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Blues brotherhood turns out for WWD's denim forum

May 14, 2011 | 12:15 pm

The fashion trade paper WWD chose the city at the epicenter of the premium denim industry as the site of its first-ever daylong discussion of blue jeans business, and the brotherhood of bluebloods obliged by turning out in force, most plunking down $1,100 for a ticket.

You couldn't toss a copper rivet in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 10 without hitting a denim demigod. The list of speakers included Adriano Goldschmied (most recently of Citizens of Humanity and GoldSign), François Girbaud (founder of Marithé + François Girbaud) and Paul Marciano, (co-founder and CEO of Guess Inc.). And the audience of more than 100 was crammed with a who's who of the blue crew, including Agave Denim's Jeff Shafer, Diesel's Stefano Rosso (son of founder Renzo Rosso), J Brand's Jeff Rudes, Hudson's Peter Kim and representatives from Lucky Brand, Levi's, Abercrombie & Fitch and Calvin Klein -- not to mention the man who served as the catalyst to the whole event, retailer Ron Herman, who is marking his 35th year in the blue jeans business.

In addition to providing a forum for the indigo elite to discuss the challenges their industry faces -- rising cotton prices, and inflation in China among them -- it provided WWD a platform for its renewed efforts to cater to denim's movers and shakers.

The forum, said Gina Sander, president and CEO of WWD's parent company the Fairchild Fashion Group, was intended to "telegraph how important your sector and the L.A. market is to our plans going forward," which she followed up by announcing that the Wednesday issue of the daily publication would be dedicated to coverage of interest to the denim trade.

Although I was able to attend only one of the day's three sessions, the insight into the world inhabited by the indigo impresario would have been well worth blocking out the whole day. Two of my favorite takeaways from the early-morning session happened to both come from Guess Inc. CEO and co-founder Paul Marciano.

The first was the advice to fellow attendees to read (or reread) Spencer Johnson's 1998 motivational book "Who Moved My Cheese?" "It will change your life," Marciano said. 

The second was his explanation of where the Guess brand name came from. (You must've wondered about it at least once, right?)

"It comes from a 1981 McDonald's hamburger [advertising] campaign," Marciano said. "My brother and I would drive past these billboards that were all over Los Angeles, and the word 'Guess' was in huge letters on the billboard with the words 'what's in a Big Mac' were below it in small letters. How stupid is that?"

Frankly, compared with some of the crazy denim brand names that have come and gone in the three decades since, I'd say not too crazy at all.

Although some of WWD's similar events (covering  the beauty and footwear sectors of the industry, for example) take place every other year, a WWD spokesman told All The Rage that based on the "tremendous response and reaction" to the inaugural outing, the sophomore installment of the denim forum in Los Angeles would be back for 2012.

If you can't wait that long, on-demand video of the May 10 event will be available at Fora.TV starting May 18 for $149 ($99 if you sign up prior to May 18). 

-- Adam Tschorn

Photo: Denim demigods François Girbaud, from left, Adriano Goldschmied and Ron Herman were among the speakers at WWD's first Los Angeles forum on the denim industry. Credit: Stefanie Keenan / Women’s Wear Daily