By  on February 28, 2008

Pepe Jeans is ramping up efforts to present U.S. consumers with a more upscale look in the hopes of wooing young contemporary customers who have gravitated toward premium brands.

Hala Jbara, director of marketing for the U.S., said that last year there was a concerted effort to gradually introduce cleaner and more sophisticated styles.

"We've stepped away from some of the fashion bells and whistles...and focused on the details," Jbara said.

Over the next six months, the results of this back-to-basics push will gain momentum, with new product emphasizing subtle details such as hand abrasion, altering back-pocket designs and hand-washing. Jbara described the styling as an attempt to achieve a more vintage look.

The wide selection of denim styles and brands being offered by retailers has also forced the change.

"[Retailers] had to become very broad and offer a lot of things to a lot of different people," Jbara said.

Expanded offerings in premium denim lines, in particular, have eaten into the market share of junior and contemporary denim brands. Juniors brand Mudd has struggled at retail and Jones Apparel Group has opted to exit the department store channel for its L.E.I. label in favor of moving into Wal-Mart.

Pepe, on the other hand, is vying to keep up with the aspirational qualities desired by its 15- to 24 year-old target customer.

"The junior customer, they're looking at the older girl and seeing how she's dressing, and with cleaner silhouettes she can dress the same way," Jbara said.

The company is backing up the fresh image with new marketing. Ashton Kutcher and Daria Werbowy will be the faces of the brand in a spring ad campaign.

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