Travel On, Young Pants

This story first appeared in the June 6, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

To Ann Brashares, a pair of jeans can be much more than covering for the legs. They can be an emotional reservoir.

“I loved the idea of a piece of clothing as a transformative object and one where you could store a lot of emotions and experiences,” said the author of the novel “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” (Delacorte Press, New York, 294 pages.)

The jeans concerned are “a soft, changeable blue with a little extra fading at the knees and white wavelets at the cuffs” — no resin coatings or potassium blasting here — and are found at a thrift store by Carmen, one of the four adolescent members of the sisterhood.

The girls — Lena, Tibby, Bridget and Carmen — decide the pants are magical after discovering that they fit each of them perfectly despite significant differences in body type — Brashares called that improbable phenomenon “the fantasy part of the book.” The characters are preparing to spend their first summer apart, and decide that each of them will have the pants for a portion of the summer to better remember each other by.

They write a series of elaborate rules for wearing the pants, including two fashion dictums: Rule two is: “You must never double-cuff the pants. It’s tacky. There will never be a time when this will not be tacky.” Rule 10 is: “You must not wear the pants with a tucked-in shirt and belt. See rule number two.”

While Brashares herself prefers red pants, the mother of three said, “I don’t currently have a favorite pair of jeans and that may be because of lot of the low cuts don’t totally suit a person of my advanced age, which is mid-30s.”

However, she has had another shared clothing experience. While searching for a wedding dress, an acquaintance insisted on giving Brashares the one she had worn for her failed marriage. Brashares was reluctant to wear the dress until she saw it and realized it was the exact design she had fallen in love with while looking at photos of a stranger’s wedding at a Washington hall she was considering. Brashares wore that dress for her wedding and has since lent it out to her best friend and two now-sisters-in-law.

Nautica’s Ad Look

Nautica Jeans Co.’s fall ad campaign is to focus on its boot-cut and low-rise styles, in an effort to emphasize its current fashion offerings. Print ads, due to hit newsstands in the late-summer issues of women’s magazines including Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Jane, feature the low-rise, cuffed style and were shot by Tom Munro in Oakdale, N.Y. Also to bow in August are new in-store ads, featuring boot-cut styles, shot by Munro in Hoboken, N.J.

Buddy to the Back

There’s a limit to what one can expect out of a 14-inch-tall guy. He may be tough, but he’s not always the best model — unless one is trying to sell infants’ clothing.

That realization prompted Lee Co. to move its spokesdoll Buddy Lee into the background of its fall TV ad campaigns for Lee Dungarees. The spots retain the humorous danger of the recent campaigns in which the doll starred. In one of the two upcoming 30-second spots, the human protagonist makes the ill-advised decision of picking up an apparently dead emu, putting it into the back seat of his car and learning just how hard it is to drive with an angry 135-pound flightless bird as your passenger. The other ad shows the consequences of trying to motorize one’s own bike.

“Buddy Lee has taken the back seat,” said Kathy Collins, vice president of marketing for the Merriam, Kan.-based company at a party it held in Manhattan on Tuesday night to show off the new campaigns. “The product has come forward.”

The company also introduced the first TV campaign for its new Lee Performance Khakis, which incorporate Nano-tex stain-resistant fabric and are to hit retail stores next month. In that spot a woman’s mother challenges her to spill red wine on the pants and see if it stains — it doesn’t.

Gordon Harton, Lee’s president, said the men’s version of the pants, which shipped in time for Father’s Day retailing, has sold well thus far.

“The casual pants category has been soft, but some innovation will help,” he said of the Nano-tex pants.

Lee also unveiled its fall print ad campaign for the Riveted by Lee sub-brand. All the ads were created by Fallon Minneapolis. The Lee Dungarees spots are to break in mid-July and run through the end of the year on late-night network and cable television. The Performance Khakis spots are to break in mid-September during the Emmy Awards and also air during Oprah’s television show and on the Food Network. The print campaign is to run in the September through December issues of Glamour, O the Oprah magazine, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Ladies’ Home Journal, Health and More.

While the industry is hoping that the fall will usher in a pickup in apparel interest, Mackey McDonald, chairman and chief executive of Lee’s parent company, VF Corp., said that recent apparel sales have remained spotty.

“The apparel business is still in an inconsistent time. You have good weeks and bad weeks” at retail, he said. VF’s sales have been “not bad” lately, he added, but he attributed that to retailers’ needs to rebuild their inventories rather than to strong consumer demand.

“There doesn’t seem to be any consistency in sell-throughs,” he explained.

Still, the spotty retail market hasn’t deterred VF’s interest in acquisitions, McDonald added, saying. “This is a good time to be looking for additional business.”

Lee also revealed the celebrity spokeswoman for this year’s Lee National Denim Day, a charity event on Oct. 4 that is intended to raise money for research to find a cure for breast cancer. She is Melina Kanakaredes, of the TV program “Providence.”

Denim Day, in which U.S. workers and students donate $5 to the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in exchange for wearing jeans to work or school for a day, has raised about $30 million in its six-year history. This year’s goal is to raise $7.5 million, according to Collins.

Mavi Lands in Australia

Turkish brand Mavi Jeans this month expects to begin shipping jeans to Australia, a country that president Ersin Akarlilar described as the next logical step for a brand that’s now distributed in the U.S., the U.K. and Scandinavia, as well as its native country.

“Australia is very similar to Europe and North America, it’s a very natural way of expanding without changing too much of the product line or sizing,” he said. “If you were to go to the Far East, the sizing and fashion sense is more different than in Australia.”

The company has named Paul Hootman to manage its Sydney office and aims to hit the $15 million sales mark in Australia within the next three to five years, Akarlilar said. Overall, the company is hoping to grow its sales — which were a little shy of $250 million last year — by a percentage rate in the low teens this year, he added.”

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