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Originally published May 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 19, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Not Your Daughter's Jeans is all about the baby boomers

Spending time at the family-operated Not Your Daughter's Jeans corporate office in Vernon, Calif., is like hanging out in somebody's living...

Los Angeles Times

Spending time at the family-operated Not Your Daughter's Jeans corporate office in Vernon, Calif., is like hanging out in somebody's living room.

The daughters prop their feet on a coffee table, and patriarch George Rudes launches into a series of stories about his granddaughter.

Everybody's laid-back, except maybe Rudes, 77, who is poured into a pair of the company's Tummy Tuck jeans. What can he do? He's crazy about the product, and they only make jeans for women.

By riveting attention on baby boomers who consider hipness a birthright, the company has struck a nerve that others have hammered at and missed. And his family's once-small business is popping at the seams.

The jeans maker, which launched in 2003, expects sales of at least $55 million this year, said Rudes, a garment-industry veteran whose daughters coaxed him out of retirement to help start the business.

Offering jeans that perform a function — supposedly flattening the stomach and hoisting the rear — is a smart strategy, especially in a cooling jeans market, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD Group. Jeans sales slipped 2 percent last year, the first drop since 2001, he said.

Everything, it seems, has to work harder these days. Even your jeans.

"Women tell me all the time, 'I tried the low-rise jeans, it didn't work.' 'I tried the skinny jeans, it didn't work,' " Cohen said. " 'I want something that really works.' "

The curvy crowd was out of luck, said Lisa Sandel-Rudes, 43, George Rudes' younger daughter.

"There were no jeans for the woman — except baggy, dumpy-looking things," she said. So she called her father in Florida. "Come home," she said.

"Lisa was the mastermind," said brother Kenneth Rudes, 45, who also works for the business. But their father is the "whiz."

George Rudes got his start in the clothing business in 1950 by selling fabric to women's-apparel manufacturers in Puerto Rico, where he lived. After moving to California in 1978, Rudes and a partner started making jeans under the St. Germain label, a brand that evolved into a full sportswear line but was best-known for jumpsuits.

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When he retired in 1995, Rudes handed the business over to his daughters and moved to Florida.

As fashion tastes shifted early this decade, St. Germain struggled as sales for nearby jeans makers, such as 7 for all Mankind, were sizzling. So Lisa and her sister, Leslie Rudes, 47, decided it was time for the family business to return to its roots.

Not Your Daughter's Jeans played with fabric, patterns and stitching techniques to create Tummy Tuck jeans, doubling up on the Lycra to make them stretchier. The pockets are stitched to create a horizontal band across the front that reduces the stretch in that area, thereby — theoretically, at least — subduing the belly. A note from Sandal-Rudes is stuck inside the pants: "You can thank me later."

The line has evolved to include shorts, capris and jackets. George Rudes said that eventually the company will launch a men's line, and then he won't have to wear the women's size 12.

Tummy Tuck jeans sell in department stores including Nordstrom and in more than 1,000 specialty stores nationwide. The company also has accounts in at least half a dozen countries and plans to expand further internationally.

All this shifts George Rudes into new territory, because St. Germain's sales never exceeded $13 million.

Bracing for future growth, the company moved into a 32,000-square-foot headquarters, three times the size of its former home. And it's now eyeing an even larger site. Since July, it has doubled its work force to 60 employees, including hiring its first vice president of domestic sales.

Would the business have taken flight if their dad hadn't "come home"? No, both daughters say.

"He lives and breathes it more than my sister and I," Sandel-Rudes said.

And he doesn't seem to miss Florida.

"When things are going good, it's a lot of fun," Rudes said. "It's better than golf."

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