady in the weeks following the September terrorist attacks. He called that a sign that the moderate sportswear business will remain solid in a period of economic uncertainty.
“The consumer doesn’t mind shopping in the moderate zone,” he said. “The moderate world is growing and has got a bigger open-to-buy. The average consumer doesn’t understand the difference between better and moderate.”
The company has also revamped its Glo junior jeans line, which it launched for spring. It also plans to open a Glo-only showroom at 1441 Broadway in New York, where it has its current offices, in the coming weeks.
“Juniors was a little more difficult to get started in than we had expected,” Gross said.
Dabah explained that Glo’s initial offering hadn’t been sufficiently fashion-forward to attract teens’ attention. So the company has dropped its lowest rise from seven inches to six, added more colors and a wider variety of whiskered and sandblasted looks.
Gross said the continuing focus on fashion for juniors is a marked contrast with the company’s core misses’ market, where basic styles have sold well. He attributed that trend to the consumers’ current worries about the economy and their personal security.
“The psyche of the consumer is less whimsical,” he said.
Avondale Profits Plummet
The ongoing weakness in the U.S. textile industry and the more recent slowdown in consumer spending took a big bite out of denim maker Avondale Inc.’s fiscal 2001 earnings. The company said it would close one of its plants in Lee County in North Carolina in a cost-cutting measure.
For the year ended Aug. 31, the Monroe, Ga.-based firm reported earnings of $1.3 million, a fraction of the $33 million earned the previous year. Sales were $772.8 million, off 7.6 percent.
In a statement, the privately owned company, which reports its results to the Securities and Exchange Commission because of public debt, said the oversupply of textiles and apparel in the U.S. and the slowdown in retail traffic hurt margins. However, the company expressed confidence that its recent plant modernization would help it to push on.
“Our capital expenditure program, which expended $91 million in fiscal 2001, was well timed and extremely appropriate for the situation in which we find ourselves today,” said chairman and ceo Stephen Felker. “Avondale’s costs continue to decline. We are taking extraordinary measures to reduce overhead.”
According to Craig Crockard, vice president of planning and development, the company plans to close the Lee facility, which employs about 90 people, by the end of November.
That Worn-Out Look
Forget five-year and 10-year vintage washes. Levi Strauss & Co. next month plans to roll out a new style of jeans designed to look like they’ve been around for more than a century.
The jeans, part of the Levi’s Vintage Clothing line, are replicas of the pair of vintage 1880s jeans the company bought at an eBay auction in May for $46,352. Those original straight-leg jeans were found in a former Nevada mining town, had rust spots, stains and a hole that will all be duplicated for the 2001 versions.
Levi’s is shipping 500 pairs of the Nevada style to Levi’s icon stores and other retailers in New York, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Berlin, London, Milan, and Paris, retailing at a steep $400. U.S. stores will receive 60 pairs.
Lynn Downey, the company’s in-house historian, said the long-lost pair are the oldest Levi’s she has ever seen and play an important role in tracing the company’s past since the enormous San Francisco earthquake and fire ravaged Levi’s archives in 1906.
“Until I saw them in January, we had no idea we made this style, so it’s important in understanding our history,” Downey said.
The Nevada jeans won’t be spending all their time at Levi’s San Francisco headquarters. The company plans to bring them to New York at the end of the month, to show them at the Parsons School of Design — where Downey will lecture students on the history of denim and Levi’s. The company also plans to show them at a party at Selvedge, the Levi’s Premium Brand store.
At that event, the company will give away the second issue of its Mined publication. Two copies of the magazine distributed at the party will include golden tickets that can be exchanged for a free pair of Nevadas.
Levi’s also plans to show the recovered jeans at its stores in Japan and Europe in the coming months.
Another Eastwood Premiere
Designer Alison Eastwood, daughter of the legendary Hollywood cowboy Clint, last week unveiled her spring 2002 Eastwood Ranch jeanswear collection.
Denim pieces include skirts, a riding jacket and a couple of five-pocket jeans, with rises Eastwood described as “reasonable.” The jeans are made of traditional rigid denim. Instead of trendy whiskering and dramatic abrasions, Eastwood has opted for a more natural faded look. All the jeans feature a horseshoe embroidered on the coin pocket.
Two washes will be available for spring, but Eastwood said she plans to add others for fall 2002. In addition to the five-pocket cuts, she’s producing a pocketless stretch style and a boot-cut with crisscross belt loops.
The collection’s non-denim pieces have the prairie-western sensibility currently cropping up on runways. A riding jacket, for example, has a pleated back similar to an English riding jacket and floral lining to its cuffs. A canvas riding skirt has mother-of-pearl ring snaps. Eyelet shirts, offered in bone, coral, chocolate and a dusty blue, have western yokes and a row of tiny ruffles at the wrist. Wholesale prices range from $55 for a cotton voile camisole with crocheted trim to $100 for a canvas riding jacket.
The line will be produced in Los Angeles, according to Jeremy Lew, the company’s president and chief executive officer. He projected that the line will net $2 million and $3 million in revenues in 2002. Retail distribution has yet to be finalized, but will focus on specialty boutiques, said Josephine Palermo, vice president of merchandising.
Eastwood said for inspiration she goes to her Carmel, Calif., ranch, where she spends time with her four cinnamon-and-white horses, known in western flicks as “paints.”
That is an interest her famous father doesn’t share.
“My father is actually allergic to horses,” said Eastwood. “Whenever he brings my sisters over to visit my horses, he stands at arm’s length. Or he’ll go wash his hands really quickly.”
Doing Something Different
This weekend’s Workshop New York trade show will again feature a charity auction of designer reinterpretations of Levi’s jeans. The event is to benefit Do Something, a provider of youth led leadership and citizenship initiatives in schools.
Sixty-six designers participating in the show, which is to run Oct. 27-30 at New York’s Chelsea market, reworked denim skirts, jackets and jeans donated by the San Francisco-based company. They will be sold at a silent auction over the four-day event; bids will also be accepted at Levi.com
Kira Sacarello, participating designers, created a bustier-like top out of a pair of jeans, using the legs as sleeves.
“The jeans are open from the bottom seam and the whole idea was to make an unusual garment that’s fun,” she said. “It’s exactly what I try to do with my pieces.”
Sacarello also said she looked forward to seeing other creations from her peers.
Carla Dawn Behrle worked with a denim jacket to create a formfitting corset-like top. Black leather trim and grommets give it a “fetish element, but still totally wearable,” she said.
Behrle, whose eponymous label specializes in leather, said the opportunity to work with denim and benefit charity was rewarding.