Couture du Jour—February 7, 2006

By Sarah Cohan

In today’s constantly colliding worlds of high fashion and street-chic, jeans have changed from shabby grunge to highbrow elegant. While making this journey, the cost of a pair of jeans has risen to outlandish heights.

It all started in 2000 with the company Seven for All Mankind. Since then, independent jeans companies, tailoring high-priced pants and jackets, have sprung up all over the world, and consumers have been grabbing them off the racks. Jeans finished their journey to high fashion when designers starting hand-making them to their owner’s size. When and why did this happen?

Peter Koral started his Seven for All Mankind jeans company with the simple idea of “offering women a luxury jean made from superior fabrics imported from Italy and Japan, processed with innovative treatments in new and advanced Los Angeles laundries, and fitted for an improved sexy and sophisticated fit.” In its first year, Seven exploded onto the fashion scene. It consistently rakes in far more than any other denim company. In 2005, the company grossed $250 million. The average pair of Seven jeans costs $125, and that isn’t an inconsiderable amount.

Acne Jeans started in 2003. Since then, these celebrity favorites—designed to be paired with high-fashion clothing-have become the most elusive and hard-to-get jeans. The company started as a branch of the company Acne, located in Sweden. Their signature jeans can be described as a pair of “math pants”: fitting tightly on top, hugging the leg, and tapering all the way to the ankle. While this is not flattering on most bodies, both Kirsten Dunst and Cameron Diaz have picked up a pair for at least $300.

Taking a cue from Seven and Acne, many small jeans companies have launched their version of the high-fashion blue jean, from Citizens of Humanity ($150 per pair) to True Religion ($250 per pair) to Blue Cult ($150 per pair).

I can remember back in the day when Express sold the pair of jeans to wear for about $50. Express jeans are kiddie toys compared to the jean giants these days. So, why are we paying more for products that are still available for less? Could it be the signature stitching on the back pockets? Are the jeans made from better material? Do they fit our bodies better? Or are we just label whores?

It must be a combination of all these reasons. Personally, I am willing to pay for a higher-priced jean if it actually fits well—and a pair of jeans that fits well is hard to come by. The stitching on the back is a just a bonus that shows that I have blown my entire week’s paycheck to buy these suckers. What’s left to improve upon is the material and sizing. So what’s the next step?

Model Alek Wek believes that couture jeans are the next step in the maturity of jeans. This method abrogates the hassle of 10-hour searches for the perfect pair of jeans, and many companies are jumping on the bandwagon. Body Metrics at Selfridges and Co. offers a scanning device that measures the body and uses a database to match it with a suitable pair of jeans. Digital Couture takes this to the next level, by sending the results from the Body Scanner to a jeans manufacturer to tailor the perfect pair of jeans.

But, while couture and high-fashion jeans have taken over the market, the original Levi’s jean is still in use. Someday, we may all be using Body Metrics to size our jeans, but for now, we’ll settle for a nice Seven logo on the backs of our pockets.