Wednesday, July 18, 2007

BusinessWeek: Pricey Jeans Are So Passé

...I couldn't agree more. I visited Scoop on the Upper East Side the other week and tried on a couple of pairs of COH jeans, which each ran about $189. I have never spent more than $98 on jeans, and even that seemed ultimately insane to me (but it was at Club Monaco, so I let it slide). So instead I purchased some Levi's 545 Low Slim boot cut jeans at Sears for $19.99! No I am not kidding and no I am not insane. The only trick is that you have to travel outside of Manhattan to find this "Sears" that you may have heard about in Beastie Boys songs of yore. But these jeans fit me better than most. Check 'em out before they are all gone (see photo)!

July 23, 2007
Looking to trim her two-dozen-pair collection of designer jeans, Julie Mathis, a Los Angeles public relations executive, recently tried to sell her $400 Antik Denim jeans to a local secondhand shop. She figured the store would snap them up. It didn't. "They were like: Nobody's wearing these anymore,'" Mathis says. The five-year-old denim craze, which has juiced sales for apparel makers and department stores alike, looks to be fading at last. Sales of women's jeans declined 1.8% last year, to $7.5 billion, the first pullback in five years, says market researcher NPD Group. Two years ago the women's jeans business was on a double-digit tear, driven largely by the premium category of $100-plus jeans. Blame consumer fatigue and an influx of cheap jeans that even connoisseurs acknowledge aren't half bad. Denim crazes have come and gone. Los Angeles-based 7 For All Mankind kicked off the latest frenzy in 2000 with its $114 derrière-hugging jeans. Before long, tony Italian and Japanese denim became commonplace, and regular folk were obsessing over styles (boot cut vs. flare), washes (dark denim vs. stonewash), and elaborate embellishments (Swarovski crystals on the rear). Paying $200 for a garment with blue-collar roots became as acceptable as laying out $3.50 for a Starbucks Venti Latte.It's been a great ride. True Religion Apparel in Los Angeles had sales of $139 million last year, a fivefold increase from 2004. The company generated operating margins of 28% last year. Polo Ralph Lauren managed 15%; Liz Claiborne, 9%.Perhaps the premium brands should have figured out that things were winding down when industry stalwart Levi Strauss finally got its mojo working again, launching new lines last year that have eaten into sales of designer jeans. True Religion's sales inched up just 1.5% in the first quarter of this year, to $36 million. Sales for Blue Holding, makers of the Antik brand, fell 28% in the same period.Another hit came when inexpensive but stylish denim caught fire in Europe. Cheap Monday, a brand hatched by a Stockholm clothing store that led the way, are now available in the U.S. at fancy boutiques for a relatively inexpensive $65 a pair. Other companies are following in lockstep. J.C. Penney will start selling $35 jeans this fall from Los Angeles designers Chip & Pepper. And Guess is selling $50 jeans at its new, lower-priced G by Guess chain. Meanwhile, women are diverting their denim dollars to dresses and bags. True Religion now sells shoes and shirts; 7 For All Mankind, $500 purses. Both also offer sweaters and jackets. Loretta Soffe, head of women's apparel for Nordstrom, says the designers have yet to prove they can make the transition. "I'm not going to lie to you," she says. "Their expertise is in denim."
By Christopher Palmeri