Moss Appeal

Photo by Jack GouldFive years ago, OC fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli was untouchable. Two years ago, he was nearly bankrupt. Today, he's in Target.

Not the man but his clothes: brightly colored, inexpensive, surprisingly well-made versions of the chic, surf-inspired clothes that once sold—for far too much money—in boutiques and select department stores. And there's a ton of it: racks and racks of women's clothes, men's clothes, kids' clothes, all of it prominently displayed under huge, hanging Mossimo placards. There's even a line of Mossimo hair products.

It's the result of a three-year, $28 million contract with Target—a move many regard as the equivalent of Mossimo turning into a big old hunk of cheese. Well, except that the clothes are cute.

"I'm in shock," says a woman who worked as a sales rep for Mossimo until April 1999, when the company laid off 90 percent of its workforce. "Target just seemed so beneath him. I thought the clothes were going to be so cheesy, but I think they're totally cute. I'm almost buying as much Mossimo stuff at Target as when I worked at Mossimo."

She holds out the sleeve of a crimson duster jacket. "When we sold this at Macy's, it would have been $75." At Target, it's $29.

On this day at Target, right next to a rack of jackets, she has coincidentally run into another ex-Mossimo sales rep. They haven't seen each other since they lost their jobs, so there's much to catch up on: new jobs, new relationships, whereabouts of co-workers, what they think of the clothes (they're surprisingly cute), what they thought they would think (they wanted to hate them), and how they feel about shopping for clothes at Target (well, kind of sheepish, but isn't that stupid?)

"Now, see, I want to buy this," says one of the women, pointing to an orange, pink and red polka-dot duster jacket (which doesn't look like a pile of vomit even though it sounds like it should), "but I'm not going to. I would have bought this. This is something I would totally buy."

And she's not going to buy it because
. . . ? "Because it's so easily identifiable," she says.

It's not like she's ashamed of shopping at Target, but it's not like she's not ashamed, either. She knows it's kind of dumb to care, but still—she would just rather not be seen wearing the same really cute jacket that everyone else is wearing that they all also bought at Target.

"But I might buy it in red," she says, laughing. "Hey, you're not going to use my name are you?" She'd rather I didn't. And then: "Isn't that stupid of me?"


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