Rock & Republic’s Michael Ball with models in heyday.

Rock & Republic’s Michael Ball with models in heyday. Photo by Courtesy Photo

The formerly high-flying apparel brand Rock & Republic will be landing – on the shelf at discount retail chain Kohl’s Inc.

Quite a comedown for the label once known for its high-price denim and charismatic party-boy leader, Michael Ball.

The upscale L.A.-based jeans manufacturer declared bankruptcy last year. Its brand name was sold to VF Corp., an apparel conglomerate in Greensboro, N.C., that also owns the Lee, Wrangler and North Face labels.

VF announced an agreement April 28 to manufacture Rock & Republic jeans exclusively for sale at Kohl’s, a chain of midprice department stores based in Menomonee Falls, Wis. Eventually, Kohl’s plans to put the R&R label on nonjeans apparel, footwear, children’s clothes, jewelry and home decorations.

Meanwhile, Rock & Republic has shut down most of its operations in Los Angeles. Most of its inventory was sold to Costco and other discounters, the Rock & Republic stores have closed and the phone at company headquarters has been disconnected.

The company still runs a website where it continues to offer jeans in the $150-$300 range. David Conn, president of retail licensed brands at VF, said the site will continue to function until VF creates a new one. Rock & Republic jeans will reach Kohl’s stores next spring.

“It’s is no longer a California brand,” said Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Association in Los Angeles. “There is no Rock & Republic company; it is just a brand and it belongs to a holding company.”

In its new incarnation, Rock & Republic will “probably be Kohl’s premium brand, but it won’t be $200 for a pair of jeans, that’s for sure,” Metchek added.

Vicki Shamion, Kohl’s senior vice president of public and community relations, said the price of Rock & Republic jeans hasn’t been determined, but would be comparable with the Simply Vera brand, a mass-market label by haute couture designer Vera Wang sold exclusively at Kohl’s. Simply Vera jeans retail between $20 and $50.

That represents a steep drop, both in price and status, for Rock & Republic. The company was founded in 2002 by pro cyclist Ball, who later brought in actress Andrea Bernholtz as a partner. The company sold its jeans in select boutiques and company-owned stores.

Celebrity pants

The company’s marketing strategy focused on getting Hollywood celebrities to wear its pants. Notables appearing in Rock & Republic apparel included Victoria and David Beckham, Jamie Spears, Adam Lambert, Colin Farrell, Miley Cyrus and Megan Fox.


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