Enter denim industry veteran Laurie Etheridge, who has been charged with the task of growing the women's brand, which includes the Curve ID line and an expanding line of tops and jackets.
Etheridge's past experience seems to have prepared her for the role. She started at Levi's in 1995, serving as director of merchandising for Levi's juniors and girls' lines, then left to take on global merchandising and design positions at Roxy and Quiksilver and most recently at Perry Ellis and Speedo.
Her return to the company says something about the brand's desire to expand the women's lines in a manner that maintains a foothold in the mass market while moving into premium denim and pushing the boundaries of the successful Curve ID line, which focuses on shape rather than traditional sizes.
Levi's jeans, jackets and tops, $25 to $198, are carried at Levi's stores and Macy's.
— Melissa Magsaysay
They aren't exactly pajamas and they're definitely not jeans (at least not denim, as that fabric is traditionally defined), but PajamaJeans in all their 95% cotton / 5% spandex glory (a proprietary fabric blend trademarked under the name DormiSoft) have nonetheless become a pop-culture phenomenon of Snuggie-like proportions since they launched in the last quarter of 2009, thanks to a (perhaps unintentionally) hilarious television advertising campaign that positions the $39.95 lounge pants for ladies as "Pajamas you live in. Jeans you sleep in."
Though they may look like dark wash designer jeans from afar, in reality the soft, forgiving bottoms with the drawstring waistband and the trompe l'oeil fly are more akin to a blue-hued jean jeggings / sweat-pants hybrid with denim-like detailing that includes actual back-pocket embroidery, contrast stitching and real rivets. But turn the cuff and the illusion is shattered — the interior is as fuzzy as a fleece, with a feel like a well-worn sweat shirt.
Only 400,000 pairs were sold through February 2011 (all online or by phone), according to a representative for Hampton Direct, the Vermont company that distributes PajamaJeans (and the same folks who distribute other "as seen on TV" products such as the Wonder Hanger and Total Pillow). But an expansion into bricks-and-mortar retail that began with Walmart in May now includes some 79,000 stores nationwide and is projected to hit the 2-million mark by year's end.
And don't expect the faux five-pockets to fade away any time soon. Plans include expanding from the single boot-cut style, with a skinny black version of PajamaJeans planned to roll out in early 2012. Additional styles are being tested online — including a PajamaJeans knee-length dress — the perfect outfit for the post-prom slumber party, no?
PajamaJeans, $39.95, are available online at Pajamajeans.com and at assorted retailers nationwide including Target, Walgreens, CVS and Walmart.
— Adam Tschorn
There's been some shaking and shifting going on at the House of Gap lately, with wunderkind Patrick Robinson leaving the building in May (creative director Rosella Giuliani is now at the helm) — and even the building has left the building: The design offices for the Gap's 2-year-old premium lifestyle collection moved from New York to downtown Los Angeles last year, in an attempt to give the slightly higher-end offerings some sorely needed street cred, complete with food trucks and an advertising blitz that touts the West Pico Boulevard former cigar factory and the clutch of creatives who call it home.
The new strategy? To lead the trends instead of follow them. Whether the San Francisco-based retailer can do fashion-forward — or at least fashion-forward enough at the right price point — to lay claim to some much-needed cool still remains to be seen, but in the short term, it's a boon to anyone who wants to flirt with on-trend while staying on budget.
For women, that means plenty of animal-print skinny jeans (snakeskin and leopard), stretch leggings, leather jeans, corduroy jeggings, high-rise, flare-legged pintuck trousers, military-inspired jackets and chunky knits. (For a taste of what's going on at the Gap for guys, see accompanying article on this page.)
Gap 1969 premium denim, $59.50 to $89.95, is available at Gap.com and Gap stores nationwide.
— Adam Tschorn