INTERVIEW-Levi's eyes market gain with new women's line


* Sees Curve ID as bulk of women's jeans sales within year

* Women's could be 40 pct of total sales vs 30 pct now

* Roll out to U.S. department stores starts in December

By Phil Wahba and Alexandria Sage

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Levi Strauss & Co is focusing on women's shapes instead of sizes with a new line of jeans it hopes will give a big boost to its women's denim sales.

The new line, Levi's Curve ID, is part of an effort to sell more women's jeans and take advantage of customers wary of spending hundreds of dollars on designer jeans, the president of Levi Strauss Americas said.

The line, which began appearing in stores recently but is being officially launched Monday, has three custom fits within each given size for different body shapes.

Curve ID jeans could well make up the bulk of women's jeans sales within a year, Robert Hanson told Reuters in an interview Friday at an informal presentation in New York of the line.

"We have a big opportunity to grow our women's business," Hanson said. "The intent here is to create a jeans range that is about shape, not size."

Hanson added the company's goal is for women's denim to rise fairly quickly to 40 percent of Levi's adult sales from 30 percent now.

The Curve ID jeans cost $60 to $98 at the company's stores, compared with designer brands that can cost upward of $200.

"There are more women who are consciously saying: 'I want to look at the other brands out there and see if I can get a premium aesthetic ... at a better value,"' Hanson said.

Curve ID offers three cuts -- slight curve, demi curve and bold curve -- for different body types.

Three curve types would cover about 80 percent of women, said You Nguyen, who oversees Levi's women's merchandising and design operations. A fourth, for the curviest women, will come later this year.

Hanson said the company will start selling them at department stores such as J.C. Penney Co Inc, Macy's Incand Nordstrom Inc in December.

The marketing campaign for Curve ID starting in September, which will include a "manifesto" proclaiming that "All asses were not created equal."

Levi's revamp comes as competitors are trying to solidify gains they've made in denim.

Gap Inc said earlier this week that women's jeans performed well in July. Retailers such as Kohl's and Ann Taylor Stores Corp, for example, have focused on women's denim as a growth category.

Many brands are offering more mid-priced styles, such as $59.40 at Gap or $89 at Guess, to appeal to shoppers looking for cheaper clothes.

In the second quarter, Levi Strauss posted a 8 percent rise in revenue and a net loss that was wider than a year ago, hurt by a high-yield debt refinancing. (Reporting by Phil Wahba and Alexandria Sage; editing by Robert MacMillan and Andre Grenon)

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