THEIR TARGETED DEMOGRAPHIC MAY BE YEARS APART, BUT THE ONE THING LAFAYETTE 148 AND Y BY JERELL HAVE IN COMMON IS THE PURSUIT OF THE DISCERNING SHOPPER.

Y BY JERELL

One-year-old junior sportswear line Y by Jerell is targeting style-savvy teens whose interests extend beyond pink bubble gum and boy bands.

“Y is about more sophisticated looks for the older juniors who want something cleaner and sleeker,” said Maricela David, the collection’s designer and merchandiser.

David joined Dallas-based Jerell Inc. in 1999, after working as a designer in Los Angeles at Kellwood Co.’s ENC label. Jerell recruited David to help design the company’s defunct Selena label and to launch Y.

It’s a move she doesn’t regret, as Y has proven a big retail success, generating about $1 million in first-year sales.

For now, Y is only sold at its launch retailers, J.C. Penney Co. and Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which operates retail stores on military bases, but there are plans to roll the line out to other stores in 2002.

“The line is very trendy and hip without being too cutesy,” said David. “For summer and early fall, we’re doing more romantic and less overt sex appeal. There are peasant and young Edwardian references along with interesting neckline treatments on shirts, which I saw on the streets and in clubs in Los Angeles. You have to keep your eyes and ears open to emerging trends when trying to satisfy juniors.”

To satisfy juniors’ fickle tastes, Y offers about 20 fresh styles every 30 days to insure that retailers always have something new with which to entice teens.

“Juniors are in and out of trends so quickly, so we have to work very close to the season,” said David. “We’re targeting a young, trend-conscious demographic that’s extremely important to fashion and retail. It’s also a lot of fun to design for juniors.”

Spring and summer styles also include novelty denim flared pants, woven mixed media shirts that incorporate sheer panels, beading and prints, floaty ruffled peasant tops and hints of lace on many styles.

Wholesale prices range from $10 to $13 for tops and $16 to $18 for bottoms.

LAFAYETTE 148

While many of its counterparts grapple with lackluster sales figures, sportswear firm Lafayette 148 New York is flying high.

The five-year-old company expects sales in 2002 to reach between $33 million and $35 million, a 10 to 15 percent increase over 2001’s sales of $30 million and six times the modest $6 million the company earned its first year.

Lafayette 148 New York — named after the firm’s address in lower Manhattan — sells designer fabrics at bridge prices and relies heavily on trunk shows at small boutiques, which allows the company to skirt shoppers’ “discount it-or-forget-it” mentality.

“It’s all about our product,” said company executive vice president Aileen Dresner. “Although our price points are bridge, our aesthetic is designer. Our fabrics are exceptional, the finest European ones out there. Our design is very special. That’s what separates us from our competition.”

Wholesale prices range from $125 to $145 for pants; $198 to $275 for jackets; $90 to 125 for skirts; $88 to $125 for blouses and $148 to $248 for dresses.

Dresner said business in the New York City area was sluggish following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, although elsewhere in the U.S., shoppers and buyers are snapping up the line.

“Business certainly is challenging in the New York area, where retail was the most directly effected by the events of Sept. 11, but elsewhere business is good,” she said.

Lafayette 148 New York’s design director, Edward Wilkerson, said he steers clear of whimsical trends and attends trunk shows to find out what women want.

“Our customer doesn’t work at Vogue — there’s nobody to impress,” said Wilkerson, who joined the company three years ago after stints at Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Anne Klein. “Our customer has been through the trends, and now she’s looking for an easier, sophisticated way of dressing. So our clothes are not gimmicky and tricky. They’re for everyday living, not the runway. And our clients want the same things again and again.”

Wilkerson said he is conscious of women’s different body types and tries to cater to all sorts of figures.

“You can’t be everyone’s best friend, but I try,” he said. “So I give the larger woman an easier jacket that’s more slimming.”

Wilkerson enjoys featuring a variety of fabrics, including cashmere, organza and silk mohair, in the line.

“My inspiration comes from the fabrics themselves,” Wilkerson said. “I look at each one and visualize it as a rack of clothes. Everything starts with the texture, the drapiness. That’s what determines the silhouette.”

Iridescent silk shantung and shimmering silk tape yarn knits set the pace for spring-summer 2002.

“They have a beautiful luster,” Dresner said. “They can take you to the office, straight to dinner or even an afternoon wedding.”

Though Wilkerson has waists on his mind for spring — with draped sashes or belts on many jackets and cardigans — he also has alternatives for women who don’t want to flaunt their curves.

“We also have a jacket that’s very Jackie O — boxy, with three-quarter sleeves and novelty buttons,” he said. “That would be beautiful on pretty much anyone.”

The collection’s primary colors for spring include navy, coral, chartreuse, fuchsia and chrome yellow — standouts that Wilkerson hopes will lure customers to his racks at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom, Jacobson’s and the more than 200 specialty stores that carry line. A third of the line’s sales are generated by trunk shows held at boutiques, which in Texas include Julian Gold, San Antonio; Mary Beth’s, Dallas; Turtletique, Dallas; Valentine’s Too, El Paso and Mary V’s, Tyler.

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