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Denim Dish: Diesel Teams Up With 10 Corso Como ... Columbia Tries On Jeans ... True Religion Net Soars ...

When two fashion innovators such as Diesel and Carla Sozzani, the owner of the trendy 10 Corso Como stores in Milan and Tokyo, join forces, the result is...

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Diesel Teams Up With 10 Corso Como
When two fashion innovators such as Diesel and Carla Sozzani, the owner of the trendy 10 Corso Como stores in Milan and Tokyo, join forces, the result is likely to be positive.

So it's hardly surprising that the limited-edition jeans called 10 Corso Como are selling well — notwithstanding a $237 price tag in both Milan and Tokyo.

"I have a great relationship with Renzo Rosso [Diesel's owner and chairman] that goes beyond work, so when I was toying with the idea of doing a jeans line, I decided it would be wise to do it with an expert," Sozzani said.

The project comprises 400 pairs of untreated indigo blue jeans in women's and men's styles that Sozzani described as selling beyond expectations because of their fit and cleanliness, allowing for easy mixing and matching.

The store's logo is sewn inside the waistline, while a big 10 is embroidered on the back pocket. In addition, 10 Corso Como was one of the first stores to show a preview of Rubens, Diesel's "It" shoulder bag for spring made with distressed brown hide, studs and burnished metal clasp.

Also in the works for Diesel is a jewelry line that spotlights pearls, leather and silver that will bow at the end of the month at the Basel trade fair.
Alessandra Illari

Columbia Tries On Jeans
Columbia Sportswear is hopping on the denim bandwagon. The outdoor and active apparel firm is launching a selection of women's jeans for fall, marking its first significant venture into the category.

"We have been expanding more into lifestyle items and denim is a natural for us," said Sherrie Curtin, Columbia's general manager of women's apparel. "We have a very strong bottoms business in general and this is a way for us to build that business."

The company has offered some men's denim items, but they have been a small part of the overall business, Curtin noted.

The new denim looks were in development for almost two years so the company could find the right fits and washes, Curtin said. The initial looks come in two fits, a lean boot cut with a flair at the bottom that rides above the hips and a five-pocket style. Both are available in vintage, medium indigo and dark indigo washes.

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Stitched into the back pocket are the letters "T" and "M," which stand for Tough Mother, a reference to Gert Boyle, Columbia's chairwoman, who has appeared in many of its advertising and marketing campaigns.

The denim looks target Columbia's core customer of active women between the ages of 25 and 50, Curtin said. The jeans retail for $39.95, and the company plans to introduce a larger selection with new washes and fits for spring 2007.

Columbia is targeting its main distribution, including sport and outdoor specialty chains, and department stores. Curtin said some sports retailers have already shown interest, even though denim isn't usually available in those types of stores.
Melanie Kletter

True Religion Net Soars
True Religion Apparel continues to reap the benefits of an aggressive strategy to expand its product offerings and develop its global business as sales and earnings surged in the fourth-quarter and full-year periods.

"As you may know, I love this business. I eat, breathe and dream the denim lifestyle," said Jeff Lubell, president and chief executive officer, during the company's conference call Wednesday. "These kinds of financial results are very gratifying."

For the three months ended Dec. 31, the Los Angeles premium denim manufacturer saw earnings rise 44.7 percent, to $3.7 million, or 16 cents a diluted share. Earnings were hampered by a one-time charge of $2.2 million related to a legal settlement, translating into a negative impact of 6 cents a share. Sales for the period rose 87.8 percent, to $25.5 million from $13.6 million.

For the year, the company reported an earnings gain of 361.4 percent, to $19.5 million, or 84 cents a share, compared with earnings of $4.2 million, or 20 cents, a year ago. Sales ballooned 270.7 percent, to $102.5 million from $27.7 million.

"This was driven by strong sales of our core denim line in men's and women's, and an increasing component of nondenim sportswear," said Lubell.

About 57 percent of sales came from the U.S. market; the remaining volume was generated in 20 other countries. Nondenim items, such as recently introduced fleece jackets, have been well received at retail and are an increasing focus, the ceo said.

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"We have an opportunity to build an incredible premium sportswear business on the back of our premium denim business," said Lubell.

Lubell said nondenim items accounted for a larger portion of True Religion's product portfolio in each quarter this year. The goal is to have nondenim items represent 25 percent of its product mix by the end of 2006. Some of those new items include stretch fabrics in corduroy, velvet, cashmere sweaters, suede and leather, said Lubell. To achieve this growth, the company is investing in its design teams.

"We're in a hiring mode," said Lubell. "We've hired three design assistants over the last six months and plan to hire another three."

Lubell conceded the premium denim market is getting increasingly crowded, which could make achieving future growth more difficult. However, throughout the call Lubell stressed that the company was not encountering any price resistance.

"Our pricing has held steady in an increasingly competitive environment in wholesale and at retail," said Lubell.

The company continues to add more than just new bodies and silhouettes into its core denim mix. For spring, it launched the Super Big-T stitch, a design that features multiple ends of thread with two stitches per inch, significantly larger than most traditional stitching. Super Big-T stitch will be incorporated into True Religion's best-selling styles such as the Joey, a flared look; the Johnny, a straight leg; the Bobby, a boot-cut, and the Jimmy, a denim jacket. Styles incorporating the Super Big-T stitch will wholesale between $135 and $200.

The company's first freestanding retail operation, in Manhattan Beach, Calif., has also achieved early success. The store, which opened on Dec. 2, has so far generated sales of about $500,000, according to Lubell, which works out to $2,000 per square foot a month. Management has its sights set on opening stores in San Francisco and Las Vegas, and plans to open a store in New York this year.
Ross Tucker

Blogging the Blues
Feeling blue? Blogger Henry Wong certainly is. The 22-year-old online diarist has dreamed up what's billed as the first fashion blog devoted to denim.

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Dubbed denimnews (denimnews.blogspot.com), Wong's six-month-old blog brings together the latest news from the denim industry from a variety of sources, provides bloggers with sales information and tips on the best buys around town, posts jobs in the denim industry and even offers denim tidbits such as where to buy pencils made from recycled denim.

"I wanted to create a depository for all the news I gather and read with regard to the denim industry," said Wong, who resides in New York and works for a denim manufacturing company. He declined to say which one, however. "I initially started the blog for my colleagues," he said.

Although Wong targets industry specialists, he also caters to readers he describes as "denim heads" — die-hard denim divas who wear raw denim for months without washing it.

"I'm using denimnews as a testing ground to get different denim specialists under one roof with their passion for denim as the common factor," he said. Until then, Wong is somewhat of a lone ranger. "There is no competition because there is no revenue," Wong said. "I'm the only denim blog, it's very lonely right now."
Emilie Marsh

Founders Exit Habitual
Michael and Nicole Colovos, the husband-and-wife designers and founders of the Habitual denim brand, have exited the Los Angeles company.

Pacific Marketing Works, the Los Angeles holding company that owns Habitual, said the Colovoses designed the fall-winter 2006 collections, but the search is now on for new designers.

In a statement, the company said it will "continue to foster the ongoing evolution of Habitual into a global lifestyle brand."

Pacific Marketing Works also said it has hired a new top executive for Habitual to drive the brand's development and growth, but declined to name the person. Market sources estimate the brand generates $5 million a year.

The Colovoses, who founded the brand in 2001, could not be reached for comment.
Lauren DeCarlo

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