Jean genies

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Once the roughly hewn uniform of cowboys, the appetite for premium denim shows no signs of abating, says Rebecca Gonsalves

A pair of jeans has long been one of the great equalisers of the Western world, worn by rock stars, Hollywood A-listers and regular folk alike. But now that a premium pair leaves your wallet a few hundred pounds lighter, why hasn't the bottom fallen out of the market?

It all began in the Fifties. After a century cladding the legs of cowboys, denim was embraced by the teenagers emerging in post-war America. Marlon Brando's rebellious turn, sporting jeans and a leather jacket, in The Wild One, spurred them on and remains a defining image of that era.

By the late Seventies, jeans had passed from subversive to standard attire and were likely to fit into certain criteria: denim was blue – possibly stonewashed if the wearer considered themselves trendy – and not particularly well-fitted or flattering; and, above all, American-made and inexpensive. In the early Eighties, designer denim courtesy of Calvin Klein, Guess and Gloria Vanderbilt elevated jeans to a status symbol, though a relatively affordable one at that.

While the comparatively refined fabric we know as denim today is a world away from the rough utilitarian cloth of 60 years ago, some things never change and our dependence on jeans continues to grow as retailers report a seemingly insatiable appetite for premium jeans with a premium price tag to match. Although a steady stream of new names launches on to the market every season, there are still a few that hold the top spots. Hudson, J Brand and Current/Elliott have successfully bridged the gap between fashion, comfort and utility.

Founded in 2002 by Los Angeles native Peter Kim, Hudson aims to blend Cool Britannia with the free spirit of LA – and the cachet of celebrity fans and a campaign fronted by Georgia May Jagger. "We believe that when you look good, you feel good," Kim says. "And when you feel good, you can do and be anything you want."

"Hudson was born in the early years of Californian premium denim," explains Ben Taverniti, the brand's creative director. "Denim had been around for quite some time but premium denim was very new at that time. When designing, our golden rule is 'fit, fit, fit'. Perfect fit can only be achieved when design, production and, most importantly, love are combined with a highly trained group of individuals who are passionate about what they do."

If for such a practical product this approach seems rather esoteric, it has at least resulted in a brand renowned for quality: "Fit, flattering cut, longevity and fashion are all important when creating the perfect pair of jeans – quality and comfort as well as the right fashion."

Although boyfriend-fit, skinny and straight styles in blue and black denim are the workhorses of these brands' collections, it is the fashion-forward and more frivolous styles that help to cement their place at the top. For Hudson, the Leeloo, available in a range of colours with a contrasting tuxedo stripe down the side, is a prime example of a trend-led take on a classic product.

"This year has seen our contemporary-denim business grow rapidly," says Gary Edgley, buying manager for women's contemporary- and casualwear at Selfridges. "Over the past few seasons, it's been really interesting to see the shift in popularity of different aesthetics. Denim is one of those categories which can be really indicative of the wider fashion market. There was this huge boom in 'it-jeans' which were focused on print or even which were more pants than jeans – think J Brand's Houlihan [a skinny-fit cargo pant that became the 'it-trouser' of 2010]. Now, it's much more about a return to true denim."

When jeans are a staple of casual, office and evening attire, there are shopper who feel a £200-plus price tag can be justified. Those who subscribe to the cost-per-wear school of shopping would see the benefit of investing in longevity through quality. Edgley agrees: "With premium denim in particular, which inevitably is seen much more as an investment, the most important thing is always fit – closely followed by fabric quality and longevity. It's so important for jeans to retain their shape and not loosen over time, which is one of the most common problems with cheap denim."

Whether patterned or plain, American brands retain something of an advantage in the market. "The majority of our bestselling brands are LA-based at the moment, and have been for some time," Edgley confirms. One of the newest lines picked up by the department store is Koral Los Angeles – a project led by Peter Koral, the man credited with starting the tidal wave of LA labels when he co-founded 7 For All Mankind in 2000. Seven years later, he sold it for a reported $775m, so understands the market potential. According to Edgley, the selling point of Koral's new line is the quality of the fabrics and a variation of washes that ranges from raw denim to "36 months", which is hand-processed to resemble the natural wear of a three-year-old pair of jeans.

Mother is another label with roots in 7 For All Mankind – co-founder Tim Kaeding cut his teeth there before teaming up with a former rival, Lela Tillem Becker, two years ago. "With our rich past in denim, we were looking for an outlet to expand on some of the ideas and inspirations that weren't always appropriate in the past," the pair say. "Mother is our vehicle for exploring more fantastic ideas without the constraints of corporate direction. We don't conform to any ethos or archetypes of 'premium denim'; we're free to be as creative as possible."

Almost 60 years after Brando starred in The Wild One, a celebrity sporting a certain style is still enough to send pairs flying off the shelves, though nowadays it is more often a star off duty. With the lure of dressing like an A-lister every day, no wonder premium denim is going stratospheric.

Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Day In a Page

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect