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For Sistas Only : Menswear Designer Stussy Expands His Line, and Unveils a Limited Collection for Girls

July 09, 1993|WILLIAM KISSEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ever since teen-age boys started wearing farm worker plaid shirts and plain-front chino trousers engraved with designer Shawn Stussy's signature, young women have been eager to get in on the act.

Tisha Hernando, a 15-year-old from Burbank, says she often shops the boys' department for labels such as Stussy, Cross Colours and Mossimo.

"They're much cooler than girls' clothes right now," Hernando said as she roamed the Glendale Galleria in an oversized Stussy T-shirt, baggy denim jeans and sandals. "It's not like all that flowery stuff you see all over the mall."

Nearly 30% of the Stussy collection is bought by young women like Hernando, says the Irvine-based designer, whose $30-million young men's business is running full throttle.

But unlike Cross Colours and Mossimo, both of which recently introduced women's clothing to their mixes, Stussy says he's unable to do a full-scale girls' collection right now.

So he did the next best thing. Working with co-designer Felicity Rulikowski at the company's Australia-based licensee--a separate operation that recently gained the rights to manufacture and market the label Down Under--Stussy developed a feminine version of his utilitarian men's clothing.

Called Stussy Sista Gear, the limited girls' collection is now available at the designer's stores in Laguna Beach, Los Angeles and New York.

The idea was to fashion "clothes for girls that have the same sensibility as the boys, but make them more feminine and sexy," says Stussy, 38. "The girls were limited in how much they could take from the men's line. So this sort of gives them a few more options."

Putting together a label on two continents could certainly pose stylistic problems. But Stussy has managed to create two distinct entities that easily complement each other.

A few simple young men's items--five-pocket jeans, pieced denim vests, embroidered and striped knit tops--have been scaled down for junior girls.

And Stussy has added many decidedly feminine shapes: a bell-bottom jean, a zip-front denim skirt, suede hot pants, a long suede vest and a simple black cotton dress with rack-stitching. Some of the cotton-Lycra knit tops come with all-over prints taken from the young men's line.

Others, including a signature white cotton blouse, feature small black embroidery. The only things missing from the black, indigo, cocoa and white collection are vibrant colors.

Because Stussy Sista is imported, its prices are slightly higher than those in the young men's line. Most items go for $40 to $100; leather jackets top out at $250.

Although Stussy won't discuss the possibility of a domestic girls' line, he concedes that working overseas presents some problems.

"The hard part is that America and Australia have opposite seasons," he says. "Their winter is our summer, which is fine because it's tropical in Australia. But when we get their summer in our winter, that's when it becomes a little difficult. I haven't worked that one out yet."

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