Market Briefs

Sports Apparel Sales on the Rise


A recent study issued by The Mercanti Group concludes that sports apparel is no longer confined to gyms, and that leisure apparel, especially for women, and increasingly for teenagers, has become one of the hottest lines in the garment industry.


The report states that in 2006, U.S. specialty and department stores rang up retail sales of sports apparel totaling $43.7 billion, representing 22.8 percent of the overall clothing market, and increasing 5.6 percent from 2005.


"The steady growth of athletic-style clothing has forced clothing designers to change the direction of their overall lines to include a broader selection of sports-inspired looks," says Eric Coonrod, the Mercanti banker who authored the report.


The report attributes the growth in sports apparel to its combination of fashion, function and performance, as well as its ability to transition easily from the gym to the streets, meeting the needs of the many consumers embracing low-maintenance lifestyles.


Additional factors driving sales include the availability of high-tech clothing that can reduce the potential for injury, "smart fabrics" for monitoring heart rate, the growth of women in sports and the expanding demand for eco-friendly clothing.


Another trend that continues to gain ground in sports apparel is the partnering of brands with celebrities, such as actress Scarlett Johansson with Reebok and Eva Longoria as the new face of Bebe Sport.


Particularly fast-growing, says the report, is the number of brands creating crossover lines that may not even be sold through traditional sporting goods channels.


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Plantiga's New Take on Footwear


Plantiga Technologies has developed a new type of footwear design architecture that does not require a shoe to be built from a last, or mold that is used in the traditional footwear manufacturing process.


The Vancouver-based company, which started up about 18 months ago, has patents filed on a shoe design that features "interlocking structures" with a great deal of flexibility between them, says Quin Sandler, who founded the business along with his father Norman Macx, a mechanical engineer.


An inspiration for Plantiga was a belief by both men that traditional footwear did not let the foot go through its natural range of motion, and that there must be a better way to make shoes.


One of the key advantages of the new architecture is that it gives the consumer much greater movement of the foot, Sandler says. Shoes made the Plantiga way will adapt better to the ground, and change according to how weight is distributed on them, he notes.


With Plantiga's approach, the body of the shoe can be pre-manufactured, and then components that make up the rest of the shoe can be added later based on fit needs of the consumer.


"We're tackling a giant," says Sandler of Plantiga's effort to introduce a new approach to footwear manufacturing to the market, "but we're OK with that."


The company is actively searching for production partners and prospective licensors of the technology.


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JERZEES"Offers Durable Stain Resistance


Russell Corp.'s JERZEES"brand, supplier of blank t-shirts, fleece sport shirts and wovens to the imprintables industry, is offering apparel that features the stain-resistant power of SpotShield, combined with style and comfort.


JERZEES SpotShield is not a topical treatment. Instead, it is applied to the fabric before garment production, allowing individual fibers of cotton to become coated with SpotShield, and creating a protective barrier that keeps clothing looking newer for longer, the company reports.


Garments featuring SpotShield repel most oil and water-based stains, causing spills to bead up and roll off the garment.


JERZEES SpotShield sportswear is available in 24 colors and in multiple styles, and can be decorated and embellished. It is especially well suited for applications in the restaurant, healthcare, service and education markets.


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Organic News


Australia Zoo Takes Bindi Wear Global


The Australia Zoo made an international debut of its "clothing with a conscience" line at the MAGIC kids show in August.


The zoo debuted Bindi Wear International, an environmentally friendly full-fashion line for babies, girls and boys that aims to build young people's awareness for the environment and promote conservation of wildlife by helping the Australia Zoo spread its message through fashion.


The Bindi Wear clothing line has been sold exclusively in Australia Zoo stores since Bindi was a baby. (Bindi is the daughter of the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin.)


In 2002, it won top honors in the Qantas Kids section at the Retailers Association of Queensland Fashion awards.



Gerber Goes Green


Gerber Childrenswear has introduced an organic children's clothing collection that includes traditional OnesiesÂ, organic diapers and a variety of other styles.


The collection represents the next evolution of Onesies, invented in 1982 by Gerber Childrenswear as a solution to pinning diapers to undershirts to keep babies warm. Today's organic line comes during the company's 25th anniversary year.


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Career Moves


Apparel manufacturer and designer Bagir Ltd. has appointed Steven Kimmel to the new position of president of Bagir U.S.A. Kimmel was formerly president and CEO of SFK International LLC, a New York-based apparel agency, which has been acquired by Bagir Ltd.


Bobby Jones, a division of Hickey Freeman Co. Inc, has hired Christian Arkins as men's wear director of design, responsible for all aspects of design, sourcing and merchandising for the firm's men's collections: Bobby Jones Collection and Bobby Jones Players. Arkins was previously the design director at Original Penguin.


Global Brands Group has named Gary H. Schoenfeld as co-CEO and president. Prior to joining the company in 2006, Schoenfeld was president and CEO of Vans Inc.


Oak Hill Capital Partners has named Alan J. Lacy as a senior advisor to the firm. He will consult across Oak Hill's private-equity portfolio and will work closely with the firm's consumer, retail and distribution industry group. Lacy was formerly the vice chairman and CEO of Sears Holdings Corp.


California-based sportswear apparel brand PrivacyWear has appointed Rhonda Sawyer as director of sales and merchandising. Previously, Sawyer served as vice president of stores for Escada Inc., national retail sales director for Emanuel by Emanuel Ungaro and regional director of sales for Mondi America.


SANRIO Inc. has appointed Jennifer Campbell to the newly created position of vice president of licensing, responsible for the growth and development of consumer product licensing for Hello Kitty and other SANRIO characters. Most recently, Campbell was director of licensing at Brand Sense Partners.



Kellwood Acquires Royal Robbins


Kellwood Co. has completed the purchase of Modesto, CA-based Royal Robbins Inc., designer and marketer of premium quality men's and women's active sportswear and travel apparel. Kellwood purchased the company for approximately $40 million.


Royal Robbins will operate as part of Kellwood's American Recreation Products division. Robert "Bob" Orlando will continue as president of Royal Robbins.


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eTAGZ, Rocawear Mix Music and Apparel


Rocawear, the apparel brand created by hip hop mogul Jay-Z, uses unique cross-marketing strategies to demonstrate its leading-edge attitudes and to thank its customers for their purchases.


The company, whose women's denim line has grown to sales of more than $85 million annually, recently offered a non-traditional promotion for its spring juniors denim collection: Rihanna's new single featuring Jay-Z, "Umbrella," to anyone who tried on the denim and filled out a feedback card.


In this particular case, the promotion was to fall before the release of the CD. Rocawear wondered how it could get this offer to consumers, and found the solution with eTAGZ, which holds the patent to the "digital hangtag."


What is that, you ask? eTAGZ are mini CDs that contain rich media content for consumers - everything from video and games to music and promotions - to extend a product's branding.


For the promotion, eTAGZ produced and shipped thousands of mini CDs of "Umbrella" to Rocawear's warehouse within 10 days, which the company then shipped to several of its retail customers, including Dr. Jay's, Against All Odds and Jimmy Jazz.


The promotion allowed Rocawear to better reach its target market and drive its consumers deeper into the Rocawear brand. Also, because the eTAGZ are not encoded with DRM, consumers were able to download "Umbrella" to iPods to share with friends.


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Stylesight Offers Trend Forecasting


Style information service Stylesight announces its platform, which combines insight and trend forecasting information with tools for improving productivity.


The Stylesight platform offers a library that features more than 2 million images, with inventory including: coverage of global designer collections; fashion buzz on the streets of the world's major cities; and images of color trends, trade shows, celebrity fashion, flat sketches, original graphic designs, style moods and vintage designs.


Stylesight's proprietary search functionality allows creative professionals to trim down volumes of inspirational images to concise, specific and relevant results. Users can download multiple images, zoom in for details, share comments about them and print and/or e-mail tear sheets, slideshows and trend boards to internal colleagues or external suppliers.


Stylesight also maintains The Fashion Office, a global team of trend professionals, and offers a variety of forecasts including MegaColors, MegaTrends, Runway Analysis and Street Reports.


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Kenneth Cole to Be Honored By YMA


The YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund (YMAFSF) will honor Kenneth Cole with the AMY Award at its YMA Geoffrey Beene Fashion Scholarship Dinner on Jan. 9 in New York City.


Kenneth Cole will be honored for his support of the industry's next generation of leaders and for his ability to unite fashion instincts and business acumen with philanthropic convictions.


Cole is chairman of amfAR, The American Foundation for AIDS Research, is involved with HELP USA, a non-profit homeless organization and also sits on the board of five other charities.


YMAFSF, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing the fashion industry through scholarships, mentoring and internship programs, has awarded more than $5 million in scholarships since 1971. Starting in 2007, Geoffrey Beene National Scholarships of $25,000 will be awarded to four outstanding students.