The Terminal Stores, site of the trade show Blue.

Denim brands exhibiting at the Project and Blue trade shows in New York during the last two weeks found continued success with skinny silhouettes, dark washes and clean finishes, but also noticed buyers getting more conservative in their spending habits.

Rock Angels Run Wild In New Diesel Campaign
Diesel’s ads have often ruffled feathers, but never on such a large scale — 18-foot-high angel wings, to be exact.

Diesel’s new “Highway to Heaven” campaign, photographed by Terry Richardson in black and white, imagines what would happen if rock ’n’ roll types crashed the pearly gates. Diesel called on French atelier Lemarié, known for creating heavenly feathered creations for haute couture, to design the angels’ wings. The Paris shoot was styled by Patty Wilson.

The Diesel creative team, along with Paris agency Gossip, came up with the campaign’s theme, putting the mischievous angels in the midst of Diesel-clad mortals in a series of scenarios that are more often than not ripe with sexual suggestion.

In one scene, a female angel in an elevator — presumably now on her way down — has written her phone number on a stray feather for a shirtless, male hunk in extremely low-rise jeans.

In another, an angel stands between a Diesel jeans-clad couple with his wings outstretched around their shoulders, the woman’s hand resting on his celestial rump. In another, a woman rages at her boyfriend after having found a telltale feather in their bed, though not the male angel hiding under it.

The ads started running in the major men’s wear magazines in July and will continue into August, but the major print offensive — with as many as seven-page runs — will be in September’s titles, including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Nylon and Paper in the U.S., a spokesman said.

Diesel declined to give specifics about the cost of the campaign, but said the company annually spends 5 to 7 percent of its worldwide sales on marketing. Since Diesel had sales of about 1 billion euros in 2005, or $1.25 billion, that would put the ad budget at between 50 million and 70 million euros, or $63 million to $88 million at current exchange. However, a spokeswoman noted that this season’s ad budget is “a bit higher than last season’s,” given the outdoor advertising going up in European cities as well as in Hong Kong. In Berlin, an angel motif with 3-D wings hung off the Sony Center during the recent Bread & Butter and Premium fairs there.

This story first appeared in the July 27, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Diesel is backing up the print campaign with a guerilla marketing effort. Angels will appear in cities and at a range of events across the U.S., and the company has created fake Web sites and blogs such as loab.org, the site of the League of Angel Believers, or fallenwings.org, to get customers more engaged with the brand.
Melissa Drier

Skinny Drives N.Y. Shows
Denim brands exhibiting at the Project and Blue trade shows in New York during the last two weeks found continued success with skinny silhouettes, dark washes and clean finishes, but also noticed buyers getting more conservative in their spending habits.

At Project, which ran July 17-19 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, denim brands saw buyers taking fewer risks when it came to newer brands. Elena Pickett, vice president of women’s sales at Joe’s Jeans, said retailers are focused on expanding their business by going deeper on a few core products that have been proven performers. Pickett pointed to Atrium in New York as an example, with the store paring down its offering of denim brands to around 55 from 75 this year.

“The retailers are being wiser with their money to drive their sales increases,” said Pickett.

Chris Seelig, a representative with Base Showroom, which handles the Wrangler 47 line, believes buyers are now more comfortable with established denim brands.

“[Buyers] want something that’s not the latest, greatest thing, something classic,” said Seelig, adding that name brands help eliminate the need for guesswork on the part of buyers. For spring, Seelig believes styles will get more relaxed. “Skinny is not going away, but we’re feeling this other thing. You’ll see more relaxed silhouettes, maybe the boyfriend jean.”

The move toward dark washes and cleaner looks has presented a challenge to brands that made their name on their distinctive washes, unique texturing methods and often over-the-top back-pocket details. As a result, brands are paying particular attention to fabrics and the materials used for detail work, such as stitching.

“People are looking for denim with character, and the character is in the fabric,” said Rebecca Lerner, a sales representative for Union Jeans. The problem, said Lerner, is that darker washes often end up looking plain.

Gianpiero DiBitonto, vice president of sales at Jet Lag, said the market was “fairly flooded with dark washes.” Jet Lag has responded by moving to a higher-end fabric. The company has also put emphasis on its finer details, such as using metallic yarn for stitching and adding small embroidered Italian flags on belt loops. “On dark washes, what’s bringing things out is more novelty,” said DiBitonto.

Premium denim brands exhibiting at the second edition of Blue, which ran July 24-26 at the Terminal Stores, a former train tunnel in west Chelsea built in the 1890s, found momentum had remained strong among buyers, largely due to the appetite for skinny styles.

“Our number-one model is our supermodel skinny, if that tells you anything,” said David Long, one of the founders of the new Mynk line. “There have been some great buyers here. Some who couldn’t make it to Project made it here, so it’s been good.”

With fewer than 100 exhibitors, the show gave buyers a clearer view of trends and provided another opportunity to firm up product assortments.

“A lot of buyers are making sure they have everything they need, making sure their Ts are crossed,” said Sarah Garonzik, a senior account executive with Hudson jeans. “I think a lot are also looking for spring merchandise that might jump out at them, so they can be first on the trend.”

Vince Gonzales, chief operating officer of Meltin’ Pot, said buyers were more confident after having been to several shows. “People are a little more focused,” said Gonzales. “They know what they’re looking for and I think they’re ready to buy now.”

While dark and clean are the dominant trends, buyers aren’t completely abandoning more detail-heavy stylings, according to Scott Saltzman, a sales manager with J & Company. “We have customers who still want the back-pocket detailing even though everyone says it’s dying,” said Saltzman. Buyers have been attracted to more tailored looks, and Saltzman said buyers gravitated toward the brand’s use of traditional men’s fabrics cut in jean styles.

Brian Robbins, founder of Denim Design Lab, which produces do-it-yourself kits for denim fanatics looking to dye and texture their own jeans, sees the market swinging back to distressed looks.

“It got so raw and dark and plain. If everyone does that, companies are going to look the same,” said Robbins. “I think it won’t go back to the extreme of distressing, but things will move to some level of a naturally distressed appearance.”
Ross Tucker

Anointing a Bishop
Chachi Prasad and Karam Kim want to bring old-world tailoring and a philanthropic focus to denim with the fall launch of Bishop of Seventh.

The boyfriend-and-girlfriend team initially didn’t jump into the denim market. In March 2004, they founded their own contemporary tops company, Prasad Karam. Before starting the company, Prasad spent 18 months in product development at John Varvatos. Kim put in two years designing for Yigal Azrouël’s Y-Yigal contemporary dress line.

Soon after opening, however, they decided to shift their focus to bottoms and, in November 2005, moved production to Los Angeles from New York. They are moving their corporate headquarters to Los Angeles, and have already started production there in a downtown factory employing 20 workers.

In March, Prasad and Kim unveiled a new name for their line, Bishop of Seventh, which pays homage to their roots on New York’s Seventh Avenue, and a test collection featuring nine styles for fall. They booked orders from more than 100 high-end retailers, including Nordstrom’s Savvy department, Stanley Korshak in Dallas and Wynn Las Vegas. With wholesale prices of $90 to $150 for denim and $120 to $160 for stretch-fabric trousers, the company expects to generate an estimated $1.5 million from combined sales of the fall and spring collections. There are plans to expand the line to 11 styles for next spring.

Prasad said he and Kim like to blur the lines between sophisticated trousers and casual jeans. The jeans feature mock-welt pockets, and the trousers have a five-pocket design. The line’s distinctive features include saddle stitching along the inseam of each pant leg.

Prasad and Kim are donating a portion of sales to charities, which they hope will help the brand stand out in the saturated denim market. Ten percent of sales of their boot-cut “The 35th St.” jeans, which are blessed by a Tibetan Buddhist monk and feature a velvet embroidery of the brand’s signature cross logo, will benefit the human rights organization EarthRights International. Next year, Prasad and Kim will work with health care charity Project Hope, and they aim to collaborate with more charities each season.

“It’s a new philosophy in business, and more people should do it,” Prasad said. “We’re trying to do something positive with the fashion industry.”

Bishop of Seventh’s designs and connection to philanthropy resonated with Loree Lindgren, owner of denim boutique Hem Jeans in Austin, Texas, who ordered four styles from the fall collection. “We all spend money on ourselves, and when we are able to tie that into something good, we feel good,” Lindgren said.
Mengly Taing

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