NEW YORK — When it comes to clothes, teens spend their money freely. Whether she is a hip-hop princess in her newest duds from Lady Enyce or she keeps it underground in her wide-leg Illig pants, this customer knows what she wants. With the help of DMX Music, WWD profiled six of the most popular teen styles.
This story first appeared in the November 20, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Teen customers come in all stripes and so do teen styles. Through this diversity runs a common theme — they love clothes and the images they portray. According to STS Market Research, teen girls spent $4.5 billion on casual sportswear during the last year.
The True Junior Teen
In Her iPod: Beyoncé, Pink, All American Rejects.
Favorite Brands: XOXO, Rampage, Dollhouse, Necessary Objects, Unionbay, Hot Kiss, Self Esteem, American Rag.
Where She Shops: Forever 21, Wet Seal, Anchor Blue, Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Charlotte Russe, Delia’s, Urban Outfitters.
With more competition in the junior apparel arena than ever and teens being more fickle when it comes to spending money on clothes, the traditional junior apparel business has its work cut out. Teens are not only looking for the latest trends, but they are looking for the best buys they can find.
But when a brand offers what they want, teens will spend and the numbers prove it. According to STS Market Research, the junior apparel market is a $4.5 billion industry.
In order for these companies to get their customers to spend money, the offerings have to be good, which is why licensing is such a big step for them.
Necessary Objects, the New York-based junior sportswear firm, has been in the business for 22 years; owner Ady Gluck-Frankel has just signed her first license with International Intimates Inc. to create a line of teen-appropriate lingerie. For Gluck-Frankel, finding the right partner was key and that’s why she waited 22 years.
Other junior brands have been faster to enter the licensing arena. Dollhouse started almost right away with accessories and distribution throughout Asia, where the brand has been picking up steam. Hot Kiss has also been working on licensing as it just signed a deal for lingerie.
Other junior labels work to associate themselves with celebrities to catch the attention of the customer, with Jennifer Lopez making the move to launch her own line of better junior apparel. Candie’s chooses to profile celebrities in its ad campaigns each year — having used Kelly Clarkson, Ashanti and Kelly Osbourne, just to name a few.
Then there is XOXO, the brand that many department stores still call their top seller in the junior apparel arena. The 10-year-old label ran into some trouble with its former owners, but is in the process of redeveloping its image, as Kellwood Co. has taken over the sportswear and dresses portion of the brand.
The Street Teen
In her iPod: The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, White Stripes
Her Favorite Brands: Akdmks, UFO, Dickies Girl, Illig, Von Dutch, Strange Cargo, Trash
Favorite Stores: Hot Topic, Torrid
She doesn’t care much for Britney Spears or Juicy Couture. Pop culture just isn’t cool enough. The street customer thinks the coolest clothes are made by those companies that keep their image underground and out of the mainstream. While the traditional street customer might think she is underground, the marketing that these companies do is usually quite planned out so it seems underground.
Take Dickies Girl. The Los Angeles-based company is selective in advertising and with its presence in the press because customers prefer it that way, according to Masud Sarshar, the company’s chief executive officer and creative director.
Dickies Girl’s message is that it supports and respects all girls who are individuals, intelligent, confident leaders and are not followers, and through its support of events such as the All Girl Skate Jam, presented by Dickies Girl and Queen of Surf.
“Our whole marketing strategy is based on the underground image,” he told WWD in August. “The cool kids don’t want to be associated with mainstream pop culture, so neither do we.”
While this customer might think she is wearing clothes that are based on styles started by the underground crowd, it is more of a trend than it ever was — witnessed by the pop star status of Avril Lavigne, Gwen Stefani and Pink, whose images are not the traditional bubblegum variety.
“If you look at the world today, there’s war, economy and terrorism,” David Alpern, sales manager at New York-based streetwear firm Illig, said to WWD last year. “Bubblegum music doesn’t apply.”
The Label-Conscious Teen
In Her iPod: Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Mark Ronson, OutKast.
Favorite Brands: DKNY Jeans, Polo Jeans, Tommy Jeans, Ralph by Ralph Lauren, CK Calvin Klein Jeans.
Where She Shops: Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s.
She loves labels. Maybe she can’t afford Calvin Klein or Donna Karan collections, but she can buy their jeans lines. It doesn’t seem like these brands have much of a problem reeling these teens in. While these labels can be easily found in junior departments at numerous department stores, each brand has a marketing strategy to advertise in magazines and on billboards, but also to go directly to their consumers.
Take DKNY Jeans, which in the past couple of months has held a runway event with Teen Vogue, bringing 180 teens in to meet their favorite soap opera stars and get a taste of what the stores will have for fall selling, and has sponsored Rock The Cure, a benefit concert for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. At the close of the event on Sept. 25 at Manhattan’s Supper Club, attendees worked to raise about $180,000 to support the cause.
With CK Calvin Klein Jeans, the marketing is equally as important. The company teamed with Nylon magazine earlier this year to launch a “Denim by Design” competition for third-year students at Parsons School of Design in New York. Students were asked to develop comprehensive conceptual sketches of outfits using denim based on the Calvin Klein aesthetic, which were then developed into finished products. The entries were judged by design directors from the CK Jeans design studio and Nylon’s editorial staff.
In addition, the company also advertised CK Jeans for the first time in Teen People, Jane, Lucky, Cosmopolitan and Cosmogirl.
Macy’s East, which has the largest junior department of any department store in New York, calls DKNY Jeans and Tommy Jeans two of its top five brands.
The Surf Teen
In Her iPod: No Doubt, Linkin Park
Favorite Brands: Roxy, Billabong, OP, O’Neil, Toes on the Nose, Rip Curl, Volcom
Where She Shops: Quiksilver Boardriders Club, Pacific Sunwear, Blades, Board & Skate
Surfing’s revival was evidenced this year when “Blue Crush” hit movie theaters, MTV’s “Surf Girls” saw strong viewership and Quiksilver opened a surf shop in New York’s Times Square. It’s clear that surfwear isn’t just for surfers anymore. It’s part of a cool lifestyle to which many teens aspire, and while they may live in the middle of Kansas, their minds are on Newport Beach in Southern California.
Whether they are urban or suburban, it seems that teens across the country are grabbing onto the surf lifestyle as they sport the newest board shorts from Roxy and T-shirts from Billabong. According to Sean Smith, managing director of the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association, the U.S. surf industry generated $3.3 billion in commerce last year, up from $2.2 billion just five years ago. He said about 95 percent of those dollars come from soft goods, including apparel.
These brands are learning how to bank on these teens. Not only did OP launch a new line of contemporary surf gear called Seven2, but Roxy launched a cell phone with Motorola and even has a line of books, “Luna Bay,” which just hit stores over the summer. Modeled after the popular “Baby-Sitters Club” series and already endorsed by Scholastic Books, the $4.99 installments are written by Fran Lantz, a seasoned writer and surfer, and target the tween Roxy Girl customer.
“The idea is to grow the entire culture of women’s surfing,” Amy Snyder, vice president of marketing at Roxy, told WWD in August. “It’s not just about our brand, it’s about developing the industry and the sport as a whole and giving it some longevity. We know the consumer is smart enough that, if she’s intrigued by the lifestyle, she’ll support the companies that support the sport. I’m not going to pay $350 for designer boardshorts that don’t work in the water.”
But it’s not only the traditional surf brands taking note of the explosion of surf culture. Designers such as Anna Sui and Karl Lagerfeld have also taken note of the culture in recent collections by sending surf-inspired collections down the runways.
The Jeans Teen
In Her iPod: Beyoncé, Good Charlotte, Kelly Clarkson
Where She Shops: Macy’s, Wet Seal, Anchor Blue, J.C. Penney
Favorite Brands: Guess, L.E.I, Mudd, Paris Blues, Bubblegum, Angels, Bongo
Almost every teen is a jeans customer and these days she has quite the array of brands to fit her own style and budget. While many feel the denim industry has been losing steam in recent seasons, it still seems to be the fabric of choice for teens. They wear jeans to school, when they go out with friends and on the weekends. Ask any teen girl in the country and chances are she has more than two pairs of jeans in her wardrobe.
While many teens are unable to afford the high-end jeans sold at Barney’s and Bloomingdale’s, the junior denim arena offers plenty of the trendiest looks.
Just a few seasons ago, the “big three,” L.E.I, Mudd and Paris Blues, dominated the junior jeans floor in department stores. Today, many brands share the market. According to STS Market Research in Cambridge, Mass., women spent $5.26 billion on jeans in 2002, with $1.1 billion coming from teens.
Mudd Inc., which is still a strong teen jeans brand with more than $450 million in wholesale volume, is staying fresh by entering the higher-priced department store tier with a new line called Mudd Couture. Other brands are looking to get into a large-size category and launching junior plus collections, as Angels and L.E.I are now providing.
The Hip-Hop Teen
In Her iPod: Eve, Missy Elliot, Ludacris, Sean Paul.
Favorite Brands: Fubu, Ecko Red, Baby Phat, Lady Enyce, JLo by Jennifer Lopez, Rocawear, Southpole, Avirex, Fetish, Applebottoms.
Where She Shops: Up Against The Wall, DEMO, Jimmy Jazz, Dr. Jay’s, Epic, Against All Odds.
This market is booming. While this $6 billion industry is still young, teens just can’t seem to get enough of their favorite hip-hop-inspired music and clothing to match. As hip-hop culture continues to bounce from the streets of New York into the mainstream, urban and suburban teens want to be a part of it. They want to hear the latest from 50 Cent while wearing the newest jeans from Nelly’s new women’s line, Applebottoms.
While the trend in hip-hop fashion started with the guys — with Phat Farm, Fubu and Enyce — the girls are starting to listen more closely and the artists are working double-time as singers, TV stars and fashion designers. This year, rapper Eve launched her clothing line, Fetish, and Beyoncé Knowles is at the drawing board working on her line to bow sometime next year.
“Performing is not only about sharing my musical passions, but it’s also about expressing my individuality,” Eve told WWD in June. “By creating the Fetish fashion line, I’m able to express my creativity and love of fashion, and hopefully inspire others to follow their dreams.”
But it’s not just teens taking note of the hip-hop boom in fashion. Large companies like Kellwood Co. began a relationship with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons with the launches of Def Jam University and Run Athletics clothing lines. Industry sources told WWD in September that Simmons has signed a deal with Kellwood to purchase his Phat Fashions empire, which includes the Phat Farm and Baby Phat clothing lines.
Just last week, Liz Claiborne Inc., announced it has acquired Enyce Holdings from Sport Brands International for approximately $114 million, including the retirement of debt at closing. And while the business at Enyce is 84 percent men’s, the potential for the growth in women’s is high.
“The women’s business is very under penetrated,” said Karen Murray, group president of men’s wear at Claiborne, in an interview at Claiborne’s headquarters here at 1441 Broadway. “There’s no reason why the women’s shouldn’t be as big as the men’s.”
Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ Sean John line has also been receiving some outside dollars as Combs has signed a deal with California billionaire Ron Burkle, managing partner of The Yucaipa Cos., a private equity firm based in Los Angeles. Industry sources said Burkle has invested about $100 million in the $325 million-at-retail Sean John brand and has agreed to become a partner in the rapid growth of the label, which will include a full line of women’s wear beginning with the spring selling season.
It doesn’t end there. While specialty stores such as the Washington, D.C.-based Up Against The Wall have carried these hip-hop lines for years, major department stores are beginning to take notice. Junior brand XOXO is still a top performer for Macy’s East, where Robert Jezowski, executive vice president and general merchandise manager, said the category is growing rapidly.
“The street category is so important right now, there’s so much happening there,” he told WWD in August. “JLo is just getting better and better, when in the beginning it didn’t do so well at all.”
Jezowski said he is always thinking of making more room for these brands. When the junior floor went through its major renovation before the back-to-school season started, the hair salon that was on the floor was knocked out, creating room for Kangol, Rocawear and G-III. He also added street labels Triple 555 Soul and Lady Enyce.