Men's casual apparel is getting EVE a jumpstart from an unlikely place: automotive brands. And the most recent apparel label on schedule to emerge from Detroit is none other than Dodge.

DSN Retailing Today

has learned that parent company Daimler Chrysler will license its Dodge brand to apparel manufacturer Old Toledo Brands after experiencing positive sales driven by their joint Jeep apparel venture.

The Dodge Rangewear line will start out centered around a Tefloncoated jean as did Jeep, which after a few years of success extended into a broad range of apparel and into children's and womens' wear.

The line will initially roll out at farm and fleet stores. Then it will target "westernwear and workwear customers, and should be very competitive with Wrangler in similar channels," said Marc Kaufman, president, Old Toledo Brands.

Clothing may seem an odd start for Dodge, rather than the typical toy and automotive supply deals inked by car manufacturers. However, with Dodge's broad audience, the company gave the highmargin category the green light.

"Jeep is highly recognized like Dodge, but Dodge appeals to a much broader spectrum of consumers, with links to a variety of vehicles including the Viper, NASCAR vehicles and trucks," noted Janice Tarachowski, senior manager, merchandising and licensing, Daimler Chrysler. The program will eventually encompass other categories, but for 2003 will focus on getting apparel into the market, including dealership tie-ins.

Licensing efforts fall under three umbrellas, Dodge Motorsports, Dodge Hi-Performance and the Dodge Lifestyle Brand, according to Eric Heining, brand director at Brand Sense Marketing, which helped develop this strategy.

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