NEW YORK — Michael Strahan is expanding his fashion brand.
The former Giants defensive end and media personality is launching jeans to add to his successful men’s wear collection at J.C. Penney.
He teamed with denim guru Eric Goldstein of Jean Shop, RRL, Gap and Denimrepair.com fame to create a collection under the Collection by Michael Strahan moniker. It is being offered in one straight fit in four washes, ranging from light to dark, and also includes a denim jacket. The washes are named after neighborhoods in New York: Gramercy, SoHo, Astoria and Williamsburg.
The line is priced at $70 for the jeans and $80 for the jacket but the out-the-door prices are $34.99 and $39.99, respectively, and will be merchandised within the Michael Strahan clothing department at 300 J.C. Penney stores as well as online.
In an exclusive interview at the “Good Morning America” studios, Strahan said he has high hopes for the jeans, which will join his tailored clothing, furnishings, ath-leisure, luggage, shoes and underwear collections at Penney’s.
“It’s launching in 300 stores and a lot of our products are in more than 600 stores, so we’re halfway to where we want to get,” he said. “For Penney’s, they’ll roll it out in the stores that they think will give us a good kick-off and so we’re looking forward to that. And 300 stores is nothing to sneeze at, but we believe we have really amazing product.”
James Starke, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s at J.C. Penney, said if the jeans are as successful as Strahan’s other categories, they will be rolled out. He said the tailored clothing started out in 300 stores and its success led Penney’s to expand it first to 500 units and now 600.
“We have continued to add categories to [capitalize on how] successful this line is,” Starke said. “We talked to Michael about what’s next and he introduced us to Eric. He’s in the premium denim business so we were extremely impressed that he could do something to translate to our price points.”
Starke said that, for the first time, Penney’s is merchandising the jeans with the Strahan clothing in the tailored department, installing mannequins mixing and matching pieces from the line with jackets and dress shirts to teach customers how to best navigate the new way of dressing.
Starke said the jeans actually hit the stores quietly earlier this month and the reaction so far is positive. The Strahan tailored clothing is consistently “one of the most successful” performers for the company and is “number one or number two on a weekly basis.” And the MSX ath-leisure line is also “holding its own” as Penney’s continues to add big-name brands such as Adidas and Puma to its assortment.
This is due in large part to Strahan’s commitment to the product. “Michael’s passion is unlike any other celebrity that I’ve worked with,” Starke said.
Strahan said that he wears his own collection constantly. “There’s nothing that we have that I don’t wear,” Strahan said. “Everything I have on, down to my underwear, I use, I wear, I touch, I feel. I just wore jeans on the show [‘GMA’] and I need to be able to jump and move around and be more physical, so it’s good to know you have something on that can hold up. The fabrics move with you and they’re comfortable.”
Strahan said that expanding into jeans was natural for him. “Everything we do is organic to my life and how I live and we wanted to do it because I wear jeans every day and we wanted something to fit into my lifestyle and with the other products we have.”
Goldstein said Strahan came last November to talk about his apparel collection and to toss around ideas, “and a year later, we’re shipping product to J.C. Penney.” He said Strahan was intimately involved in the creation of the collection, even so far as picking out the thread color and collaborating on the label, an “M” with a gap in it to reflect his trademark gap in his teeth.
Strahan said that in all corners of his life, he’s all in when he commits to doing something. And jeans are no exception.
“I’m not passive at all, I’m very involved,” Strahan said. “It’s a partnership, a collaboration. It’s not, ‘Eric, I need some jeans, make ‘em.’ I don’t work like that in my personal life and I don’t work like that in business. And I enjoy doing business as much as I enjoy doing TV and as much as I enjoy playing sports, it’s what I do and I love it and I love being involved and showing that there’s another dimension. As a former athlete, you’re only expected to do certain things.”
Strahan, who has transformed himself from a football player to a household name, with stints on “Fox NFL Sunday,” “Thursday Night Football,” “Good Morning America” and the “$100,000 Pyramid” game show, still finds it hard to believe what he’s accomplished.
“I’m surprised I’m on TV,” he said, “I really am. Every day I think, ‘Is anybody really going to watch this?’ You still don’t think people are going to pay attention to you. But I think that’s what makes me commit more than people would probably imagine that I would. I’m gracious because the alternative is me sitting at home right now going: ‘Ma, what’s for breakfast? Meatloaf?’ I’m very happy and very grateful.”
So what other white spots are there in the Michael Strahan Collection assortment?
Starke said Strahan has “expressed interest in some other home categories and baby apparel.”
For Strahan, “I would have to look at a list and see what we’re not doing right now and what we can do. But it has to be at the right time for us.”