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Togs for angry teens

Talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve-or T-shirt, or bag. Jim Benton of J.K. Benton Design Studio says his cheeky new teen-targeted apparel lines-I'm Your Girl and Just Plain Mean-allow girls ages 12 to 18 to mouth off without saying...
September 1, 1999

Talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve-or T-shirt, or bag. Jim Benton of J.K. Benton Design Studio says his cheeky new teen-targeted apparel lines-I’m Your Girl and Just Plain Mean-allow girls ages 12 to 18 to mouth off without saying a word. And in a word, the two newest brands developed by the Bloomfield, Missouri-based artist/writer/producer are, well. . . rude.

One of Benton’s most popular designs, to be included in the new Just Plain Mean line of T-shirts, jewelry and accessories that hits shelves this month, is a drawing of a demure teenage girl giving a man a mighty kick in the privates. I’m Your Girl, on the other hand, is a fashion line based on four characters-Angel, Trouble, Tuff and Bad Girl-that allows girls to show off their individual personas.

Benton says the idea behind the lines is to show that it’s natural for girls to be just as tough and aggressive as guys can be. ‘Girls are really proud to broadcast that they are trouble,’ says Benton. ‘[The brands are] part of a general movement not to sew lace on everything girls buy.’

I’m Your Girl apparel, including T-shirts, sweatshirts and tank tops, is being licensed by Sterling Heights, Michigan-based clothing company Blackjack, and handbags are being produced by New York’s Honey Fashion. In Canada, the line is licensed to NTD Apparel. Signature Group, based in Minneapolis, is looking to license sleepwear for the brand, and Benton is still looking for licensees for jewelry and paper products.

As for Just Plain Mean, following the introduction of the line at Licensing Show in June, Blackjack picked up the license for T-shirts, sweatshirts and tanks; Papel Giftware for mugs; and Hot Properties for key rings and buttons. Benton is keen to expand the brand into the watch category soon, and is also hoping to create animated series based on characters in both Just Plain Mean and I’m Your Girl.

‘As soon as something hooks, I instantly start writing the entertainment back end on it,’ Benton explains. ‘Although I don’t know exactly how I’m going to pursue this, I want to be careful not to cross over existing stuff [like anime].’ He is currently working on the show bibles and entertaining buyer nibbles. Benton is no stranger to TV; his series The Secret Files of The Spydogs has been signed for a second season on Fox Kids Network.

Not drawing the line at girl brands, Benton is planning a foray into the boys market with a licensed line called Ratbite. He’s received interest from Alabama’s Tee Jays to do apparel, and is scoping out skateboard companies for more licensing hooks.

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