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Juicy is all about feeling happy and comfy and gorgeous. Be happy wear Juicy is the Juicy philosophy.
Juicy Couture, Inc. (Juicy), an upscale American fashion apparel company, became a subsidiary of Liz Claiborne, Inc., in April 2003. The Juicy brand of women's and men's clothing is available in some 30,000 retail establishments worldwide, as well as in freestanding Juicy Couture stores. Under the parentage of Liz Claiborne, Juicy is managed by co-founders Gela Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy, who serve as co-presidents of the company. Claiborne, whose image is rather conservative, nevertheless allowed Juicy Couture to operate autonomously and to remain as colorful as its co-founders, Gela Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy.
Two Friends Start a Fashion Empire
Juicy Couture was founded by Gela Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy. Taylor was a native New Yorker who held a college degree in drama and had appeared in Broadway productions as well as on some weekly television series in the 1980s. Skaist-Levy, on the other hand, was born in California and attended the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, where part of her curriculum was designing a hat that received favorable notice and was eventually carried at upscale retailers Barneys New York and Fred Segal.
Taylor and Skaist-Levy met in 1988, when a mutual friend introduced them at her clothing boutique in Los Angeles. Taylor was pregnant at the time and dismayed at the dearth of chic maternity wear, so the two began their collaborations with a line of maternity jeans, which they fashioned after experimenting with elastic and a pair of Levi's. The jeans were marketed to maternity boutiques under the brand name Travis Jeans, after Taylor's newborn son Travis. Sales of the jeans were bolstered when actress Melanie Griffith was photographed wearing a pair.
From there, the partners went on to design a T-shirt made to be especially flattering for women. In an interview that appeared in a November 2000 issue of People, Skaist-Levy said, "We wanted to revolutionize the T-shirt." Form-fitted, with plunging V-necklines, and available in a variety of bright colors, the cotton T-shirts proved wildly popular. During this time the women adopted the business moniker Juicy Couture, which, Skaist-Levy noted in People, was chosen because the shirts were so colorful and enticing that "you just want to eat" them. The company remained based in Taylor's Los Angeles apartment before moving to an industrial park in the San Fernando Valley. Manufacturing was all done in the United States, and clothing labels read "Made in the Glamorous USA."
Launch of the Famous Tracksuit in 2001
The company's biggest success would come with the introduction of the Juicy Couture tracksuit. Made of soft feminine fabrics, such as velour and terry cloth, the tracksuits were tailored to accent a woman's curves, with low-slung pants and fitted tops, and they became a genuine fashion craze. Taylor and Skaist-Levy actively cultivated celebrity endorsements of their clothing. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times: "Much of the brand's success was founded on celebrity relationships. Early in the company's history, the designers hosted a suite at the Cateau Marmont in Hollywood and invited young celebrities to stop by for free clothes. Having Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz, as well as countless others, photographed in their track suits proved invaluable."
The tracksuits retailed for about $200 and were also made available in cashmere. Another unique feature of the Juicy brand was that tracksuits and "hoodies" (hooded shirts) could be personalized to suit with words, names, or initials embroidered on the back.
Soon much of Hollywood was purchasing Juicy, and, in turn, most retail outlets, including upscale retailers Nordstroms and Bloomingdale's, were having difficulty keeping Juicy merchandise on the shelves. Women were attracted to the clothing for both its comfort and its sex appeal.
Taylor and Skaist-Levy forged a unique style based on their own tastes and often ignored other fashion trends, including the color palates dictated every season by the major designers. Their own colors were always bright and feminine. Above all, they insisted their clothing be fun, playful, and what they referred to as "girly." They also believed that their T-shirts, jeans, and tracksuits could serve as wardrobe staples, with which women could have, according to Jenny Rubinfield in Harper's Bazaar, "the freedom to incorporate any designer piece they desire." Taylor and Skaist-Levy themselves could be seen wearing Juicy Couture T-shirts, for example, paired with another designer's formal skirts. The look was referred to by some observers as "casual luxury" and others as "casual chic."
Over the next few years, Juicy Couture grew in size and geographic scope. In mid-2001, Amanda Lewis joined the company as director of European operations in an effort to strengthen overseas sales. Despite a competitive designer label climate in London, Lewis believed that the lack of vivid color selections there would only strengthen the Juicy appeal. Europe and Canada would eventually account for 15 percent of the company's sales, while Japan would represent 10 percent. In 2002, Juicy Couture reported total sales of $47 million.
New Ownership in 2003
The rapid success of Juicy Couture naturally attracted the notice of the fashion conglomerates. On April 7, 2003, Liz Claiborne added Juicy Couture, Inc., to its holdings, acquiring 100 percent of the company's stock for an undisclosed sum estimated to be around $45 million, with an additional "earn-out payment" (perhaps approaching the amount of the purchase price) to be based on the company's earnings. Under terms of the agreement, Taylor and Skaist-Levy sold their label but retained creative control and roles as co-presidents. In a 2006 article in WWD, Skaist-Levy asserted that the Claiborne acquisition had no ill effects on the corporate culture of Juicy Couture: "We still keep it very personal and very real. Claiborne totally let us be. We're completely Juicy."
Skaist-Levy also told readers of WWD that they sold Juicy because they "wanted a sugar daddy to help finance what we want to do." Under the parentage of Liz Claiborne, Juicy Couture was definitely able to focus on expansion. In November 2003, the company introduced a line of handbags and accessories, which proved successful. The items were Hollywood hits and included leather handbags as well as a genuine Louisiana alligator-skin bag that wholesaled for about $500. Discussing the line in WWD, Ed Bucciarelli, president of Claiborne's accessories division, stated that "We have worked to stay true to the Juicy brand." The article reported that "his team worked closely with Skaist-Levy and Taylor to develop the collections, with company executives flying back and forth to Southern California to show them the handbag and jewelry samples."
Another new area for Juicy was men's clothing. Remaining loyal to their principles of comfort, bright colors, and sex appeal, the company introduced men's polo shirts and jerseys and pants. Again, celebrity endorsement played a role in the growing popularity of the line; actor Billy Bob Thornton and recording artist Lenny Kravitz each reportedly placed large orders for Juicy's menswear. Juicy for men retailed at such upscale stores as Barneys New York, Fred Segal, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Scoop.
As Juicy Couture grew, so did its leadership ranks. Manufacturing, distribution, and accounting were among the duties the co-presidents would delegate. Michelle Sanders came from Vogue where she worked as the accessories director to serve as vice-president and fashion director at Juicy Couture. She was primarily "another pair of eyes," according to Skaist-Levy cited in WWD. Then, Rebecca Blair from the Gucci Group became vice-president and general manager of merchandise and sales in February 2004.
Next in the rapid expansion of the Juicy line was a foray into children's clothing, which was well received. In the traditional women's line, new fabric choices included tweeds, wools, and fur accents, and new products included swimsuits.
Later that year, the company opened its first freestanding store, in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the Caesars Palace Forum Shops. A celebrity-studded grand opening ensued. Two more stores opened in 2005 in Dallas and Atlanta. During this time, the colorful founders of Juicy Couture, having received much press themselves as entrepreneurs and trendsetters, were tapped as models for a new line of Mattel Barbie dolls. The dolls were dressed in Juicy tracksuits and came with pet dogs.
As Juicy Couture looked to the future, plans were being made for Juicy Couture shoes, jewelry, sunglasses, and a signature fragrance, as well as a line of apparel for infants. New store openings also topped the company's priority list, as sites for some 17 new boutiques had been established, including several in Europe and Japan, and two in San Francisco, slated to open in 2007. While some analysts suggested that with wider availability, the brand might lose some of its cache, others saw no signs that Juicy would fade from the fashion scene. As the company continued to prosper, the founders showed no signs of stepping down. In a 2005 article in Business Week, Skaist-Levy jokingly asserted that when enough years had passed they would introduce "Juicy Geriatric."
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