By  on November 16, 2006

Armani Jeans celebrated its 25th anniversary this year by laying the groundwork for a global expansion aimed at ensuring the brand will reach many more milestones.

John Hooks, commercial and marketing director of Armani Group and president and chairman of Giorgio Armani Japan, said the company plans a "major expansion" of the Armani Jeans brand over the next three years. Those expansion efforts, said Hooks, will focus on the U.S. and Asia.

"We have big plans to open Armani Jeans corners in department stores and some specialty stores in Japan, the U.S. and Asia," Hooks said. "However, we feel we have to gear the product for the U.S. and we are getting ready for a big launch in that market."

Armani Jeans was introduced in the U.S. in 2002 and is sold at Barneys New York, Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.

The brand has proven its strength in other markets and is a significant portion of Armani Group's overall business. In 2005, the brand generated sales of 274.2 million euros, or $341.4 million at average exchange, representing about 15 percent of Armani Group's revenues for the year. In comparison, Armani Jeans generated about $151 million in sales in the 1995-96 fiscal year, when the brand celebrated its 15th anniversary.

The brand relies on a wholesale web of more than 3,300 in-store shops and multibrand stores in 80 countries, as well as 18 freestanding stores. Over the past two years, Hooks said the focus has been on launching dedicated Armani Jeans areas within stores. There are now more than 300. Ninety were opened in 2006.

"Armani Jeans is probably the most widely distributed of our brands," Hooks said.

The Armani Jeans brand has developed a strong identity and offered a greater degree of flexibility than other Armani brands. Armani Jeans was initially a spin-off of the Emporio Armani line, but gradually evolved into a full-fledged casualwear, active and "sporty, outdoors collection with a life of its own," Hooks said, adding, "We don't want to replicate Emporio."

Armani Jeans has the benefit of its products being able to more easily adapt and reflect the styles and trends of a local market, Hooks said. Conversely, Hooks noted that Giorgio Armani is "much the same product all over the world."As a result, Armani Jeans can take advantage of local production in Japan or South America, for example. That said, Hooks underscored that Armani Jeans is more sophisticated and expensive than A/X Armani Exchange and produced by Armani's own factories. The Italian manufacturing company Simint, which is controlled by Armani, is still the core of the brand's production. The new J60/61 jeans are entirely produced in Italy.

Social responsibility has been another prominent feature of the brand. Armani Jeans' ecology-conscious, innovative jeans were displayed in 1996 at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan, and the brand was a pioneer of the introduction of hemp in Italy, for which the designer was awarded a prize in 2003.

Ring-spun denim and original selvedge made on traditional shuttle looms that "maximize the natural qualities of the cotton fabric" are strong sellers, Hooks said, as are classic five-pocket jeans. Denim accounts for 35 percent of the collection, a production of about 6.5 million pieces.

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