EARL JEANS TO BOW AT RETAIL

Byline: Kristin Young

LOS ANGELES — Earl Jeans plans to open its first store in Los Angeles’s quaint residential Larchmont Village neighborhood, one that will reflect the brand’s western sensibility.
Benjamin Freiwald, owner of the four-year-old company, said the high-end denim maker has chosen a 600-square-foot store at 141 1/2 North Larchmont Avenue, primarily to showcase the line and raise brand awareness. There is a soft opening slated for late August or September.
“We felt a need to show what we do — more than what’s out there [in stores] now,” said Freiwald, who owns the company along with his wife, designer Suzanne Costas Freiwald.
Earl is planning on introducing a footwear collection later this year.
“[Buyers] tend to cherry-pick from our line,” said Benjamin Freiwald, who was with his wife in Paris, where they were scouting footwear factories. “We wanted a place to show it all. We’re also strengthening our brand sensibility. We don’t want to be pigeonholed as just a jeanswear company.”
In addition to its denim offerings, Earl produces a fashion line four times a year. For fall, it includes fine English cotton florals, rag wool sweaters and doubleknit polyester western-style suits, the designer said.
“It’s kind of a redneck thing, but beautiful and fine,” she said.
The store will stock Earl’s full plate of offerings. Jeans will be available in all cuts and washes, including the original low-rise style in a dark denim wash; Style 33, a western cut that’s slightly higher in the waist with a slightly rounder bottom; and Style 44, more classic, boy-cut jeans. Washes generally range from dark to vintage to a Seventies pale powder blue color. Jeans price points range from $110 to $145 retail.
The store will also carry jeans jackets for about $132, leather and suede items for $550, and a fashion line at prices ranging from $110 to $165.
Freiwald said he’s designing the store interior with a western motif, using dark wood, leather and marble.
He said Earl Jeans is projecting $30 million in wholesale sales this year, but declined to project first-year sales expectations for the store.
“I’d be very happy to break even. It’s not a commercial venture,” he said, noting that there are no plans for a big store rollout, other than, perhaps, a few more showcase stores in key cities. “We’re not really interested in being retailers.”
The Larchmont Village location was chosen by Freiwald partly because of the old-fashioned feel of the neighborhood and partly because he didn’t want to compete with upscale specialty stores that carry his line in neighboring shopping neighborhoods. Barneys New York in Beverly Hills and Fred Segal Melrose in West Hollywood both carry Earl Jeans.
Earl Jeans, which is based in Los Angeles, does 50 percent of its wholesale business in the U.S., 40 percent in Japan and the remaining 10 percent in Europe. The company has four stores in Japan operated by Yagi Tsusho, the company’s distribution partners there.

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