Why Do Designer Premium Jeans Cost So Much?

designer-premium-jeans

Why Do Designer/Premium Jeans Cost So Much?

I wanted to make a post dedicated to this subject purely because I’ve been getting a little frustrated lately. I saw a show about the difference in premium and non premium denim on the series The Shoppers Guide To Saving Money on Channel 4, which has also been reported on by a few large media outlets online. I think what was documented in this show was a complete waste of time and completely inaccurate as well, so I wanted to voice my own opinion on denim after having around 10 years experience in the industry and working closely with nearly all the denim brands out there and owning over 400 pairs of jeans myself. I like to think that I’m extremely knowledgeable when it comes to jeans and denim, right down to the tiny details, so my points that I’m going to make come from a vast knowledge and are valid as much as they are important.

So first thing is first, the presenter went to a factory in Turkey to find out how the denim was made from the cotton and also how the denim was then made into jeans. I don’t know what brands are made at this factory as it wasn’t stated, but the woman who works there said the price difference is irrelevant because all of the jeans were made exactly the same way, so they shouldn’t cost more. This was right when the presenter held up a pair of Citizens of Humanity jeans and asked her to guess the price of them, which of course she did not get correct. She labeled them as around £40 when they were around £220+.

I would like to point out that her claim to the jeans all being made the same there and the price being irrelevant is based upon assumption. The show never even went to Los Angeles which is home to premium denim where most of the expensive jeans are made (including Citizens of Humanity, they are not made in Turkey) and they never went to ISKO while they were in Turkey and we know that they are famous for making specialised denim for the premium brands, so to me, this was a completely biased documentary which doesn’t have all of the facts and each side of the story. The really expensive jeans from premium denim brands are not even made there, so the claims are so inaccurate.

AG-Jeans-Koos-Manufacturing-Factory

So why does premium denim cost more? You pay for the quality of the denim as a fabric, the construction of the jean, the wash looking authentic and being hand done and most importantly, fit. High street jeans come in a very limited range of fits, skinny, bootcut and straight leg, with a jegging most recently being introduced, but when it comes to premium denim, the range of what you have to choose from is so vast, it can be overwhelming. You get various rises, various leg lengths and leg openings, different fabric blends, different fits in terms of what’s trendy and what’s classic and of course, you have that fit which is impeccable. One brand, for example J Brand, will have more than 10 different skinny jeans to choose from in its current collection and each one will be different in various ways, so you are bound to find one that you love and adore.

I know for a fact that most premium denim brands like Paige, FRAME, Citizens of Humanity, J Brand, MOTHER Denim and many more are all trained and experienced when it comes to fit and their styles that they come out with are crafted down to an art form. When you put on a pair of jeans like this from a premium denim brand in Los Angeles or somewhere similar, you will instantly see how the back pockets are designed purely to lift and shape your butt, they are symmetrical, the rise at the front will be specially positioned to be flattering, the back yoke will be crafted to enhance the cut from behind, the stitching and details will be done to a T and everything about them is made with one goal in mind, the perfect fitting jeans. I can 100% agree with this as I have tried jeans from brands on every range of the scale, from under £10 to over £300 and I know the difference. I also find that cheaper jeans will stretch out and get saggy very quickly while more expensive denim lasts longer and keeps its shape, especially if you buy some of the newer styles which have a 4 way blend from DL1961 or Citizens of Humanity, the denim is specifically designed to move and stretch but then go back to its original form, not stretching out or getting baggy.

I will say that I have found three exceptions when it does come to fit on cheaper brands though as it’s important to include both sides, that includes American Eagle, Hollister and also the Levi’s Curve ID range (if you find your right fit). However, with these fitting quite well on the back pockets and in the legs, like I mentioned above about the fabric stretching out and losing its shape, it does do that very quickly. Sometimes you might be able to find an exception with this, but generally, the premium denim is the best all rounder for jeans fitting well and holding their shape.

Selvedge denim fabric

Denim as a fabric is fairly cheap to buy, ranging from around £2 and upwards, but the quality comes from the denim that’s got a thicker weave and even more so if you purchase selvedge denim, which has the edges finished already or raw denim (read more on it here). With this in mind, the premium denim brands will always choose the expensive and better made denim to make sure their jeans last, and as I mentioned before, they often work with ISKO to create amazing blends of denim fabric which are perfect for the jeans they are creating. After they have chosen their denim though and constructed their jeans (mostly in their factories in LA), it comes down to the washes. You may be able to buy cheaper jeans in stores but the washes always look plain, always look flat and always look cheap to me. There’s been very few high street jeans that I actually liked the look of in terms of washes purely because they don’t look authentic. If you take a master of their craft like AG Jeans or Diesel for example, their washes are hand done and literally done to perfection. They look authentically broken in, they look like a pair of jeans which have aged over time and you can truly see the difference.

I would like to point out that I am well aware that the prices for premium jeans are hiked up hugely because of the cost of running Western factories and having in house wash houses and factories, so the cost of employees is much more, plus the wholesale to resale prices are increased due to the other stores needing to make a profit (that’s where a lot of the price increase comes from as the cost price and wholesale price is much, much lower than the recommended retail price, but a markup like this always happens on everything that’s sold to other stores from brands and isn’t in house). The designers need to be paid as well and you can pay a higher price for the name, but all in all, it comes down to the fit, the craftsmanship and the authenticity of the washes.

I’m not saying cheaper jeans are bad by any means, if you just want a pair of jeans to hang around in and not worry about an absolutely perfect fit and wash, then they are perfect for that. It truly depends on what you are looking for and how you feel about your jeans, but I definitely wanted to outline why premium jeans cost so much because nobody can seem to give a good answer in these articles or on these TV shows and everyone seems to put them down. It’s a question to be asked though, if there’s no difference at all and they are just expensive for the name and the sake of it, why would the premium denim industry be increasing every single year and be as successful as it is? Because there is a difference.

So to outline why you pay more, you literally pay for what you get. You are paying more money to make sure and insure that you get a perfectly fitting pair of jeans, a pair that sculpts and lifts your butt, a pair that flatters you in every angle and a pair that looks beautiful with a hand done, authentic looking wash like those from AG Jeans. You are getting a pair of jeans that wont break really fast, a pair that will actually last you years and years (I can vouch for this and if you want recommendations on great jeans, just ask me) and a pair that will be comfortable. Trying to find a perfect fit on jeans that are cheap is near impossible for me, they look terrible on my butt and the fit in the legs is usually bad on me, especially now I compare them to the premium jeans I love from FRAME, Paige, Citizens of Humanity, Diesel and AG Jeans. For the men, the fit is what you pay for too, take Nudie and Diesel for example, they have tonnes of different fits and washes, all designed to make a guys legs and butt look good too.

I got into premium denim when I was around 17 and I honestly can’t go back to cheap jeans, not now that I have experienced the difference. Some of you may think this is snobby or vain, but as a person who works in the fashion industry, how you dress and how you look plays a huge role in your work so looking good by having clothes that fit me perfectly, is what I look for and what so many of us look for. If you’re not worried, then this article isn’t for you, but I’m happy to have outlined what you are actually paying for and why you might choose to pay more in a pair of jeans. Please do leave your opinions as well, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Disclaimer – My point for this article is that the show chose premium denim from Citizens of Humanity rather than designer jeans from the likes of high end fashion week designers that might make their jeans in Turkey, India or China, so I’m referencing premium denim here in this article. I can’t vouch for actual designer’s jeans as I haven’t really worn them, I prefer to go premium, which can also be called designer jeans, because of their price and fit, but not to be mistaken for a pair from a designer fashion house. This post was also written by myself and is my own take on the issue. If you want to be certain, your best bet is to check the label to see the country the jeans were made in. Then you can make your own mind up on the quality.

37 Comments

  1. Tommy
    November 17, 2015 / 8:27 pm

    Very interesting article. It’s true, you get what you pay for. I appreciate the mention of Diesel jeans for men, I will have to look into those. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for sharing this!

    • November 17, 2015 / 9:33 pm

      You’re very welcome! Let me know if I can assist you with Diesel, I’ve been into the brand since I was 17 so 10 years! I know most of the cuts and everything, for men and women, more so men, so if you need assistance, just let me know!

      • Tommy
        November 18, 2015 / 11:50 pm

        That’s so nice of you! Do you by chance have any suggestions as far as cut/fit for someone like me with a shorter, stalkier build?

        • November 19, 2015 / 12:22 am

          What does stalkier build mean? Did you mean stockier? It depends really what type of jeans you like, are you after slimmer or looser? You’re welcome to mail me a photo so I can see to raindropsofsapphire@gmail.com

          • Tommy
            November 19, 2015 / 12:39 am

            Oh, yes, I meant stockier. Ha ha my apologies for the misspelling! I like a slimmer fit to my jeans more so than a looser fit. Thank you, I will email a photo. I appreciate that!

          • Tommy
            November 19, 2015 / 12:55 am

            Ok, I just sent you an email with a few photos. Thank you so much!

            • November 19, 2015 / 12:23 pm

              No problem! Happy to help!

  2. November 18, 2015 / 4:40 am

    I was trying to figure out where you manage to keep over 400 pairs of jeans.

    • November 18, 2015 / 11:59 am

      Literally everywhere, some are in tubs under the bed, some folded up into drawers, some in ordered piles and the others are in their wooden units!

  3. November 18, 2015 / 4:06 pm

    Great article… very reflective. I like how you referred to selecting and designing the details of jeans as an art form. It really is! And I agree, when it comes to denim, you get what you pay for!!

    ?
    Amber
    All the Cute
    Recent Post: Customized Jewelry With Anjolee

    • November 18, 2015 / 5:13 pm

      So glad you agree!

    • November 19, 2015 / 12:24 pm

      Happy you like the post!

  4. Velvet Blush
    November 20, 2015 / 9:34 pm

    This was so interesting as I had no idea about what the differences between premium and high street jeans, I feel like I’ve learned a lot just by reading this 🙂

    Velvet Blush | Beauty Giveaway

    • November 21, 2015 / 3:15 am

      I’m so glad you feel that way, that’s great to know it’s reaching some people 🙂

  5. Tony
    November 27, 2015 / 1:42 am

    Great article… I’m not as fortunate as you to work in that wonderful industry but I’ve always been fascinated by denim and I’m so happy it’s really made a proper comeback in recent times. I fully agree with what you have written and you do get what you pay for, it’s as simple as that. You mention Diesel but what do you think about GAS Jeans? I bumped into them recently and bought three different pairs of their atelier range and have found them to be as good as the high range on Diesel which I won various too. By the way I’m talking about the range for men.

    • November 27, 2015 / 2:58 pm

      I’m glad you agree! I actually haven’t tried GAS jeans personally myself, but I do know they are quite popular. From what I have seen, they look quite nice. I know they range from around the £100 mark, which some lower end Diesel are a similar price, maybe about £140. So they aren’t far off. The reason some Diesel cost way more than others is purely down to the wash, but the quality and fit of them is the same, it’s just the extra timing spent on the more fancy washes which bump the cost up. So I can imagine that the GAS jeans do have a similar feel to Diesel. Thanks for sharing!

      • Tony
        November 28, 2015 / 12:21 pm

        Thanks for your response Lorna… Yeah, Diesel jeans do go to very high prices and when they brought out their colour mutation range I was amazed and bought myself two pairs in the £200+ which I still use a lot even though I’ve bought many other jeans since (because I hoard denim like you hahaha ;)). Anyway thanks… The reason I asked about GAS jeans is because in London they’re not so popular and I try my hardest to stay away from mainstream stuff. For example I enjoy Calvin Klein’s latest denim styles and have invested in 7 pairs in almost 2 years.

        • November 29, 2015 / 3:05 am

          I’ve got quite a few Diesel myself, I reckon near on 40 pairs actually. The 81M wash and 61X were my favourite, I loved 71J too! I completely understand about wanting to stay away from mainstream brands, have you thought about Edwin or Simon Miller? APC and Dior Homme are great brands too for denim! Cheers to us hoarders of denim, ha ha!

  6. Firas
    January 31, 2016 / 11:41 am

    Great Article Lorna!

    However I would just like to point out that main reason why premium denims end up costing so much is mainly because of the wholesale channels! Although the quality of their fabrics and accessories are better than the lower end brands and do last longer, that by itself does not justify the huge difference in price.

    Most premium brands do not use the best denim fabrics available. Besides a few premium brands, most use medium fabrics which are then washed / stitched in premium factories to ensure consistency in both quality stitching, wash and fit.

    They then add good quality buttons/rivets/leather patches and some design details to ensure their final product looks premium, when in fact most of the time it’s actually not in comparison to their price. Sure they are better compared to lower end brands, but in the jeans world, paying so much more doesn’t mean you are neccessarly getting a pair of jeans that is so much better..

    I definitely agree that the designs and fits are better, but that also doesn’t justify why we pay so much more for them. It simply boils down to mark ups in the sales channels..

    All denim brands work on more or less the same formula. Cost of production to wholesale and from wholesale to retail. Meaning if the cost to produce a pair of designer jeans is $25, to get to wholesale most brands multiply that figure with a 3-4 margin meaning it wholesales for $100. Now when the retailers purchase these jeans for $100, they then need to apply their margins and usually multiply the wholesale by around 2.6 to get to the retail price. This means that the jean ends up retailing for $260. So a jean that actually costs only $25 dollars to produce ends up selling for $260 because of the wholesale channels needed to distribute the brand as well as the high margins used by brands from cost of goods to wholesale inorder to cover their overheads and design/marketing costs.. The same formula applies to lower end jeans costing $6 to $10 to produce.. Apply the same formula and you end up at their retail price of $62 – $104..
    Now is there is a difference between a 10$ jean and a 25$ jean? Sure there is.. better fabrics/wash/accessories and design, but cost of productions is marginal compared to the final retail price because of the wholesale channels..
    High street retailers do not wholesale their goods and they apply their mark up from production directly to retail which means their final retail price is a lot lower and this is why they are being compared to designer brands today..

    I have worked in the fashion industry mainly in wholesale for over 20 years.. I am now launching my own premium denim brand using only the most luxury denim fabrics in the world, mainly selvedge and mainly imported from Japan. I can also confirm that their is a huge difference in fabric costs in denim and not all denim fabrics are made in the same way… The brand will design, produce and sell its goods directly to the final consumer, through its online store, the same way high street brands operate, cutting out all the costs and markups associated with the wholesale channels. This means we will be able to deliver the best quality denim/accessories/stitching/washes packaged in premium boxes for around the same price as most premium brands wholesale their jeans for, all because our business model does not depend on wholesale.

    Anyway, the message I wanted to get across is that designer jeans cost much more not because they are so much better quality, but because of the sales channels and margins brand needed to sustain their structure..The cost of ensuring consistency in good fit and stitching is only a marginal part of the overall cost.. It’s their sales channels that plays the biggest factor in their final retail price..

    • January 31, 2016 / 7:26 pm

      Hi Firas, after working with many brands and being in the denim industry for so long, I definitely know prices from cost, wholesale to retail are marked up greatly, and that price doesn’t reflect the actual amount of money it cost to make the jean, I’m definitely aware of that. However I do stand by my point of when you pay more money for brands like Citizens, J Brand, Paige, FRAME, Diesel, Nudie, G-Star etc, you are getting a more premium product with amazing fits, amazing quality, comfortable denim and really nice washes that look authentic and not like they were mass produced by machine. To get this kind of jean easily, you unfortunately do have to pay the bigger price which is hiked up. Glad you liked the article though and good luck with your own brand!

      • Firas
        January 31, 2016 / 9:32 pm

        I totally agree with you Lorna! Up until we launch, you do have to pay so much more for premium denims unfortunately 😉

        I will send you a pair before we go live. Thanks a lot for your reply and congratulations on your blogs, they are all very cool!

        • February 1, 2016 / 1:27 am

          Really glad you like it 🙂 There have been a couple of brands who said they were premium brands without the middle man as well, did you check out DSTLD?

          • Firas
            February 1, 2016 / 12:06 pm

            Yes i know there is a few of them out there already. I know about DSTLD, there is also Gustin Jeans and RPN West which all work in a similar way.

            We had this concept for several years now but unfortunately I couldn’t launch earlier due to commitments with my previous business. I used to own a fashion distribution company which had the sole rights for the UK to distribute all the lines of Roberto Cavalli, Balmain, Versace and Guess to name a few, across mens, ladies and kids, We supplied all the major UK retailers including Harrods, Selfridges, Net a Porter etc.. And I decided to cash out of that business last year inorder to focus completely on this new denim brand.

            We will work with mainly Japanese selvedge fabrics for both men’s and ladies. The look will be very contemporary, the image will be high end and only the price will be low. I will send you some info and Jeans as soon as we are ready and hopefully we can work together in the near future 🙂

            • February 1, 2016 / 3:16 pm

              It sounds interesting for sure, so I’d definitely love to take a look at them when they are available, see what I think 🙂

            • Firas
              February 1, 2016 / 4:01 pm

              Great! I am sure you won’t be disappointed 🙂 I will contact you as soon as the goods arrive, hopefully by beginning of March.

              All the best and speak soon!

            • February 1, 2016 / 11:01 pm

              Ok 🙂

  7. Bianca
    September 6, 2016 / 5:50 pm

    i was wondering what the difference between the jeans/denim being made in japan–since jeans are in such demand over there–and the jeans/denim made here in the states? So far from my research, i’ve gathered that denim that does not stretch out quickly and has shape memory is the best type of denim. Also, what about all the new stretch jeans out these days? Are they really denim or just dyed to look like denim? Thanks,

    • September 6, 2016 / 6:59 pm

      Hi! Usually Japanese denim is ticker, high quality denim, but it truly does depend on the brand that’s using it and what they plan to do with the fabric once they have it, but it’s usually a good quality. Jeans that are very stretchy and retain their shape are amazing, you can find these types with the PAIGE Transcend, DL1961 Fabric, and Citizens of Humanity Sculpt as an example. They are great for keeping their size and comfort from the get go. The super stretch jeans are actually denim, they are blended with special fabrics that are incredibly stretchy, so it’s still denim, but woven differently. They aren’t leggings that are dyed for example. I hope that helps!

      • Tony
        September 6, 2016 / 7:57 pm

        Talking about stretch denim… Have you tried Calvin Klein’s latest invention? I bought myself a pair of their new fangled Sculpted Jeans and they’re amazing I have to admit. The texture to the touch is of extremely high quality and the washes a brilliant. I’ve bought a pair of the Fountain Blue wash (men’s jeans by the way).

        • September 7, 2016 / 12:27 am

          Oh no, I haven’t actually, not tried them. It’s always nice to hear what other people think about the different denim and new styles, so thank you so much for sharing that!

  8. Bobby
    October 7, 2016 / 9:27 am

    Good article. I don’t have diesel jeans. My actual waist is 36 inches. Which size in diesel jeans suitable for me.iam talking about mens jeans .

    • October 7, 2016 / 11:59 am

      Hi Bobby,

      It’s hard to know from your waist measurement as no jeans actually sit on the waist. Is there anywhere you can try them on? Diesel are known to run differently in the various cuts they offer. What size jeans do you usually wear in other brands?

      • Bobby
        October 7, 2016 / 2:05 pm

        Hai lorna thanks for your reply. I wear size 33 in guess ,34 in gas ,34 in g star, 34 in levis. Normally size 34 one or two inches larger to my waist.iam athletic build type person.iam living in india. I have to order online international boutiques for diesel jeans.

        • October 10, 2016 / 1:31 am

          Hi Bobby, it’s going to purely depend on what cut you go for and whether or not it’s stretch or rigid etc, but a lot of Diesel jeans run so differently compared to each other, it can be very tricky. Generally men’s Diesel run larger and are often larger than Levi’s in how they fit, so if you’re a 34 in Levi’s, you might be a 33 in Diesel, but it does vary so much. Good luck!

  9. Gio
    December 29, 2016 / 6:32 pm

    I stumbled upon this article because I just spent (typed out ‘wasted’ but I changed my mind) around $200 on 2 pairs of Rag and Bone jeans on sale (for men’s). I’ve never spent this much money on designer jeans before, but my mom’s bought many pairs of True Religion and Rag and Bone jeans, which I used to ridicule her for. When I tried them on – I can definitely tell they’re ‘expensive’ jeans. The fit, the feel, and the material are different than the $25 Hollister jeans I normally would buy. I wouldn’t pay more than $100 for a pair of designer jeans though.. so they have to be on sale! 🙂

    • December 30, 2016 / 1:10 pm

      Be careful, Gio! It’s a slippery slope from here on! Once you get your first pair of premium denim you can never go back! That’s what most of us here find anyway. I think you should give Nudie Jeans Co a try as well, the quality on their denim is seriously amazing, so is the attention to detail. They are worth every penny 🙂

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