Byline: Scott Malone / Joshua Greene / With contributions from Katherine Bowers, Los Angeles
Belle of the Bal
Gianfranco Ferre Jeans plans to open its first U.S. store by early November on the second floor of the Bal Harbour Shops, an upscale open-air shopping center in Miami Beach.
The 1,000-square-foot store is owned and will be managed by Admond Taboul, a former Bal Harbour boutique owner who carried the Ferre Jeans line in his previous store.
Taboul could not be reached for comment.
Executives at IT USA, the Ferre Jeans parent company here in the U.S. said the Bal Harbour location was chosen for its ability to attract an international clientele from Europe and South America.
Patrick Guadagno, IT USA’s president said he is looking into further expansion, with plans to roll out more stores within the next six months in cities that could include San Francisco and Los Angeles County, as well as other key markets.
The space will feature black marble floors, black ceilings, steel fixtures and custom-made black leather Italian furniture. The store design follows the concept of the original Ferre Jeans boutique at the bottom of the Spanish steps in Rome.
“Overall we’re excited about this,” Guadagno said. “A mono-brand store will help us get closer to our customer.”
Sales figures for the store are expected to reach $800 to $1,000 per square foot within the first 18 to 24 months.
The store will carry men’s and women’s pre-collection apparel until spring collection deliveries begin in January.
At a time when many apparel companies are branching out into new market segments, USA Jeans Inc. is keeping its focus on a narrow niche: domestically made specialty denim.
Founded in 1995 by Jeff Bryce and a group of friends, the Tulsa, Okla.-based company manufactures and sells jeans specifically tailored to persons confined to wheelchairs. Bryce, who is the majority owner of the company, said he and his associates evaluated over 100 potential business ideas before deciding on its niche.
“We wanted to make something that wasn’t really out there,” he said.
The company’s low-rise styles are specifically designed to look best when the wearer is sitting down, and also have specific comfort features, including no rear pockets or rivets and fake front pockets. The company’s Web site, wheelchairjeans.com, states, “If you stand up in a pair of USA Jeans, you will look ridiculous.”
While the company began by outsourcing production, in 1998 it began producing all its pants in-house. Today, the company has two full-time production employees who turn out 50 to 60 pairs of jeans a week, according to Bryce, who also works in the telecommunications industry.
He added that USA Jeans might return to the outside contractor model if demand required it, but the company remains committed to domestic manufacturing.
“We want to keep our production in the U.S.,” he said. “We want to provide good jobs for the local community.”
The direct marketer, which sells through a catalog and the Web, also produces specialty large-sized bottoms and is branching out into the maternity business, Bryce added.
The Los Angeles-based jeans brand Jane’s Army is mobilizing a customer base.
The eight-month-old denim line is for “girls who aren’t so dainty,” said designer Peter Lang Nooch.
Nooch said he is inspired by off-kilter seams and subtle details, such as slit coin pockets and red-line tapings along inseams, details he described as “intelligent ideas about simple concepts.” His enthusiasm for that kind of detail extends to his own wardrobe — he wore ergonomic Dickies jeans available only in Japan for an interview.
Jane’s Army is best known for its “twisted waist” styles, which feature pockets and flies rotated a quarter turn from their traditional positions — so that jeans button up the side and have both a typical front pocket and a typical hip pocket on their front.
Peter Kim, president of Saymee K Inc. which owns Jane’s Army, projected the brand will do between $2 million and $2.5 million in sales this year, with specialty boutique distribution to Denim Doctors, Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman among others.
“We want steady, strong growth,” Kim said. “We don’t want to blow it out.”
The company uses a denim with 4 percent spandex for a close fit, but keeps its rises relatively modest, at 8.5 inches.
“Usually stretch denim has kind of weird look to it, but theirs has a great fit without looking like stretch denim,” said Sean Patrick, who carries Jane’s Army in his Denim Doctors boutique.
Patrick commended the line for design originality.
“A lot of jeans out there are very similar to each other,” he said, noting that he carries only five brands, in addition to new and vintage Levi’s. “Every other store has Earl or Seven,” he said. “I’m slowly pinpointing good little jean lines that are up and coming.”
Wholesale prices for the Jane’s Army line range from $45 to $65.
Kim has also turned his eye on another target market prized by speciality jeans brands — Japan. He is currently looking for a distributor there.
“The key is to get a foothold here first, to get a solid name,” said Kim. “Then it makes doing business over there that much better.”
Put it in Reverse
Ishai Sasi’s reversible jeans are soon going to have some company. The designer, who has licensed his line to Tip Top Pant Co. of New York, plans to introduce skirts and jackets over the next two months.
This summer, Tip Top Pant signed a licensing agreement with Sasi to produce the reversible bottoms under the Reverso name. The line wholesales for $19.75 and is made in New York. The company also plans to roll out bottoms under the Sasi Too name, which will wholesale for $12.50 and be made in Mexico.
Sam Laniado, owner of Tip Top, said he decided to go into business with Sasi because reversible jeans weren’t too common in today’s denim market.
“It’s something different from what people are showing,” he said. “It’s not complicated.”
Levi’s Euro Hire
Levi Strauss & Co. has named Rosanna Iacono-Gagliardi, currently of Nike, to serve as director of its European premium brands, effective Nov. 19. She will succeed Peter Ingwersen, who is leaving the company to pursue personal interests at the end of the year, Levi’s said.
Iacono-Gagliardi, who at Nike serves as European category business manager, will oversee the Levi’s Vintage Clothing and Levi’s Red brands in Europe. She will report to Joe Middleton, president of Levi Strauss, Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Levi’s European operations have engaged in intense product-development efforts in recent years, and developed the Levi’s Engineered Jeans. When the San Francisco-based company moved Robert Hanson, who had headed the Levi’s brand in Europe, to the U.S., it indicated that it hoped he would replicate some of his overseas strategies on Levi’s home turf.