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.

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey indulge in some racing at a Point to Point
tvNew pictures promise a day at the races and a loved-up Lady Rose
News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
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

    Year 2 Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

    1st Line Technical Support Engineer

    £22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Thame i...

    Graduate Project Manager

    £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

    PPA Cover Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past