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The “Jeaneology” of a Wardrobe Favorite

May 24, 2012

Catherine Salfino

Denim, how do we love thee?  Let us count the Google hits: 214 million+.

May 20 marked 139 years since Levi Strauss affixed copper rivets to “waist overalls,” creating the first denim jeans.  And as this bottom celebrates its birthday, its popularity as a well-crafted, stylish icon endures.

The Blues Jean Bar’s Sydney Prikryl, head of operations for the 12-store retailer, explains why denim remains fashion-forward.

“Denim is and has been a staple in wardrobes forever,” Prikryl says.  “It’s functional, first of all.  And with the added evolution of designer denim, it caters to multiple demographics across the board. Dress it up, dress it down, wear it to work!”

When buying new jeans, half of all consumers classify the purchase as a “need,” as opposed to a “want,” according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle MonitorTM Survey.   Nearly a third (30%) buy new denim when their old jeans wear out, while 10% shop when the old pairs no longer fit, and another 10% shop simply when they “need new jeans” or “need them for work.”

Porsche Design’s branded denim is an important category at its stores worldwide, says Juergen Gessler, CEO of the Porsche Design Group.

“Denim is part of today’s lifestyle,” Gessler says. “It is trans-seasonal and breaks all boundaries of social status and age. As a lifestyle and luxury brand, Porsche Design feels denim is an essential part of one’s everyday attire and lifestyle. Denim can be worn on any occasion, from day to evening, and is an indispensable part of every man’s and woman’s wardrobe.”

Of course, Porsche is not alone with that philosophy.  Top brands are competing heavily in the title for most relevant–and wearable.  Take Seven For All Mankind, which will continue featuring actor James Franco in its fall campaign about going out at night in California. Guess is celebrating “30 Sexy Years” with its former mega star model Claudia Schiffer.  And Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply is reaching out to electronic dance fans through its collaboration with Swedish deejay/producer Avicii for its fall campaign.

Meanwhile, the granddaddy of all denim has expanded boldly, right in the capital of couture: Levi’s, which already had 22 Paris shops, recently opened a 7,000-square-foot flagship store in the French city.

“France is one of our biggest markets worldwide,” Erik Joule, senior vice president of global merchandising and design at Levi’s, told Women’s Wear Daily.

“It sits in the top 10 of all our markets.”

The store design evokes the brand’s history and authenticity, while delivering modern looks from collections that include the iconic Red Tab line; WaterLess, which uses significantly less water to produce; the higher-end Made & Crafted line; and the new men’s Commuter series, made specifically for cyclists.

Levi’s (34%) tops the list as consumers’ favorite denim brand, followed by Lee (12%), Wrangler (11%), Old Navy (6%), Gap (5%), Lucky (4%), Calvin Klein (3%) and American Eagle (3%), according to the Monitor survey.

Whether for cycling to work, walking around campus or relaxing on the weekend, 84% of consumers rate fit as being “very important” to their denim jean purchase, Monitor data show.   That is followed by comfort (76%), “makes me look good” (64%), price (59%) and durability (54%).

The Blues Jean Bar offers 40-plus brands in a variety of styles, fits and washes, from white jeans and coated denim, to skinny and boyfriend jeans.  While some companies began adding other fibers to their denim when the price of cotton rose, Prikryl said that was not a problem at her stores. Denim quality comes first, she says, even if shoppers enjoy a little stretch.

“Not too much, but enough that flexibility is enabled when our jean tenders are getting people ‘waisted.'”

Half of all women do like stretch in their jeans, while just 17% of men look for it, the Monitor shows.

Porsche Design’s Gessler says the company makes no compromises when it comes to materials and craftsmanship.

“This is not only true for Porsche Design denim, but also for our entire fashion collection,” he says. “We always offer only the highest quality and one can feel the difference. Our customers love the comfort and washes of our denim collection.”

For fall, Porsche is offering “quiet” washes, Gessler says, including “dark-coated denim in slim and skinny, for men and women.”

It turns out most consumers (79%) are likely to buy dark blue denim, followed by medium blue (65%), black (45%), light blue (38%) and gray (18%).  About 2% of shoppers say they are likely to purchase yellow, pink, and gold denim.

The Blues Jean Bar anticipates its assortment will appeal to all fans.  While fall will be about dark reds, greens and blues, summer features lively colors and white denim.  In addition to its online and retail locations, the retailer’s “BJB Mobile Tour” will send cargo vans filled with denim to cities around the country, outfitting consumers all summer long.

“This is really fun for us because we have the opportunity to hit up places that don’t have resources for premium denim — and it’s also a party,” Prikryl says.

And it is one more way to keep spreading the love of blue jeans.