Juicy Couture: A business that's oozing success

The rapid expansion, though not without risk, isn't the nail-biting venture it once was for the two women. Four years ago, Nash-Taylor says, they were so nervous, they were "sitting on the floor, crying" into margaritas and asking themselves, "Is it too soon to open stores?" That was as they were preparing to open their first store in Las Vegas.

"And now, that store is a gold mine," she says. There will be 62 full-price retail stores in the USA by the end of 2008, and 18 more internationally.

Nash-Taylor and Skaist-Levy say they start each day by calling each other at home. Before they get to the actual business of the day, ("But who cares who we're meeting?" laughs Skaist-Levy), they cover what seems to really matter, asking each other: "What are you wearing today?"

Defying the status quo has been their shtick for years. Showing up at a black tie event in the same outfit is always "the biggest faux pas," says Skaist-Levy, so they purposely did just that in 2003 when they wore the same Zac Posen outfits for a Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They've been dressing alike ever since. "We try to be light and to have fun with it," Nash-Taylor says.

When they were feted by Nordstrom for being a "Vendor of the Year" earlier this year, Black says, the pair's presentation "made the entire annual meeting." They peppered their free-flowing girl talk with details of their plans to be "No. 1!"

"They have these free, creative spirits, and they're not afraid to let that be seen," Black says.

'Good, clean fun'

If that's considered somewhat, um, provocative, then, in their view, so be it. Asked about arguments by some parents and others that the name and slogans, including "Kiss my couture," carry sexual connotations, Skaist-Levy wrinkles her nose. "Yeewww," she says. "It's not that at all. It's like, 'Get a life.' There are so many other things to worry about."

The idea to sometimes splash the word "Juicy" across the backside of the company's pants came to Nash-Taylor at a game at her son's school, when she noticed cheerleaders with the word "Cheer" on their rear ends. "That's genius," Taylor recalls thinking. "We've got to put 'Juicy' on the butt."

The founder of the Pure Fashion movement has another view. "When most men see the word 'Juicy' across a woman's butt, they're not thinking anything wholesome," says Brenda Sharman, whose group advocates more modest clothing.

It isn't only those from socially conservative backgrounds who have been troubled by it. Nash-Taylor says Jimmy Iovine, now chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, came up to her once at an event and said, "Are you responsible for my daughter having the word 'Juicy' across her butt?"

It's all just "good clean fun," Nash-Taylor insists.

While they will acknowledge their success — including the new Juicy Couture "G&P" Barbie dolls — the women still find it rather funny. When Nash-Taylor visited her alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University, in 2006 to be honored with other leading alumni, "There was the woman (Stephanie Kwolek) who invented Kevlar —serious scientists and engineers," Nash-Taylor says. "Then there was me, with my Barbie."

The second incarnation of the Pam and Gela Barbie dolls, with their matching ruffled mini dresses, has a fairy tale summing up their story so far.

"Once upon a time in a land called Pacoima, there were two nice girls who liked stuff," goes the story on the back of the box. "Juicy Couture swept the land, and they lived happily ever after."

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