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Mecca Femme

This story first appeared in the January 29, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

What does Japanese art have in common with hip-hop culture? They both inspired the relaunched Mecca Femme collection.

Called Kabuki Hip Hop, the spring and early fall lines were inspired by the work of Iona Kozeal Brown. Vice president and creative director Steven Robinson said he saw the artist’s paintings at the Studio Museum of Harlem and knew he had to use some of what he saw in the Mecca Femme collection.

“I saw this exhibit and was so inspired by it,” he said. “The collection is really based around the merging of the Japanese culture with the hip-hop lifestyle.”

The result is a line of fashion-inspired urbanwear, including the upside-down denim jacket that will be sold with a hangtag detailing how the customer should wear it; a satin halter top in rich colors like black and cream; satin bomber jackets; athletic tracksuits; dresses, and jeans.

“The biggest challenge for me as a creative director is to redefine the vision of this company by giving it a definitive fashion direction each season because the word ‘urban’ is so misunderstood in this market,” Robinson said. “Department stores have not tapped into this market fully yet because they do not expect to see as much fashion, they think T-shirt, fleece and jeans — Mecca Femme is so much more than that.”

Produced under license by Dollz Sportswear Inc., Mecca Femme used to be known for its traditional urbanwear, such as in fleece and terry tracksuits and logo Ts. Now the collection is based around fashion denim and more sophisticated logos.

The line will officially launch at MAGIC in Las Vegas on Feb. 23. According to Sunil Maikani, vice president of operations for the line, Mecca Femme will reach $25 million in sales in the first year at retail. Maikani said he will advertise beginning with the March issues of In Style, Vibe and Source magazines, along with some billboards for back-to-school. Advertising will be supported by some radio, mall events and concert sponsorships.

Pelle Pelle

A popular label in men’s since 1978, Pelle Pelle is ready to join the fray in women’s.

The Detroit-based company is launching a fall collection under license to Athletic Image, a Montreal-based firm that also produces the Joe’s Jeans and Triple 5 Soul lines throughout Canada. The line is set to bow at MAGIC in Las Vegas next month.

The brand, which will also do a small test line for spring, features an array of denim jeans with matching jackets, logo T-shirts, cotton tracksuits and miniskirts. Each piece has a sexy detail, like the jeans with see-through mesh stripes running down each side and super-tight capri overalls.

Wholesaling between $10 and $40, the fall line was inspired by Eighties looks, such as the corset miniskirt to be worn with black lace leggings. Almost every outfit on the line can be worn with a matching accessory, such as the newsboy cap that matches the fleece and velvet tracksuits.

“When I was given the opportunity to design Pelle Pelle Ladies, I looked into the meaning of the word Pelle,” said Irene Healey, designer of the collection. “It means ‘skin’ in Italian, which to me means sexy.”

Although Pelle Pelle attempted to launch a line of women’s wear years ago and failed, this time they are sure they’ve got it right.

“It was small when they first did the line,” said Daniel Yadgard, national sales manager of Pelle Pelle Ladies. “It was designed in-house by the same designers who did the men’s and it was basically the same line, just made smaller. So it didn’t work.”

Already picked up by such specialty retailers as Up Against the Wall and Mony, Yadgard said while it is an urban-rooted line, he thinks it has the potential to reach nonurban retailers as well. The collection will be supported by an ad campaign in magazines such as King and Vibe.

Yadgard said he expects to reach $5 million in sales within the first year at retail.

School of Hard Knocks

After more than a decade in men’s wear, School of Hard Knocks is making something for the women.

The company, which produced men’s wear under a license agreement with Nesi Apparel since 1998, broke from Nesi and signed with Sole City Apparel last May to continue men’s wear. Now, the company is set to launch a women’s line under the School of Hard Knocks Ladies label with the help of Minerva Textiles.

The result is a collection of logo T-shirts, tracksuits and denim jeans, ready for a soft spring launch and full fall line to bow at MAGIC. While the first collection for women is heavily logo-driven, the logo will fade as seasons pass, said Gerard Murray, who owns the brand with his wife, Carol. The couple has been in the apparel business since the early Nineties, when they took over their family-owned store, Vons, an urban apparel and accessories store in Corona, N.Y. The store, which started as a destination for various urban labels, is now the School of Hard Knocks flagship and only carries the School of Hard Knocks apparel, as well as footwear from Nike and Timberland.

“Girls come in all the time and buy the guy stuff in as small a size as they can get, so now we can offer a line just for them,” Murray said.

Besides the Vons store, the School of Hard Knocks Ladies line will be available in Mony, Man Alive and Underground Station, among other specialty retailers. Key items include logo Ts in bright shades of yellow, pink and blue, logo terry tracksuits with sequin details and tight-fitting, self-belted jeans. Wholesale prices range from $10 for a tank to $40 for outerwear.

The company will support the launch with a run of ads in such magazines as Vibe, Teen People and Complex. According to Sharon Lawrence, director of sales and marketing, the concept of the ads is to showcase a group of powerful girls — in this case they are models posed as a rock band.

According to Nouri Chaya, vice president of the Ladies line, the company expects to bring in $20 million the first year.

Honee

With the help of a seasoned designer and the backing of an established parent company, Honee is off to a strong start.

Honee, a new urban-rooted junior collection from SoHo Fashions, is launching for spring retail and is already scheduled to hang in stores such as Against All Odds, Dr. Jay’s and Up Against The Wall. According to Elliot Shalom, president of SoHo Fashions, the line will bring in between $6 million and $8 million in the first year, and will extend to $30 million in five years.

While the first season’s collection of T-shirts, tracksuits and miniskirts is logo-heavy to help get the name out there, designer Robyn Webb said the logo, which displays a sketch of three girls she calls the “triple-threat girls,” will fade as the collection grows.

For back-to-school selling, Webb said the line will include cheerleader-inspired miniskirts with matching zip-up hoodies and a collegiate-looking “H” printed on it, and denim miniskirts.

“At first I wasn’t going to do a lot of denim, but now I see how well the samples came out,” Webb said.

The designer joined SoHo Fashions to launch Honee last year. Prior to that, she was at Rocawear, where she was in design for three years. While she started Honee with the urban customer in mind, Webb said she hopes the line will appeal to a variety of lifestyles.

“I don’t want it to be known as just urban,” she said. “I believe there are elements that appeal to the surfer girl, skater girl, so many girls.”

SoHo Fashions already produces outerwear for Baby Phat, Phat Farm, Steve Madden and Def Jam University brands. It will also introduce Honee outerwear for fall.

The line wholesales between $12 for a T-shirt and $60 for an outerwear piece. The company plans to advertise the spring line in March issues of Vibe and Elle Girl magazines. It will have a more extensive ad plan to include outdoor beginning for b-t-s.