DENIM DISH

Paperback Wearer
Most designers believe their collections tell a story, at least metaphorically. But metaphor wasn’t good enough for Hiroaki Ohya. He needed to get literal, if not literary.
Thus we have “The Wizard of Jeanz,” a collection of 21 magazine-size books that unfold into garments. They’re being displayed at Scalo, an art gallery in Manhattan’s SoHo, through March 18.
Ohya, who for the last four years has worked out of his own Tokyo design studio and before that was on the Issey Miyake design staff, was motivated by a desire to get his clothes placed in bookstores.
“Jeanz” is a 21-volume set, but it’s not over-the-top on verbiage. The first volume, which folds out into a sleeveless dress emblazoned with the phrase, “A long time ago in a jeanz far, far away … over the rainbow,” calls to mind “The Wizard of Oz,” which ohya said was his inspiration for the project.
The rest of the story unfolds — no pun intended — pictorially across the four panels of volume two, a sleeveless T-shirt. It runs like this: A girl meets her friend, has some problems, but everything works out OK (the last bit symbolized by red flowers).
“It’s a very simple story,” Ohya laughed.
The rest of the collection is jeans, dresses, vests and shawls made of knitted and woven cotton and polyester fabrics that could theoretically be worn, but are meant to be purchased more as conversation pieces. Each volume is bound in a denim cover.
In an interview at the Scalo gallery, Ohya explained that the “Jeanz” project offered him a way to produce clothes that were more whimsical than most.
“I want to bring some fantasy to fashion,” he said.
Scalo, which also publishes art-related books, this month begins selling the 50 editions of the 21-volume set. The gallery plans to charge $6,000 for the full set; individual pieces sell for $350 and $780, depending on the materials.
Recognizing that price might be a bit rich, Ohya is getting ready to launch a less expensive magazine that will also fold out into garments. Set to bow in July with a $200 cover price, it will be called Cup Mode.
The designs in the magazine are simpler — each garment will be a simple cotton jacket, printed to look like a coat, sweater or suit and tie.
Noting that he never wears real ties, Ohya said he planned to wear the last one — due out in August — to fancy parties.

The Lucky Honoree
Jeanswear Communications has named Gene Montesano, chief executive officer of Lucky Brand Dungarees, its newsmaker of the year. He is to be honored at the organization’s annual awards luncheon in New York next month.
In the past year, Lucky, based in Los Angeles, has been in the spotlight on a number of occasions, most notably for selling an 85 percent stake to Liz Claiborne Inc., increasing its retail chain to 13 stores and signing licensing deals for intimate apparel and fragrance. Montesano runs Lucky with Barry Perlman, president. The two founded the company in the early Nineties.
Past Jeanswear Communications honorees have included John Kourakos, who was president of Tommy jeans at the time; Arnold Simon, while he was chairman of Designer Holdings, and E. Jackson Smailes, when he was senior vice president and general merchandise manager of apparel at Kmart Corp.
Jeanswear Communications is a promotional coalition of denim producers, yarn makers and dye suppliers. The newsmaker lunch is to be held at Smith & Wollensky’s restaurant on March 15.

Novel Slump
Novel Denim Holdings, the denim and chinos manufacturer operated by Hong Kong backers of Tommy Hilfiger, reported earnings slumped 60.9 percent in its third quarter ended Dec. 31.
Earnings reached $1.8 million, or 20 cents a share, down from $4.7 million, or 50 cents, a year ago. Sales nudged up 3.5 percent to $28.1 million from $27.2 million.
Garment sales decreased 1.7 percent to $20.9 million as a result of lower margins due to a greater emphasis on shorts in 2000. Total garment units grew to 2.3 million pieces from 2.1 million. Third-party fabric sales jumped 58 percent to $6.6 million.
“Given the very difficult denim market environment, we are pleased with the company’s financial performance during the past quarter,” said K.C. Chao, president and chief executive, in a statement. “We continue to benefit from our timely expansion into the production of chino products, which during the past quarter represented approximately 52 percent of garment sales and 38 percent of third-party fabrics sales, both of which contributed significantly to the company’s gross margins.”
In light of the difficult environment, the company has created a separate division and staff for its chino operation, which had been operating as part of its denim production segment. The firm also recently opened a marketing office in London, and in January named Isaacs Lam, formerly an executive at Carry Wealth and Wing Tai, head of sales and marketing. Lam succeeds James Shen, who will leave when his contract expires in March.
In the nine months, earnings declined 64.3 percent to $4.8 million, or 51 cents, from $13.5 million, or $1.42 a share, a year ago. Sales gained 9.9 percent to $80.8 million from $73.6 million.

Bogner Debut
The German jeans producer Mustang Group has signed a European license with Willy Bogner GmbH, based in Munich, for a new jeans and casualwear range under the Bogner name.
The 250-piece Bogner Jeans collection for women and men will launch for spring-summer 2001.
Jacqueline Arandjelovic, director of Bogner Jeans at Mustang’s headquarters in Kunzelsau, Germany, said about one-third of the collection would be jeans. The balance will be casualwear, including tops, jackets and bottoms.
Given Bogner’s achievements in the ski and active sportswear arena, function will be a major focus of the new jeans collection, especially in fabrics.
“For example, there are fibers that help transport moisture to the surface, which would be a real boon in summer,” she commented. “This is a whole new area of development for jeans.”
The initial marketing push for the new collection, which will premiere in August at the CPD fashion fair in Dusseldorf, will concentrate on Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Benelux countries in the first season. Bogner Jeans will be sold in signature stores and in-store shops, as well as to existing Bogner accounts and better specialized jeans and sportswear shops.
Arandjelovic said Eastern Europe could receive some early Bogner Jeans, as there are Bogner shops in Moscow and Budapest. The American market is not a top priority at this time, she added.
Arandjelovic would not give a first-year sales target, but said the company would be very happy to reach “double-digit” sales in German marks. In U.S. dollars, that would be at least $5 million.

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