Los Angeles — "How do you like your meat cooked?" asked James Sway, the owner of denim label James Cured by Seun. "Microwave or natural grill?"
The question may seem appropriate over lunch. But Sway was grasping for an analogy to describe Dry Aged Denim, the new line that costs at least 30 percent more than the main grouping from James, which he founded with his wife and designer, Seun Lim.
Dry Aged Denim is the Vernon, Calif.-based company's bid to produce a vintage and environmentally friendly jean made of organic cotton and dyed with plant indigo. It also feeds into the premium denim craze and points to another emerging trend — fewer embellishments and darker washes.
"We do want denim to be more luxe because that's where the trend is going," said Terence Bogan, vice president of women's for New York's Barneys Co-op, who will stock Dry Aged Denim.
Rather than using potassium promagnate and a washing machine to "age" hundreds of jeans in one big barrel, James hand-brushed a concoction of green tea leaves, coffee reactants and photosynthesizing reactants on each jean and dried it in the open air under the desert sun for two days. After getting a three-hour rinse, a sealer is applied to stop the aging process. The final dry is done in a custom-made chamber and takes one day.
Sway said James discovered the sun-aging technique by accident when his crew forgot to cover some jeans in a warehouse with a sun roof. James decided to drive open-top trucks into the Mojave Desert and other spots in Southern California to find the most ideal location for drying the jeans.
Sway said Dry Aged Denim will initially offer boot-leg, straight-leg and low-rise models. Wholesale prices start at $100, compared with $65 to $75 for the main line.
Bogan said Barneys New York will order the skinny, straight model because that silhouette is more modern. As for the higher price, he said Barneys hasn't experienced any price resistance from customers so far. Besides, he added, James' new line looks more expensive. "It is raw denim but the hand of it is so soft," he said.Sway noted Barneys will carry the new line exclusively for eight weeks, starting Nov. 15, as a pre-spring collection. Although Dry Aged Denim will launch officially in the spring, Sway said James wanted to test the line and limit the number of stores to 100 worldwide in the early stages. He said James expects first-year sales to reach $10 million, or one-third of the wholesale volume of the main line.
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