Michael Stars is flashing back to the Eighties with the revival of its first ever T-shirt line.
Thirty years after its premiere, L’Tee Americaine is returning to some 40 retailers on March 3. What sets the line apart then and now is the tribal graffiti style of the artwork created by John Stars. Hieroglyphic birds, African masks and jubilant stick figures accompany the crudely written names of resort spots such as Mykonos, Bali, Polynesia and Cap d’Antibes.
In the Eighties, the T-shirts’ pop sensibility appealed to celebrities such as Sylvester Stallone, who wore them under blazers. Michael Stars’ cofounder, the late Michael Cohen, even layered a black T printed with the image of a squiggly man under a checkered sport jacket for his wedding to cofounder Suzanne Lerner.
“When Michael passed away last March, I said, ‘We have to do it now,’” said Lerner, who serves as president and chief executive officer of the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company. “People are back into buying basics again but they want good-quality basics.”
The half-dozen prints in the first comeback collection, culled from an archive of about 50, received a modern makeover with foil trim, pigment dyes and the now-trendy black and white color combo. The brand also used contemporary details, such as raw-edged hems, lower armholes, oversize fits and off-the-shoulder bodies, for the women’s pieces. The 34 styles, including T-shirts, tanks and sweatshirts for men and women, retail for between $68 and $118.
Lerner declined to estimate sales for L’Tee Americaine. She acknowledged that her goal is to sell to 100 wholesale accounts, up from the 40 that have committed to stocking the line. Some of the specialty stores carrying the tops are Kingfisher Road in Woodland Hills, Calif.; Nuage Bleu on Maui’s North Shore, and Knit Wit, which operates boutiques in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
In addition to paying tribute to Cohen, the launch helps the company cater to the growing demand for resort collections in the contemporary market. It’s also a play for Millennials, many of whom had not yet taken their first breath when the collection arrived in stores in 1986. Over the last two years, Lerner has noticed that her customers have shifted younger, about 10 years or so toward the 25- to 35-year-old range. While proud of Michael Stars’ status as a heritage brand, Lerner is also catering to more youthful, socially conscious consumers by adopting sustainably grown pima cotton.
“Of course, we want those Millennials,” she said. “I’m trying to reach a bigger demographic.”