DENIM DISH

Jeanswear’s Next Generation
Whether you believe the 21st century began a few months ago or insist it won’t arrive until Jan. 1, 2001, it’s hard to debate that there’s still a lot of it ahead.
So, in an effort to take a peek at where the denim business might go in the next 100 years, Jeanswear Communications asked design students at a handful of prestigious fashion schools to sketch their ideas on the future of jeans.
“The predictions and designs offered by eight student designers dovetail with the way more and more established designers are turning to denim when they want to make news,” said Norman Karr, executive director of the Jeanswear group.
Sybil Lindsay, a junior at Philadelphia University, formerly the Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science, predicted a gradual evolution of denim. She sketched a bias-cut skirt with a halter top made of overlapping strips of denim in different washes, to emphasize jeans’ move away from utilitarian clothing and into fashion.
Chris Haroun, a senior at the Pratt Institute, turned out a more traditional-looking silhouette with feminine touches. He sketched a denim jumpsuit inspired by cowboys, but with fringe trim and a plunging neckline that would not fit in with the rodeo set.
Expecting that denim will be turned out by mills in weights and colors not commonly seen today, Philadelphia junior K. Calhoun sketched light, flowing summer dresses in denim.
Philadelphia senior Anne Cooper took a more conservative route, offering denim jeans and skirts emphasizing jeans’ role as the comfortable bedrock of the wardrobe.
Men’s wear designs were offered by Julissa Lopez, a senior at New York’s High School of Fashion Industries; John Robb at the Fashion Institute of Technology; Casey Moore, an FIT freshman, and Ken Chow, at FIT.

Paris Blues on License Hunt
Looking to expand its reach into categories other than jeans, Paris Blues recently named Brooke Summerson director of licensing, a new position.
The company already has one licensee in place, J&L Footwear Inc., a Commerce, Calif., company that exhibited alongside Paris Blues at the recent WWDMAGIC show. Paris Blues is seeking licensees in other areas, according to Lisa Engelman, national sales manager.
Summerson reports to Paris Blues owner Jose Quant, Engelman said. Summerson had previously worked for Paris Blues in sales; before accepting this licensing post, she had taken some time off, Engelman noted.

Results Slip at Designs Inc.
Designs Inc., operator of Levi’s and Dockers Outlet stores, registered broader losses on flat sales during the fourth quarter, while losses for the full year narrowed.
The Needham, Mass., company said its loss for the fourth quarter ended Jan. 29 was $13.8 million, or 84 cents a share, compared with a loss of $3.7 million, or 23 cents a share, in the year-ago period.
Sales for the quarter were up 1 percent to $52.7 million from $52.4 million, while same-store sales declined 2 percent. The company said 87 of the 103 units in operation at the end of the quarter were comparable stores.
The net loss for the quarter includes $15.2 million, or 59 cents a share, in pre-tax charges related to inventory markdowns, severance, store closures and the abandonment of the Boston Traders trademark and other marks.
Approximately three-quarters of this amount, or $11.6 million, concerned noncash costs related to markdowns and impairment of trademarks and store assets, and the remainder was related to cash costs associated with lease terminations and severance.
The company also recorded a fourth-quarter write-down of tax assets of $6 million, or 37 cents per share, in recognition of the potential that certain deferred federal and state tax assets may not be realized.
The prior-year quarter included a pretax charge of $5.2 million, or 20 cents per share, related to the closing of three BTC mall stores, one Designs mall store and four Boston Traders Outlet stores, and a reduction in corporate head count. Because the cost of severance and closings was $717,000, or 3 cents per share, less than the original charge, these amounts were included as income for the most recent quarter and year.
The company said, excluding store closing and restructuring charges, fourth-quarter earnings were 15 cents per share compared with a 9 cent per-share loss in the prior year’s quarter.
The loss for the full year was $12.5 million, or 78 cents a share, versus $18.5 million, or $1.17 a share, loss in the prior year. Sales for the year were $192.2 million, down 4.7 percent from the prior-year mark of $201.6 million. Comp-store sales were down 1 percent and there were 10 fewer stores in operation at the end of last year.
Gross margins were down slightly last year, to 37.6 percent of sales from 37.7 percent. Eliminating provisions for markdown reserves, Designs Inc. said gross margin would have been 41.7 percent last year and 38.1 percent in the prior year.
During the most recent year, the company opened two Dockers Outlet by Designs stores and 10 Levi’s/Dockers Outlet by Design stores and remodeled six existing Levi’s outlets to the new Levi’s/Dockers Outlet format.

Lucky Bugs
Lucky Brand Dungarees has awarded two 2000 Volkswagen Beetles to the winners of a sales contest at Nordstrom.
The winners are Luis James Morris of San Diego and Isabelle Osterburg of Salt Lake City.
Morris gave the car to his mother, Margaret Armstrong, a Volkswagen enthusiast.
Under the terms of the contest, which ran late last year, associates in the Brass Plum and Brass Rail departments who met sales targets determined by their superiors were entered into a drawing for the cars. A spokeswoman for the company was unable to provide details on how many Lucky products the winners sold.
Lucky said in a statement that it “plans to expand this type of program to other retailers and to possibly include its consumers.”