March 23, 2006

Premium denim takes spotlight at L.A. Fashion Week

By Alexandria Sage

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Forget satin, silk and cashmere.
Denim took center stage at this year's Los Angeles Fashion Week
in a reminder to fashion watchers that premium jeans mean big

"Why is it we should have runway shows for denim?" asked
30-year jeans veteran Paul Guez rhetorically.

"They do more business than most other brands, than most
(apparel) companies in Europe... This is the new generation of
runway businesses that are alive and well, profitable -- and
very cute."

Guez is chief executive of Blue Holdings Inc., whose brands
Antik Denim, Taverniti and Yanuk all took center stage at the

Black denim was prevalent on the runway, with accents
including military styling and distressed fabrics.

Jeans that retail for over $100 make up 1.5 percent of the
total $12 billion market, according to market researcher NPD.

Guez described his portfolio and other rival premium jeans
brands such as 7 For All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity as
"high fashion, high-end denim that are not just denim."

Fern Mallis, vice president of IMG Fashion, which produces
the week of fashion shows, said denim's spot on the runway is

"People come to L.A. and want to see the denim lines," said
Mallis, "We could turn this into denim week."

Some on Wall Street question whether shoppers will tire of
premium jeans as the market becomes cluttered with new lines.

The jeans don't come cheap. The Antik, Yanuk and Taverniti
lines retail for about $200 a pair, others cost even more.

Guez said he is considering adding four brands that would
retail at about $100 per pair, allowing expansion in retailers
such as Nordstrom Inc., Bloomingdales and high-end shops that
already carry the company's lines.

Blue Holdings also wants to expand into retail, opening a
minimum of five stores by the end of 2006, Guez said.

On the runway, Antik Denim went for a post-punk look, with
its black jeans paired with ripped fishnet tops. Taverniti went
for a military feel with a heavy dose of khaki and black and an
occasional splash of Scottish Highland plaid thrown in.

Military styling emerged in fitted black belted jackets and
a camouflage T-shirt peeking out from a textured gray corset.
Zippers peeked above the low pockets of jeans. One pair
featured three pockets -- on the derriere, the back of the
upper thigh and behind the knee.

At Yanuk, post-Apocalyptic looks reminiscent of the film
"Mad Max" used dull grays, black and mud colors and featured
hyper-distressed denim accented with safety pins and corsets
worn over thermal-type underwear or hooded tops.

Brean Murray, Carret retail analyst Eric Beder, who tracks
premium jeans companies and watched the shows, noted that most
of the avant-garde runway looks won't end up in stores.

"I'm not sure how much of this translates into the real
world," he said.