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POWER 50;THESE NAMES CONVEY STYLE, AND MARKETING APPAREL: DESIGNS, AD CAMPAIGNS DEFINE FASHION WORLD'S TOP PLAYERS

By Published on .

Tommy. donna. Calvin. And yes, Levi.

In the fashion world, these names signify not just a certain style and attitude, but also marketing power. Indeed, these names are powerful enough to stand on their own.

Both Tommy Hilfiger and Donna Karan are first among Seventh Avenue's marketing titans with their campaigns that keep their fashion creations squarely in the public's eye.

Ms. Karan this fall features Bruce Willis and Demi Moore for her fall Donna Karan New York Collection of women's and men's clothing. In the introduction to a $5 million, 30-page "outsert" that, for one, accompanied the September issue of W magazine, Ms. Karan wrote that the actors "are spiritually alive and always looking forward."

"Everything I do is a matter of heart, body and soul," says Ms. Karan, designer and chief executive of Donna Karan International.

HOT ON THE STREETS

That spirit carries over to Ms. Karan's advertising, produced by in-house Donna Karan Creative Services, led by Trey Laird, senior VP-creative services & advertising. Although Karan spent a modest $7.5 million on advertising last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting, much of that budget is spent on promoting DKNY, closely associated with what's new and hot on the streets of New York.

"DKNY really is about what's happening in New York, it's very visible and bold in an `in your face' way," says Mr. Laird, referring to the DKNY outdoor ads that went up this summer in Manhattan, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

In contrast, the Donna Karan New York Collection uses more targeted advertising, such as magazines and direct mail, to reach its audience.

"The Collection itself as well as the advertising is more personal, filled with emotions and images people can connect to," says Mr. Laird. "It's all Donna."

BRAND AN EXTENSION

Mr. Hilfiger's huge and eclectic collections already have become the sportswear of choice for fashion-minded twenty- and thirty-something adults.

Mr. Hilfiger, 45, considers his designs an extension of himself.

"I want people to feel comfortable yet unique," he says. "It's new-age funk combined with traditional style that give my clothing an edge. This enhances people's individuality and enables them to stand out."

New this fall is his first women's fragrance and sportswear collection. His first line of men's and women's jeans will be backed by a $25 million campaign handled by Toth Design & Advertising, Concord, Mass.

The jeans campaign, including spots on MTV and VH-1, features the sons and daughters of celebrities like Quincy Jones and Sidney Poitier wearing $50 Tommy Jeans, a price point comparable to product from Levi Strauss & Co. and VF Corp.'s Lee jeans.

Mr. Hilfiger retains strong creative control over advertising, which CMR put at $13 million last year.

In all his ads, he wants to show "healthy, vibrant, diverse people enjoying themselves in a casual atmosphere," he says. "All different types of people can relate to it."

SPREAD CALVIN'S GOSPEL

Then there are those who work for such names.

As the recently appointed creative director of CRK Advertising, New York, the in-house ad agency for Calvin Klein Inc., the mission of Ronnie Cooke Newhouse is to develop ads to support Calvin Klein's globally growing empire.

She will be jet-setting between her home in London, the company's corporate offices in New York and the rest of the world to spread the Calvin Klein eye-catching gospel on fashion, cosmetics, fragrances and the rapidly expanding retail business.

She is currently working on her first global campaigns for all Calvin Klein divisions, apart from cosmetics, due next spring.

Ms. Newhouse, 43 and former VP-advertising and creative director at Barney's New York, works very closely with Mr. Klein and Gabriella Forte, president-chief operating officer.

"Calvin and Gabriella have a plan for where they want to be in two years, in five years, etc. They are building the company at a very rapid pace. It's important that the advertising reinforces that [strategy] and supports their goals," she says.

These will include the expanding European retail business as Calvin Klein Collection and CK freestanding stores open next year in London and Milan, among other places. There are also plans to build on existing Calvin Klein retail interests in Asia by adding another 28 stores in the region's major cities by 1999.

Although Calvin Klein Cosmetics Co. was bought by Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever in the late 1980s, CRK Advertising still works with Unilever on Calvin Klein cosmetics and fragrances ads.

`PROVOCATIVE'

Ms. Newhouse's appointment begs the question of what advertising under her reign will be like-especially with the controversy over previous Calvin Klein campaigns.

"*`Provocative' has different meanings. I hope [the new ads] will be provocative in an exciting way, in that they are never boring," she says.

Ms. Newhouse declined to reNames of style, influence

veal the ad budget she is working with. But she compares CRK Advertising with a mid-sized agency in terms of billings. CRK certainly controls all aspects of the campaigns, including media buying and planning.

NO NEED TO COPY

As far as she's concerned, there's nothing out there her employer needs to copy to maintain his edge in advertising.

"We don't follow trends; we create them. That has always been Calvin Klein's strength," she says.

Yet if there's one area where other apparel marketers have advantages over Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Tommy Hilfiger, it's in ad spending.

For example, brand jeans.

Mr. Goldstein counts one of his biggest marketing achievements as Levi Strauss' so-call "Blue lady" campaign. It started as a print effort using Matisse-like designs and grew into a TV campaign that never hits upon how jeans fit or help corral a man. Instead, the campaign describes women taking control of their lives.

"The advertising has never been about the jeans, but about the women," says Mr. Goldstein. "No company talks at a respectful and intellectual level instead of an exploitive level" with women customers.

By early this year, the effort pushed Levi's share of the women's jeans market past traditional leader Lee. In addition, Levi Strauss sold six times more jeans last year than it did five years ago.

NIBBLE AT COMPETITORS

That's important to Mr. Goldstein because the women's jeans market isn't growing, and the only way to pick up share is to nibble away at your competitor's.

But the women's front is just a small part of the battle for Levi's. To push the out-of-style silhouette, or pants cut, of their flagship 501 product, Levi's launched one of its biggest campaigns, the "501 reasons" effort-a three-year campaign in TV print and outdoor in almost 20 U.S. cities.

"Our sales of 501 are strong despite the fact that the silhouette trend is toward wider legs," he says.

Not that Levi's is giving up the wide-leg market, either. It has set a $40 million push behind that look, and is pushing the style beyond the original target of young men up to age 24.

CHANGING MEDIA WORLD

Despite Levi's legacy for excellent ad executions, through longtime agency Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, Mr. Goldstein is most aware of the changing nature of the ad game-especially the emergence of interactive media and larger-capacity cable TV options.

These new media outlets, he says, are "something major advertisers have to come to grips with."

Still, he has confidence in the power of TV. That corny 1950s ad phrase, "As seen on TV," still has clout, he says.

"It sounds dumb, but it really works," he says.

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