DENIM DISH

Jeans at 2,000 Feet
Sending jeans down the runway, no matter how wildly ornamented, doesn’t really cause a stir nowadays. But what if the runway is outdoors, 22 stories above Broadway?
That’s just what designer Louis DiCarlo has in mind, and if the municipal authorities in charge of permits for such things favor him, during fashion week he’ll be showing his line on his new terrace.
When rising rents led him to relocate from his old Seventh Avenue location almost a year ago, DiCarlo was lucky enough to find a 17,240-square-foot office on Broadway, a little north of Herald Square. The space sounds big and it is — though 14,000 square feet of it is outside.
“A lot of people say you have to be on Seventh Avenue, but you can’t get any better than this,” the designer said during a recent tour of his rooftop space.
He plans to paint the walls, currently black, with images of Venice, plant grass and lay artificial turf and, come September, hold a runway show on the roof. The details aren’t quite nailed down: Besides getting permits, DiCarlo has to work things out with his insurance company and figure out the city’s restrictions on putting things on rooftops during hurricane season — which can extend through the runway shows, as veterans of last fall’s 7th on Sixth adventures with Hurricane Floyd can confirm.
But the designer, whose high-end jeans start at $116 retail for denim and run north of $400 for exotic leathers, remains confident that he’s chosen the right venue, indoors and out, to show his line.
“It has to be a little glamorous,” he said.
The rooftop show is not the only attention-grabbing move DiCarlo has planned. He’s trying to nail down lease details for a Madison Avenue flagship.
“Madison Avenue is a billboard,” he said. “If you go with the intention that you’re going to cash in, you’re going to have problems.”

Designs Inc. Trims Losses
Improvements in gross margin helped Designs Inc., operator of Levi’s and Dockers Outlet by Design Stores, to reduce its losses in the first quarter.
In the period ended April 29, the company had a net loss of $474 million, compared with a deficit of $863 million in the first 13 weeks of last year. Sales declined 1.1 percent to $39.4 million from $39.8 million, while same-store sales fell 3 percent in the quarter.
Reflecting the company’s goal of improving inventory management, inventories per square foot were down 2.4 percent, and total inventory dropped 1.5 percent to $51.7 million. Gross margin, after occupancy costs, was up to 27 percent from 25.6 percent a year ago.
The company, based in Needham, Mass., operates 103 units and plans to remodel two units and open five new stores during the remainder of the current fiscal year.

Oldham Site Lauded
“We thank our site visitors.”
That was the entirety of Todd Oldham’s thank you speech at last week’s Webby awards.
Don’t chalk up his brevity to a need to catch the next flight home, though. One of the rules of the awards ceremony is that honorees’ comments can’t be longer than five words. So Oldham actually went on as long as he could in his thanks for the “People’s Voice” award his site received.
Also honored was the British designer Paul Smith, who was awarded the fashion Webby for his site, PaulSmith.co.uk.
The event, held May 11 in San Francisco by the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, was unlike most awards ceremonies that Ross Klein, senior vice president at Sun Apparel Co., which produces Todd Oldham Jeans, has attended.
“The awards ceremony was so organic, rather than scripted,” he said. “It was very spontaneous.”
It was also quick. Presenters made their way through 27 awards in an hour and a half, a pace that would seem lightning fast to those who remember the marathon Council of Fashion Designers of America awards ceremonies of recent years.
The Web crowd is a bit less formal than the fashion set. Klein noted that the 3,000 participants showed up dressed as astronauts, as doctors and in other costumes that reflected their sites’ contents.
The ToddOldham.com site was selected by members of the general public who voted on the Internet to honor creativity on the Web in the fashion business. A total of 130,000 visitors to the WebbyAwards.com site selected People’s Voice awards winners in 27 categories.
Smith did not attend the ceremony, but model Jill Williams picked up his award and gave her own five-word acceptance speech: “I am not Paul Smith.”

Levi’s Sets Exchange Date
In a filing Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Levi Strauss & Co. set June 16 as the expiration date for its offer to exchange its debt notes.
As reported, the San Francisco company plans to exchange its $350 million in 6.8 percent notes due 2003 and its $450 million in 7 percent notes due 2006 for similar notes registered with the SEC. The company noted in the filing that it did not “intend to list the exchange notes on any national securities exchange, and no established trading market for the exchange notes is anticipated.”

Aviatic Eyes the East
After selling the high-end French jeans brand Aviatic in the western U.S. for five years, Marie Kennedy Shaffer is expanding her horizons: She’s heading east.
Kennedy Shaffer, who owns the Tool Box showroom in Los Angeles and Hard Tail Jeans, said she picked up the rights to sell Aviatic to the rest of the country last month, after the French brand broke with its previous importer.
“I definitely see opportunity to expand,” she said. “In the western U.S. we have 300 to 400 accounts, and that’s just little specialty stores and boutiques that love the fit.”
While she wants to increase the distribution, she wants to keep the high-end brand — bottoms wholesale for $48 to $75 — from becoming a promotional tool.
“I don’t want to go the department-store route,” she said. “I want to keep better distribution and have it become a viable jeans brand without selling out.”
Kennedy Shaffer said her company, Aviatic Jeans US. Inc., was maintaining an inventory in Los Angeles of the top 25 items in the line to provide faster delivery to retailers. That represents about 25 percent of the full collection, which she imports from Europe.