For a long time denim insiders have asked themselves what premium jeans are and how they are evolving. The question has become more pressing now that Uniqlo, the Japanese vertical chain, has launched its Re-Jean project selling jeans pieces made with high-quality materials, all made in Japan, such as, for instance, Kaihara selvedge denim which is sold at USD 49.90. The time is ripe to discuss the value of 'Premium denim'.

Out of Premium Denim
Various top-notch denim manufacturers such as Berto, Tavex and Cone Denim among others, are serving vertical chains and sell them their fabrics. Also Candiani Denim is selling fabrics to a vertical chain – Zara. The Spanish fast fashion giant is offering jeans models in two stretch denims for their woman’s line and a denim with selvedge for their men’s collection. These garments are completed by a hangtag proudly reproducing the Candiani Denim logo and a description specifying the fabrics’ qualities. “Zara has significantly increased the quality of some of its lines recently. They are much more disposed to spending money for fabrics than premium denim brands,” commented Simon Giuliani from Candiani. “In order to explain that they increased the quality level of their offer to the consumer, they chose to communicate what main ingredient they are using.”

Edwin Ed 55 Rainbow Selvedge
Edwin Ed 55 Rainbow Selvedge


'Only premium marketing'?
Are we now facing a “new premium denim era”? Or are those simply marketing operations aiming to show how good vertical chain product can be? Will we be facing always more kinds of “premium denim” categories – the most authentic, maniac like detailed and expensive ones sold at a minimum of €400 and beyond (mostly made in the US, Japan, Scandinavia and Italy) and other more basic quality ones mostly made with top materials and aimed at the savvy millennial consumers with an annual spending power estimated to around USD200 billion, who are looking for good price-quality ratio products and are highly educated thanks to their ability of learning and comparing products, novelties and prices via web?

Mass market to upgrade itself
Many insiders think this is a passing trend that shows that consumers are looking for true quality products and don’t want to be cheated by a lower quality at higher prices. “This phenomenon can be paired with Karl Lagerfeld or Marni designing for H&M,” commented Panos Sofianos of Tejdos Royo. Silvia Toledo, Invista has a similar vision: “This is simply a market trend and the mass market is trying to upgrade itself. Such prices belong to Uniqlo’s segments. It’s not the €9-€19 average price for denim as sold by H&M, Tesco or Next. Many chains are starting similar operations with us: Tesco has launched a denim line for women employing Lycra Beauty. H&M is offering its “Shape Jeans” carrying Lycra and Lycra T-400 at €49.90. Also C&A has started upgrading itself with new upmarket jeans products. Such operations add value and help recall a higher and more demanding type of clientele.”

selvedge denim by OVS
selvedge denim by OVS


Also the Italian fast fashion chain OVS has added higher price-for-value items to their f/w 2015-16 men’s denim line and offers selvedge denims sold at €39,90 and jeans finished with hand-dripped paint offered at €49,90. “We are focusing on greater research and more fashion-minded products with the aim to expand internationally and capture a wider audience interest ,” commented Marco Mazzoran, OVS men fashion cooordinator.

Experience counts

According to Marco Lucietti from Isko, the phenomenon has to do with younger generations, their brand disloyalty and the increasing importance of a product’s value rather than brand name: “Jeans are democratic products and the new generations, our best clients, have no brand loyalty. They appreciate products that always offer the next new technology. It is hard today saying what premium denim is and what is not. The difference is not made by price, but by materials employed. What counts is the experience they perceive.”

Roy Rogers
Roy Rogers


The market will always be looking for more “transparent” products as explained by Simon Giuliani of Candiani Denim: “What has happened in the food and wine segments will soon happen also in fashion. People will soon start buying less, but good quality only because knowledge is going to be the new cool.” Big labels and fast fashion brands often produce in the same companies of the Mediterranean basin.

Monotaro Jeans
Monotaro Jeans


True denim culture is missing
Other insiders think that the market is missing true denim culture and knowledge in this field, therefore finding selvedge jeans at USD50 will make consumers consider it a fair price also for real authentic jeans, made in the US, Japan or Italy. Fabio Adami Dalla Val, working for M&J Group, commented: “It seems we are losing the sensibility for the real meaning and value behind terms like ‘left hand’ denim or ‘selvedge’ or for real premium brands like PRPS or Edwin. The reason is that there are always less people making serious research in LA or Japan and always less culture.
The Legler denim manufacturer has been a great school for many insiders and other passionate personalities such as Elio Fiorucci have always supported and taught upcoming designers some of their know-how.”

Space for great ideas
When, in the early 2000s, I asked François Girbaud about his opinion on US premium denim brands he answered: “Take a regular five-pocket denim, have it made on the West Coast and you have premium denim. On the contrary, there is so much that one can do with denim by reinventing its silhouette, creating new fabric varieties, treating materials most differently with laser, nanotechnology and earth-friendly treatments...” No one needs another category – or another premium denim – in this market. Innovating jeans can lead to immense evolution - and business - opportunities. There is always some space for great ideas and consumers are happy to welcome them if there is serious content in them.

PRPS
PRPS