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Pop stars, surf, juniors turn heads

Apparel licensing remained flat in 2000, a challenging 12 months without any major home run character or entertainment property to add meaningful bulk.

The music T-shirts business had its ups and down: *NSync, Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears had revved at specialty and were on their way to mass; music agent and T-shirt supplier Winterland filed Chapter 11 in early 2001.

Adult character T-shirts, besides cutesy juniors' stuff, had a great lift in sales at mid-tier from Warner Bros.' superhero properties like Superman and Wonder Woman on tops by Jerry Leigh.

New leaders in recorded music, like Eminem, broke T-shirts at the mid-tier, a feat since most hiphop artists have no home in concert-like tees. The most successful hiphop-related professionals have built their own branded lines of sportswear.

Leather bottoms grew in popularity in 2000, spilling over into 2001. The segment has since lured some properties, like FUBU and XOXO, both via Marc Garson (New York).

Other juniors' highlights this year: denim rooted licensor Mudd signed headwear maker Drew Pearson as European master licensee, and Franco Manufacturing for bedding. Claire Murray, a rug-rooted home products licensor, is beefing up her presence in sweaters in 2002 via Marisa Christina (New York), known for Christmas-tree novelty sweaters.

Surfwear got tossed and tumbled in 2000 with many "California lifestyle" fashion brands either disappearing or re-tooling significantly. Now Giant Merchandising (Commerce, Calif.), one of the leading tops licensees, is acting as master licensee for Gidget, a surfing/fun lifestyle apparel line with a small presence at core surf shops since 1995. Giant seeks partners for apparel, accessories, shoes, swimwear and bags.

Newcomer properties for apparel makers: AmeriCo Group (New York) nabbed licenses for Pepsi and Mountain Dew in 2001 and just added a Pepsi denim line, targeted to the mass.

Other avenues for growth: plus-size juniors' apparel, and juniors'-influenced contemporary and missy sizes.

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