Nautica’s Big Test

Nautica Enterprises has a lot riding on its planned fall test of a women’s non-denim sportswear line.

The company plans to introduce a line of women’s sportswear solely at its Manhattan flagship targeting shoppers aged slightly higher than the target group for its Nautica Jeans Co. brand, as reported. In a recent interview at the company’s showroom, Sandra Campos, senior vice president of women’s, said the line is part of a plan for a broader retail expansion.

“We’ll introduce it at our Rockefeller Center store, with the intent of developing that into a vertical retail operation,” she said.

Over the course of the next year, the company plans to open about a dozen full-price stores. That chain could compete with single-brand specialty chains and serve as a test site for new products, she added.

Since introducing the Nautica Jeans Co. women’s line last fall, the product offering has become focused on denim for women 22 to 35 years old, she explained. The dressier sportswear line will target women aged 35 to 45. The line is still in early development and executives did not offer much detail on what it would look like.

Campos described the target shopper as “a customer that works and wants to go out in the evening” in the same clothes.

Nautica is exploring retail expansion on other fronts, as well. After acquiring Earl Jean last year, the company opened a store for that brand in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood in the fall. It is planning further Earl Jean stores.

Tommy Knits It Up

Taking a page from its Latin American competitors’ books, Tommy Jeans is rolling out fall styles made from an Argentine knit denim that gives a skintight look without requiring the wearer to use a pair of pliers to squeeze herself into her jeans.

Todd Howard, president of jeans and juniors, said the advantage of the knit cotton and spandex fabric, made by Velanorte, was comfort.

“It’s really playing more off the stretch and comfort of it,” he said. “It’s a variation on the theme of feel, more than look.”

Fall offerings in the fabric, which looks like traditional woven denim until a close inspection, will include two styles of jeans wholesaling for $40, a shirt for $26.50, a jumpsuit for $49.50 and a jacket for $44. The retail price points are above Tommy Jeans’ core range, a fact that Howard acknowledged may limit volume.

“At the higher-end price points, it will probably be a novelty piece,” he said, “But we are working on giving it a more commercial price point.”

Given that knit denim jeans can be more comfortable in tight silhouettes than those made of woven fabrics, Howard said he expected knits to become an important piece of the jeans market over time.

“The stretch piece has become a dominant part of the jeans business,” he said. “Fabrics that replicate that look are definitely going to be important. Whether this is going to be one of the big ones, that I couldn’t say. But definitely things of this ilk will definitely be part of the jeans business.”

Tarrant Takes Aris Stake

Apparel manufacturer Tarrant Apparel Group disclosed in a recent filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has taken a 9 percent stake in Aris Industries Inc., the apparel company headed by Arnold Simon.

The filing said that as of Feb. 20, Tarrant owned 8.2 million shares of that New York-based company, which would be worth around $2.1 million based on recent prices. As reported, last year, Simon moved Aris Industries, XOXO and its other divisions out of manufacturing and into licensing in an alliance with a large Mexican conglomerate, Grupo Xtra, owned by the industrialist Isaac Saba with annual volume of $3 billion.

No information on the motive for the investment was provided. According to the most recent data available, Simon holds a 56.3 percent stake in the firm.

Tarrant is headquartered in Los Angeles and does much of its production in Mexico. The SEC disclosure followed Tarrant’s statement last week that it has hired Pilar Charo as president of TagMex Inc., its full-package denim operation based in Tlaxcala Pueblo, Mexico.

Charo will report to Tarrant chief executive officer Eddy Yuen, who was promoted from the top Mexico post in October.

Charo was formerly president of the Guatemalan firm Koramsa Manufacturing & Trading Co., a full-package contractor.

In a statement, Yuen said Charo will be responsible for marketing the company’s Mexico operation and said he expects Charo to “provide a clearer message to our customers.” Tarrant produces for department stores and major specialty chains.