NEW YORK — Remember the early Eighties, when that white-stitched horse head on the back pocket of the skinniest jeans around was the epitome of cool? Well, just when you thought those Jordache creations — complete with the impossibly high-rise waist and second-skin fit — were relegated to the land of vintage finds on eBay, they’re back. Of course, this time around, the rise is lower and there’s a bit of stretchy give to circumvent the painful process of lying down on the bed to squirm in and zip up.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Jordache Enterprises Inc. will relaunch the new-and-improved jeans just after the July 4th weekend. And Shaul Nakash, 27, hopes he can create the same fanatic buzz for the renaissance versions as their predecessors enjoyed. After all, he’s got legacy on his side — his father, Ralph, and uncles, Joe and Avi, were the ones who started the company in the late Seventies, eventually introducing the iconic jeans a few years later.
Although the Nakash brothers stopped producing the jeans in the late Eighties, they kept their hands in the denim world and currently manufacture or license lines for Wal-Mart, Tommy Hilfiger, Gap, Fubu, Old Navy, Limited, Express and American Eagle, to name a few. All told, the company’s apparel business was estimated at $500 million in 2003, according to Hoovers.com. Meanwhile, Jordache also has commercial real estate holdings in New York, Chicago and Israel, and produces Halutza Olive Oil, made in Israel and sold worldwide.
When Shaul Nakash thought of relaunching the signature jeans line, he had to persuade his father and uncles that there is life outside the mass market. He had to convince them that they were sitting on a veritable gold mine when it came to slipping back into designer jeans.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” he says of the project. “Everyone tells me, ‘You don’t know how big Jordache was back in the day. You don’t know what a company your father built.’”
But, in fact, he does know. He remembers being right in the thick of it. “All the kids at school asked me for free jeans,” he recalls. “All the kids’ parents asked their kids to ask me for free jeans. I was like, ‘They’re 20 bucks. Go buy a pair.’”
In part, what has spurred Nakash into action is the current craze for status jeans not unlike the demand of the early Eighties.
“My family started designer jeans and we don’t have a piece of that pie,” he says, referring to the current booming denim market. “We need to compete. There’s not a person in America who doesn’t know what Jordaches are. How could we not capitalize on the brand?”
And given the family history, it irks him to see his wife, mother and two sisters buy jeans elsewhere. “My wife was coming home every week with a different pair of Sevens,” he says, noting that he himself is a Diesel fan. “I still think they are the greatest jeans maker in the world. They’re fabulous.”
The first thing Nakash did was to transfer the brand’s iconic horse head logo to the back pocket of a more modern cut, then worry about fit. He says he did extensive research — both group studies and anecdotal inquiries — to figure out what women look for in jeans. “Basically, girls want to look good,” he notes. “They want their butts to look good.” In fact, good-looking female butts are a topic of high concern to Nakash, as they are to many young men, and he’s delighted to be able to help. “You push the side seams forward,” he says, “and it makes the ass look more flattering.”
The relaunch will feature four different styles — flared in stretch and rigid denim, stretch boot and slim cut — to retail for $130, as well as denim pencil skirts and minis to retail for $125. Still on the drawing board: a line of T-shirts featuring Jordache prints from the Seventies and Eighties.
“I don’t want to sell to everyone,” Nakash says of his plan for a miniscule distribution. “I want it to be really exclusive.” To date he has lined up Tracey Ross and Fred Segal in Los Angeles and New York’s Atrium, and is courting Scoop, Intermix and Cantaloup.
Throughout the process, Nakash has kept a pair of vintage jeans, circa 1983 — purchased on eBay — close by for inspiration, always aware that the family footsteps are indeed big ones in which to follow. The old jeans also serve as a barometer of just how much the demands of the denim world have changed. “I still laugh about how people wore these jeans,” Nakash muses, fingering that famous 13-inch rise. “I would never wear these.”
— Nandini D’Souza