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Dockers Gets Comfortable



By Nola Sarkisian-Miller

LOS ANGELES - Levi's Dockers has begun shipping stores its Individual Fit Waistband pant for women, giving consumers 2 extra inches of wiggle room.

While the San Francisco-based megabrand and trim vendor Tag-It Pacific Inc., a partner in the venture, skimp on specifics of the technology, they do say what it's not - and that's a visible, ruched waistband. As far as expandable pants go, the partners insist they've found a stylish alternative.

Using Tech-Fit, the patented process that's a division of Woodland Hills, Calif.-based Tag-It, the product comes in the form of stretch and nonstretch fabric, which is compacted. Then an adhesive fuses it with an elastomer to give the waistband memory, a problem with most stretch pants that lose their controlled shape over time.

"This will replace your grandmother's leisure suit," said Tech-Fit president Herman Roup.

Tag-It entered a two-year exclusive supply agreement with Dockers for the casual pants sector, and expects to generate more than $10 million in the deal, Roup said. Negotiations are under way with other major brands in additional clothing categories, such as jeans.

The men's version of Individual Fit launched in April for Dockers' flat-front, pleated and pleated cuffed styles to such stores as J.C. Penney, Sears and Macy's, according to Dockers' marketing director Maureen Griffin. Plans include selling Individual Fit at a majority of Dockers 6,500 accounts, she said "Men's is doing excellently at retail," she said. "The stories from the field are that a lot of men try it on and end up buying two to three pairs."

Female shoppers have the Metro, flat-front, straight-leg pants with two welt back pockets and a hook-and-eye closure for a clean silhouette. The cotton, polyester and Lycra spandex styles come in misses', plus and petite sizes in classic shades of navy, khaki, cocoa, black and port. The wholesale price is $21.

"The beauty of the product is that only she knows that [the Individual Fit Waistband] is there," Green said. "The women we tested it on said, 'Bring it on.'"

Dockers declined to comment on sales projections, but industry sources say the new line for men and women can grow to be a $400 million venture.

Appealing to consumers' practical sensibilities, Dockers has recently blazed a function trail, rolling out the Go Khaki with Stain Defender and Mobile pants to carry gear.

The difference with Individual Fit is how receptive women are to a pant pandering to their all-consuming battles with weight.

"They have to do some careful marketing," observed Trish Moreno, owner of fashion consulting firm Trendsyndicate.

Indeed, Green said the print campaign hitting women's magazines in August, including Oprah, Glamour, Ladies Home Journal, Cooking Light and Good Housekeeping, will play more to a woman's lifestyle rather than focusing on the men's ad slogan, "Life's a cinch with an extra inch."

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