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NEW YORK — The junior line Duchesse Jeans plans to expand into the contemporary market for fall with a new line called 5 p.m.

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

Bhinda and Eva Rajwans, the husband-and-wife team that run the brand in the U.S., said their goal is to build a presence in high-end department stores, beyond the teen specialty stores that is the junior line’s base.

“If you’re selling Duchesse into specialty stores as $40, $50 jeans, you can’t bring that same product to Neiman Marcus or Bloomingdale’s,” said Bhinda, who serves as director of sales and production.

Eva, who is director of design and merchandising, added, “Telling the consumer this used to be a $58 brand and now it’s a $78 brand is not going to work.”

Jeans in the new line, which is due to begin shipping in April, will wholesale for $24 to $30, well over the core $13 to $16 wholesale price range for Duchesse. The 5 p.m. line includes about 15 styles of denim jeans in fashion silhouettes, with low-rises and waistband treatments.

The key difference in the 5 p.m. line is that it incorporates higher-quality fabrics and higher-end finishing processes than the junior line, Bhinda said.

“If you’re going to pay for the dips and the yarns, you’re going to get good quality denim,” he said.

The target customers are young women starting off their careers — and the name is a nod to making the transition from wearing jeans all the time to just after work.

The company is owned by the Paris-based Kartet Group, which also owns the factories in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China, that produce the jeans. Bhinda said that gives the line significant financial flexibility. “If we don’t make [margin] on the wholesale level, we can make it at the manufacturing level,” he noted.

In an interview at the company’s Manhattan showroom, Eva noted that owning production also allows greater fashion flexibility in the company’s core junior market. She said, “We’ve been popping out new styles every 10 days or so.”

The Duchesse line launched in August 2002 and last year brought in revenues of about $10 million, Bhinda said. Separately, the company is also rolling out a limited collection of T-shirts bearing the Duchesse brand.