Lucky Brand Dungarees: Gene Montesano

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Forget the cocoa-butter-covered bodies. Forget the sex appeal.

Lucky Brand Dungarees, co-founded by CEO Gene Montesano (right in photo), has grown to $140 million in sales since 1992 and is taking on the big denim players by focusing on its product, and sprinkling it with a little bit of marketing luck.

The company's ads say, "This is our product," says Mr. Montesano. "We're not selling a mood. We try to make everything so it's your favorite" jeans or shirt. The jeans themselves, priced at $68 to $85 a pair, just below those of imports such as Diesel, have a small tag hidden on the inside of the fly with the word Lucky. "If you don't try them on, or see someone taking them off, you don't know it's there," says the Brooklyn-born Mr. Montesano, who founded the company with longtime friend Barry Perlman (left).

Lucky's marketing efforts began with simple print ads that pointed out the jeans' features such as its signature fly. In major cities such as Los Angeles, Lucky also placed ads on the backs of bus stop benches stating: "Sit here. Get Lucky."

Eventually, a cult of sorts developed around the brand. Liz Claiborne Inc. owns 85% of the company, which will start a marketing campaign this year via its new agency, San Francisco shop Odiorne, Wilde Narraway & Partners.

"To know what to do is easy," Mr. Montesano, 52, says of his approach to marketing in the rag trade. "To do it is hard. You have to have a stomach for it."

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