Perry Ellis banks on brand resurrections

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Perry Ellis International is adding luster to brands that have lost their shine. Whether through acquisitions of under-marketed brands or the consolidation of licensees for its namesake Perry Ellis brand, the fashion house is gathering up a variety of once-hot icon brands and through targeted marketing efforts getting tastemakers and consumers to pay attention.

"Perry Ellis has created a manufacturing and marketing entity [in the last five years] that is quite diverse and quite successful because of their understanding of market segmentation and their great ambition," said Tom Julian, a New York-based trend analyst for Publicis Groupe's Fallon Worldwide.

Jantzen is a great example of the company's targeted revival strategy. Eliza Weber, VP-strategic marketing at Perry Ellis, took the helm on the swimwear brand when it was acquired from VF Corp. back in 2002 and first off had to "determine who we were talking to." The brand, she said, had languished in recent years with little marketing, but had been a powerful American icon since 1910, with its roots in the swimsuit business and a history of celebrity models including Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.

"Jantzen was a three-month-a-year brand for women only. But to rebuild, we need it to be a year-round brand for both men and women," Ms. Weber said.

As a result, Perry Ellis has launched Jantzen beyond just women's bathing suits into men's sportswear and swimwear and touted its new lifestyle positioning with a $3 million print and outdoor effort beginning this month from KraftWorks, New York, using the tagline "Dive into life."

reaching out

Ms. Weber is starting to reach out to fashion editors, sponsor events connected to Florida's spring break and learn-to-swim efforts, and is working with a "product seeding" agency to get product placements on TV shows (including NBC's "Las Vegas"), in movies and on appropriate celebrities to build the idea that "we're not your mamma's Jantzen," she said.

Similarly, Perry Ellis has been hard at work for a little over a year proving to hipster 20- and 30-somethings that its original Penguin by Munsingwear is-and is not-their grandfather's Penguin.

"It's a throwback to the classic, but with a modern-day spin," said marketing manager Laura Bellafronto. To foster that image, Penguin has relied on an underground campaign in niche publications such as Tokion, Surface, Anthem and Vice. The result? A brand that has become the hip choice of hot young celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Justin Timberlake.

"PEI has been right on [with Penguin] not going with a mega-marketing plan but rather promoting it under the radar ... with a very youthful spin," Fallon's Mr. Julian said. In fact, the effort has seeded so well, with placements in movies including "Old School" and "The Royal Tennenbaums" as well as on Fox's "The O.C.," that Ms. Bellafronto said "we haven't gone after anyone-they pull the product to them and we have to be selective about how we choose."

Of course, rebuilding the namesake brand has also been crucial. Perry Ellis had "performed well as a reliable workhorse of department stores' men's departments" for years, said Pablo de Echevarria, senior VP-marketing, Perry Ellis. But in 1999 the company cleaned up the licensing stable and brought in higher-quality, higher-priced licensees and shifted marketing to build an image as a high-end designer label through top fashion photographers and models and a renewed presence at top fashion shows. The most recent campaign features actor Paul Rudd.

The new image has "increased the brand value dramatically in the eyes of consumers," Mr. de Echevarria said. Last year, Perry Ellis relaunched its womenswear brand, which made it on to covers of Fairchild Publications' fashion trade Women's Wear Daily and The New York Times' "Styles" section.

Perry Ellis spent $12 million in media for the period January through November, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

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