NEW YORK — Denim designers Kellie Delkeskamp and John Cherpas are back in the game.

The pair started the fashion denim line Fever Jean in 1998, but by January 2003 they were dropped by their producer, the moderate career apparel maker John Paul Richards Inc.

“They thought they weren’t making enough money on us, so we closed,” Delkeskamp said. “The denim world is a Peyton Place. It’s like a soap opera.”

So they set out to come up with a new plan.

“One day, sitting on John’s balcony, we realized the only thing that would make us happy was the five-pocket business,” Delkeskamp said. “We wanted to create something that looks rugged and rigid, but is sexy on the body.”

After eight months of development, Grass had its first delivery this April. “It is a sexy fitting [pair of pants] for skinny or voluptuous girls,’’ Cherpas said. “It really runs the gamut. Plus, we only use Cone denim, which we love.”

The key is that the jeans are cut in a way that elongates the thigh.

“A lot of designers go after the butt, but ours make the leg look really long,” Delkeskamp said.

“But it makes your butt look good, too,” Cherpas said. “And when you sit down, your crack doesn’t show. We’re over that whole thing.”

Grass is available at specialty boutiques, including Atrium in New York and Ron Herman at Fred Segal in Los Angeles, as well as a handful of boutiques in Japan.

“We want to build a brand in the specialty boutiques before we target the department stores,” Cherpas said.

“This first year, we’re projecting about $2 million in sales,” Delkeskamp said. “After that, who knows what will happen?”

Cherpas hopes to double that figure for the following year when they plan on going after European markets — boutiques in Germany, France and the U.K. Both insist there is no rush to target department stores.

“We don’t want to lose exclusivity,” Delkeskamp said. “There’s so much denim out there and we’re in it for the long haul.”

This story first appeared in the September 23, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“The grass is greener” has become the label’s official slogan because “it’s an amazing metaphor for what we’ve gone through,” Cherpas said.

“Green is also the color of money,” Delkeskamp added.

— L.D.