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May 30th, 2001 Elizabeth Dye | Fashion
 

Jantzen's Big Splash

     
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Problem: A once august swimwear company senses its brand slipping.

Objective: Enlist Plazm Media, Portland's streetwise media firm.

Solution #1 in the Plazm Playbook: Ally Portland-based Jantzen Swimwear with the indie film culture.

Execution: Jantzen will be the corporate sponsor for this year's Telluride Film Festival. It's part of a suite of strategies designed to transform the company from a utilitarian purveyor of bathing costumes to a next-generation, greasysexy cynosure of swimwear.

Prediction: It's a crazy plan that just...might...work! Take the film idea. Its apparent wackiness is also its genius--the powers that be at Jantzen felt the company's Diving Girl was nearly exhausted as a symbol (we have watched her perennially plunge from swimsuit hips for almost 80 years). On the other hand, one of Jantzen's biggest PR successes of the last century had been to gain the endorsements of legendary '40s Hollywood starlets. Vintage vixens were photographed on the sands of Capri, sheathed in Jantzen maillots. With their pin-up appeal and celebrity signatures, the ads were a sultry success, and helped solidify Jantzen's swimsuit sway with the tastemaking pretty people of the era. Plazm has revived this marriage between Jantzen and the movies by engineering the aforementioned Telluride sponsorship. The next scheme on the style horizon: the Influencers Project. Part of next year's plan, the "I.P." involves shipping suits to nubile superstars such as Venus Williams.

Proximity is destiny, so getting Jantzen suits near the known and gorgeous could get the branding ball rolling. But you pay a good ad agency to fight on all fronts. Plazm has attended to countless branding details on Jantzen's behalf, from the most minute (runway design and music) to a sexy Bruce Weber-meets-tough-edged-Helmut Newton lookbook splattered with high-gloss, languidly akimbo models peeling damp whorls of hair from their faces and playfully adjusting their Jantzen straps. This tome was shipped with love and kisses to the stylists, columnists and art directors of national fashion pubs in hopes of receiving suit placement in fashion editorial spreads (ever wonder how that works?). Plazm scored hits with Vogue and Allure, and more are on the way.

The Jantzen radical rebrand isn't all new territory. Plazm urged the company to dive back to its roots in marketing, if not in image; its current film focus bears a striking similarity to what has worked for it in eons past.

Jantzen steadfastly did not want to go back in time, but the reality is that the taste-making mechanisms are the same as they've ever been--people emulate the styles of the famous as a charm against their own obscurity. What has changed is that Jantzen is now owned by VFC, the world's largest publicly owned apparel corporation. The company imagines the swimsuit buyer as a creative fashion maker who is offered choice and innovation in all strata of fashion, from retro (Jantzen's Riviera line revives vintage styles) to couture (the new Seamless line features sexy underwater ads) to sportswear (traditional tank suits).

Progressive design is Plazm's bailiwick--in addition to its agency work, the media company runs a type foundry and a sharp design magazine with national cachet. But will the PR makeover be enough to shake up stalwart Jantzen and arouse buyers of a younger, sexier stamp? After all, Big J's largest client is the May Company (owner of good old Meier & Frank)--not exactly a hub for hot style. And Jantzen's dedication to good fit and low prices may run afoul of fashion's first priorities.

You don't have to like the suits to enjoy the fireworks. Jantzen hiring Plazm is much like that movie about the nerd boy who hires one of his school's popular chicks to be his girlfriend for a month. Of course, in the movie, she turns out to like him for more than his money. Dress Listings

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Jantzen:
The Store
Galleria,
921 SW Morrison St.
221-1443
 
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