Companies & Industries

Juicy Couture (1997–2014) couldn’t evolve when its cachet dried up

The $200 track suit purveyor rode celebrity butts to half a billion in sales but fell out of fashion

Paris Hilton wearing a tracksuit, plus some other Juicy Couture products

Juicy Couture emerged just as celebrity magazines like Us Weekly started featuring more photographs of stars doing mundane tasks. (PhotoNews International/Getty; Juicy Couture)

The fashion brand that brought us terry cloth and velour track suits with “Juicy” emblazoned across the butt was born in Los Angeles in 1997. It was the second effort of Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor, who had started with a line of maternity wear called Travis Jeans. With a quick shift in name and focus, but an equally forgiving waistband, that company grew up into Juicy Couture.

Juicy Couture emerged just as celebrity-focused magazines like US Weekly started featuring more photographs of stars doing mundane tasks. As celebrities went on coffee runs, did grocery shopping and stooped to pick up after their dogs, they would often be spotted sporting Juicy attire. A pivotal moment for the brand came in 2000, when Madonna was photographed wearing a camel-coloured Juicy track suit with “Madge” embroidered on the back. The ensembles, which cost almost US$200, were soon seen on the likes of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Jessica Alba.

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The business Skaist-Levy and Nash-Taylor had started with just US$200 of their own money and a revolving line of credit was growing rapidly and garnering attention from major fashion companies. In 2003, Fifth & Pacific Cos. Inc., now known as Kate Spade & Co., wanted to add the velour sweatsuit to its closet and bought Juicy Couture for US$53.1 million.

By 2007, the retail brand’s net sales were US$493.8 million, a 48.7% increase over the year before, and it had expanded into multiple categories, including jeans, jewelry, swimwear and footwear. But when the 2008 global recession hit, department stores—the largest part of the brand’s business—suffered. The products were pulled out of many stores; Juicy posted net sales of US$539.9 million in 2009, a 10.7% decrease from 2008. The founders of Juicy Couture departed in 2010. They told reporters at the time that they were unhappy they weren’t allowed to evolve the brand’s design, despite blinged-out velour becoming more gauche than glamorous in recent years.

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Last fall, Fifth & Pacific put Juicy Couture up for sale. They sold the rights to the brand name to the licensing company Authentic Brands Group in a cash deal worth US$195 million. All but one of Juicy Couture’s Canadian stores have shut their doors. The last outpost, an outlet location at the Vaughan Mills shopping centre in Vaughan, Ont., closed on June 30.

Juicy Couture will live on in four Canadian retail spaces and a new deal with discount retailer Kohl’s to sell its branded products beginning this fall. Next to preppy golden child Kate Spade, Juicy Couture became lacklustre, but in its glory days the bedazzled track suiter to the stars captured the zeitgeist of celebrity culture.