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To hear the Juicy founders tell it, an outsider would be hard pressed to recognize there’s a corporate parent involved as they tour the new facilities in Pacoima, Calif., a dusty industrial enclave north of Los Angeles, which includes a yoga studio, among other amenities. “Liz Claiborne is absolutely in the background,” Skaist-Levy added. “But that was important to them, too. We’re really lucky we picked a fabulous partner. Most stories of partnerships don’t work out this way.”
The founding pair met in 1988 through a mutual friend and quickly embarked on a denim line cut for burgeoning pregnant bellies. The two segued into launching a T-shirt and jeans line called Juicy Couture in 1997. But it was five years before the brand shook up fashion with its tracksuits. When the “Juicy girls,” as they became known, turned up for a public appearance at Harvey Nichols in 2002, a line of fans cued around the block. Men’s and children’s wear followed.
In 2004, 20 months after the Claiborne deal, the first Juicy Couture door opened, inside Caesar’s Palace Forum Shops in Las Vegas. Two more stores opened in 2005, in Phipps Plaza in Atlanta and at Dallas’ NorthPark Center.
With Claiborne, Juicy jumped right into category expansion, mostly through licensing. Jewelry, accessories and swimwear have been particularly profitable enterprises. “Right away, we were able to do whatever we dreamed of,” said Taylor, who noted that adding handbags was high on her list following the acquisition. “They don’t propose anything. We propose and they weigh the pros and cons. They’re just very patient and very amazing. They really believe in the brand.”
Without prompting, the two pay enthusiastic homage to Claiborne execs. “Paul Charron — he’s just amazing. He supports young talent. He’s very fair. We really look up to him,” said Skaist-Levy.
“Paul Charron said to me, ‘Don’t ever let us trample on you,’” continued Taylor. “Whenever I felt their idea for Juicy was wrong for Juicy, they listened to us. They let us be autonomous. We asked them not to use our name in interviews, and they respected that we wanted to keep Juicy apart from Liz Claiborne.”