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Best-dressed Groupie

The standard-issue concert T-shirt has given way to the Doors cashmere hoodie and Grammy leather jacket.

September 23, 2007|Adam Tschorn | Times Staff Writer

Back in the day, wearing your favorite band merchandise meant scoring a Hanes Beefy-T in a beer-soaked parking lot outside the venue for $6. The front was inevitably plastered with a poorly screened band logo, and the back listed tour stops (just in case you were too plastered to remember where you were).

That was then, and this is now. Today, you can buy jeans screened with Beatles lyrics for $315, Grammy-branded sunglasses for five grand and a Supima cotton, western-style shirt complete with pearlized buttons and contrasting yoke bearing the name and likeness of Willie Nelson for $124.

But that's just the tip of the drumstick. Thanks to an aging fan base with lots of disposable income and a resurgence in the popularity of classic rock, the apparel side of music merchandising is producing fashion in a way it never has before. According to Dell Furano, chief executive of Signatures Networks, which helps license music properties, the $1 billion in global music merchandising could triple with the increased sales from more fashionable apparel.

Trunk, the Culver City company that built itself on pricey reissued concert T-shirts, recently enlisted the help of L.A. designer Henry Duarte -- he of the skin-tight, lace-up, leather patchwork pants who has dressed the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Steven Tyler and Ozzie Osbourne.

From his office, Duarte waves his hand toward the board crammed with designs for dresses, shirts, hoodies and tees bearing the likenesses and logos of Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC, the Beatles and Aerosmith as if he's predicting the future. An avid collector of album cover art (he says he's got close to 5,000 records) and a friend of many of the bands, Duarte has also been clothing rock 'n' roll superstars since 1985 and thinks the time is right to expand the Trunk line.

This spring will see the release of that Willie Nelson western shirt, and tunic dresses (one bearing Alice Cooper's mascara-larded eyes) will follow in summer. For fall '08, there will be denim and leather bottoms and leather outerwear (Duarte's forte), as well as T-shirts with graphic interpretations of lyrics and archival photos and trompe l'oeil jackets that resemble the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper uniforms and Hendrix's bandleader's-style jacket. "These graphics won't show up anywhere else," Duarte said, referring to his exclusive licensing arrangements.

Move toward exclusivity

Over the last few seasons, the L.A. label English Laundry hit the market with embroidered and screened Lennon/McCartney lyrics ("Hello/Goodbye") on men's button-fronts, and Lyric Culture has built its entire business around the idea of sponging, stamping and crystal-encrusting lyrics ("Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and "Revolution," among others) on premium denim.

Jeff Jampol, who heads the Doors Music Co., explains that his company's move into fashion -- cashmere hoodies, denim and, appropriately enough, leather pants -- is a way to keep a brand such as the Doors from flaming out at the consumer level. When band merchandise is available at stores such as Target and Wal-Mart, he says, the product has a short shelf life among consumers.

But mining exclusive images such as the 6,000 photographs in the Doors archives and developing new products like outerwear and pants will keep the Doors' $6-million-to-$10-million merchandising business humming along for years to come. "We're actually pulling out of the mass market and focusing on the high end," Jampol said. "It helps reburnish the Doors and keep them in it for the long haul."

Other projects, according to Signatures' Furano, include footwear and high-end denim featuring Woodstock, the Beatles, Grateful Dead, Black Sabbath and KISS.

And, in what has to be the most head-scratching entry into the premium apparel and accessories derby is the new luxury Grammy line, which is scheduled to debut early next month at M. Frederic in Studio City.

The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences hopes its groupies will drop $50 on a T-shirt, $1,200 on a leather jacket and $7,000 for diamond-encrusted eyewear -- and to help you get over the sticker shock, 20% of the proceeds will benefit the Grammy Foundation and MusiCares.

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adam.tschorn@latimes.com

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