CANDIE'S TRIES TO FIT IN '90S: DISCO ERA SHOES SEEK COMEBACK WITH MCCARTHY ADS

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Determined to bring its signature shoe of the 1970s into the '90s, Candie's is launching a two-pronged print ad effort, one aimed at young women and the other at consumers likely to have worn its trademark slides two decades ago.

The estimated budget for the combined effort is $4 million, a huge boost from the $63,000 spent in the first nine months of 1996, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

MCCARTHY STARS IN ADS

For the 12-to-24-year-old crowd, Candie's chose the former host of MTV's "Singled Out," Jenny McCarthy, to appear in a deliberately campy campaign set in a bathroom, created by InMarketing, New York.

Ms. McCarthy is pictured singing into a showerhead, scrubbing the toilet and painting her fingernails-all while wearing classic Candie's slides. The ads appear in March and April magazines, including Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Marie Claire, Seventeen and YM.

The companion piece, a $1 million "Designer" campaign, was created to appeal to the 25-to-40-year- old market-the original Candie's customers. The series features fashion designers Betsey Johnson, Nicole Miller, Anna Sui and Vivienne Tam modeling their own versions of the Candie's slide in three- and five-page inserts in February issues of Elle and Vogue and page ads in InStyle, Marie Claire and Allure.

Candie's was a $100 million brand in 1984, but started fading along with disco. The brand was sold to Pentland Group in 1986. When sales hit a low of $28 million in 1991, original owner Charles Cole's son, Neil, bought the brand back and tried to resuscitate it.

RELAUNCHED IN 1993

His first attempt failed, but Mr. Cole relaunched Candie's Inc. in March 1993 as a public company. Today, Candie's has sales of about $45 million.

Mr. Cole is hopeful the brand's funky sensibility can trade on the current revival of '70s pop culture.

"Fashion is very cyclical," said Mr. Cole, CEO of Candie's. "The whole retro look is the look that's happening right now, so that's where a lot of the inspiration is."

Observers believe Candie's may have a good shot at a comeback.

"When the Coles owned it, Candie's became synonymous with the '70s," said Alan Millstein, editor-publisher of the Fashion Network Report. Mr. Cole is "an experienced shoe man, and with any breaks from the economy, it should be a roaring success."

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