President and chief executive officer Bud Konheim admitted Friday that getting into the category has been a long time coming. The company was started in 1982. “I knew denim when it started with Gloria Vanderbilt. I couldn’t believe that somebody was getting $35 for a pair of jeans when Levi’s had better jeans at five bucks.” he said. “So after not believing it for all these years, now we’re finally doing it.”
Despite that time capsule of an antidote, the company is more of-the-moment, having diligently built up e-commerce sales through social media. “Instagram and Snapchat are the two things that are producing for us. Nicole does Instagram personally. She also has someone take pictures of girls on the street. That is really paying off. That is booming our e-commerce.” Konheim said. “We haven’t done that yet with the denim but we will.”
Through a licensing deal with Alpha Garment Inc., the company will introduce jeans under the Nicole Miller Artelier and Nicole Miller New York labels. Core retail prices will range from $178 to $198 for the former and $88 to $120 for the latter. This spring shoppers will find such looks as distressed high-rise skinny jeans, cropped flares and classic boyfriend jeans. The denim is meant to be an essential component for shoppers to pair with already popular tops and separates. The licensing deal will also position the company, which sells to 1,000 specialty stores, as more of a lifestyle brand. Konheim said e-commerce and licensing are growth areas for the company.
Miller, who wears jeans nearly on a daily basis, said, “I wear denim all the time, so designing these styles was an obvious extension of my line. Aside from staple denim cuts, we added styles with a new perspective to make unique pieces in a crowded market. I especially love the jogger pant and dark wash cropped culottes.”
From the start, the company’s strategy has been “to be design-driven and to have quality products” rather than focused on rapid expansion, Konheim said. “And that limits the distribution,” he said. “At this point, everybody sells everything at every price. We find we cannot do that. We cannot talk out of both sides of our mouth.”
In recent years, the company has produced a smattering of denim pieces in-house. Most recently, there were two denim styles for resort that were also carried over into spring deliveries. Alpha Garment’s 30 years of experience was a plus for Konheim who said, “One of the secret ingredients of this deal is I liked [president and ceo] Charlie Jebara’s father and I really like him. He’s very amenable to our philosophy which is not necessarily industry-accepted — to make beautiful stuff and sell it for what it’s worth is not common today.”
Konheim said, “We vetted a whole bunch of denim makers until finding one that had all the latest washes, stretches and exotic denim fabrics. We had everybody wearing it around the office for about three months before we chose Alpha.”