- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2007

NEW YORK

Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana” is opening her closet to fans, starting a full collection of clothes, accessories, home decor and even real electric guitars as Disney goes after the increasingly powerful

tween market.

Hannah’s alter ego, Miley Cyrus — wearing a hot-pink sequined tank top, white jeans and a white leather jacket — offered a first glimpse of the Disney Consumer Products line in Manhattan recently.

The look mimicked Hannah’s overall style, sweet and appropriate for school, with flashes of sparkle. (The premise of the show is that Hannah is a country-girl-turned-pop star who tries to keep her celebrity life a secret from her classmates.)

Among the offerings, modeled by wannabe Hannahs even younger than 14-year-old Miley: a denim jumper with rhinestones, slim-cut Bermuda shorts, cargo-pocket capris with swaths of silver, a sundress topped with a denim vest and a sheer peach-colored beaded bolero worn over a regular tank top.

A handful of the T-shirts were covered with Hannah’s face, but otherwise, logos and literal references to Hannah were kept to a minimum.

“It’s not a costume. A tween girl isn’t doing dress-up. They want to look like they could be Hannah Montana’s friend,” says Donna Sheridan, vice president and general manager of apparel, footwear and accessories for Disney Consumer Products. “This is a fashion line.”

Disney Consumer Products expects retail sales of its tween business to hit $400 million this year with a lot of room to expand in the future, chairman Andy Mooney said at the International Licensing Expo, which shows off 6,000 brands and products tied to many familiar characters, logos and companies.

“Hannah Montana” will not be shouldering all the burden of growth — the sequel to the wildly popular original movie “High School Musical” premieres on the Disney Channel Aug. 17, and a broad partnership with Wal-Mart already is in place.

“Wal-Mart has said its apparel business needs a bump, and a way to do that is market to the teen/tween consumer going forward. With ‘High School Musical,’ 'Hannah Montana' and ‘Raven,’ we can help them identify with this consumer,” says Ron Johnson, the head of Disney’s Wal-Mart team.

Disney worked with Miley — daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus — and the “Hannah Montana” stylist to create the line.

Miley’s influence is seen most in the broad array of colors in the collection and all the little jackets that have become an important part of the Hannah Montana wardrobe, Miss Sheridan notes.

Disney and its family-oriented image have a role here, too. Because the tween market is largely made up of 9- to 14-year-old children who rely on their parents to pay for their clothes, purses and sequin-covered duvet covers, the Hannah Montana collection also has to also appeal to Mom and Dad. It has to be fashionable and trendy but not cross the line to sexy.

“We have to strike a balance between what the girl wants and what the mother wants,” Miss Sheridan says.

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