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Jordan to Expand Nike Fashion Brand
LAS VEGAS — Michael Jordan is transforming himself from multi-million-dollar basketball superstar to billion-dollar fashion king with an aggressive expansion of his Nike shoe and clothing lines.

Kevork Djansezian/AP
Michael Jordan's Nike imprint has fallen from favor due to the changing tastes of critical trend-setting teenagers

The retired Chicago Bulls superstar is spearheading a Nike full-court press on fashion opponents by launching a broader lifestyle clothing line earmarked for department and specialty stores.

"That's because I'm out of a job," Jordan told Reuters in an interview after a Las Vegas fashion show in which Jordan unveiled a new line of casual sportswear for men and women that had an almost Ralph Lauren appeal.

The show was a departure from run-of-the-mill shorts and sports tops. It featured a variety of trendy sporty casual wear from sueded fleece pants with cargo pockets to caps, bags, shorts and jackets that Jordan said he had helped design.

"In sports sometimes you express your personality the way you play. You can look at an athlete and say he's very outgoing, very creative. With apparel it's the same way. What you wear sometimes expresses your personality," Jordan said.

"That's the correlation between athletes and apparel. We try to utilize that, especially (as it pertains to) me."

In the future, casual apparel will be the driver behind growing the Jordan brand, which started out in the mid-80s as athletic footwear, said Larry Miller, president of the Jordan line, which was established as a separate business unit last year in anticipation of Jordan's retirement.

While Jordan's imprint has helped Nike dominate the market for basketball shoes and clothing over the past decade, the category has fallen from favor due to the changing tastes of critical trend-setting teenagers.

Basketball shoes, apparel and other products bearing the Jordan name account for about 4 percent of Nike's revenues, said Miller, down from 1993, when Jordan-related gear accounted for about 9 percent of sales.

Miller said the company hopes to expand the Jordan brand from about 4 percent, or $400 million in annual sales, up to more than 10 percent of total Nike revenues. "We believe it can be a billion dollar business as long as we focus on apparel," he said.

Miller said although Jordan had retired, his name transcended basketball, and Nike intended to increase marketing efforts behind the Jordan brand.

"I think his popularity will continue to increase. We're going to definitely get behind him from a marketing perspective and make sure we compensate for the fact he's not playing on the court," he said.

The key to future success of the Jordan line, Miller noted, was expanding into lifestyle apparel along the lines of Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren.

"We started out as a business focused around the Air Jordan shoe," Miller said. "That's really where the bulk of the volume for business has continued to be. Now we see a real opportunity to go into apparel lines."

Miller said many high fashion designers such as Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger had expanded their casual clothing lines into the athletic area and that Jordan would go head-to-head with those designers.

"Ultimately it probably will become a battleground but we're ready to do battle if it comes to it. With Jordan brand and with Michael we can make that push going in their direction from performance and sport into more of the lifestyle," Miller said.

Jordan also said he was developing a line of men's tailored clothing.

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