Faced with intensifying price pressures in the moderate segment of the jeans business, Paris Blues is extending its offering into higher-end products.

The 22-year-old company is rolling out two new lines, Triple Q and Crème Royale, respectively targeting junior and contemporary customers. Paris Blues rose to prominence in the Nineties, along with Mudd and LEI, as part of the “Big Three” branded moderate jeans makers that reinvented the teen jeans business. Its core line generates more than $100 million in sales a year with jeans that retail for under $30, but like its competitors, the company is running up against the margin wall of rampant markdowns.

“There’s so much price compression in this market that it inhibits the ability for styling,” said Jose Quant, founder and owner of Paris Blues. “This multitiered strategy gives us the flexibility to try new things and not compromise our pricing integrity.”

Triple Q is a better junior denim line of jeans, jackets, dresses and miniskirts in stretch and rigid denim, focusing on subtle details, such as multicolor stitching, banded back pockets, looped pocket embroidery and satin hangtags. The more mature styles, which began to ship Nov. 30, borrow design details from contemporary brands — including patch front pockets, flared legs, wide waistbands and frayed trouser styles, with washes including gunmetal tint, faded and crosshatch.

Quant said the line is named for nothing in particular, though his wife Caroline is head designer of the company and his two stepdaughters also work for the firm. It targets department stores with wholesale price points of between $18 for skirts and $26 for jeans and jackets. So far, Nordstrom, Macy’s West and Burdines have picked up the line, which Jose Quant expects to bring in $10 million in its first year.

Retailers said they appreciate the reliability of working with someone who has a deep background in the business.

“Paris Blues has always done an excellent job with developing a wide variety of washes, tints and denim fabrications, as well as offering great quality,” said Holly Schellentrager, Macy’s West buyer for junior surf, skate and trend bottoms. “[Triple Q] looks great and warrants the higher price point.”Despite the line’s well-received launch, Quant said the company isn’t planning a strong advertising push, just a gift-with-purchase program in stores. He said that approach reflects the more sophisticated tastes of the line’s target consumer.

“Magazines worked in the Eighties and Nineties, but we don’t think that’s the strategy for our customer today,” he said. “It’s better to be underground.”

In L.A. terms, that translates into the celebrity circuit. For the first time, the company is chasing Hollywood lovelies Charlize Theron and Gwyneth Paltrow as well as stylists by sending them packages of the product.

It’s one way to get on their fashion radar in preparation for Paris Blues’ next launch, Crème Royale.

That line is beginning a test run at select boutiques, such as Havana Jeans in New York, with one style that shipped Nov. 30. The line’s official debut comes in January with 10 pieces in mostly rigid denim, with styles including jeans, skirts and jackets. The initial current style is a five-pocket pair of jeans cut straight with thicker belt loops, abrasions and a red embroidered label layered with a signature gold crown. Using Italian and Japanese denim, this contemporary brand will be sewn and laundered in Los Angeles, as is Triple Q. Today Paris Blues’ flagship line is sourced mostly in Mexico and Asia.

With a wholesale price point of $50 and above, Crème Royale’s will be targeted to high-end boutiques. Quant expects the product to generate $5 million in the first year.

“We want to keep distribution limited and exclusive,” he said.

Trading up is a theme found among a number of moderate jeans brands. Mudd launched contemporary powerhouse Paper Denim & Cloth three years ago and began shipping holiday test orders for Mudd Couture, a new line of jeans wholesaling for $18.50 to $20. It Jeans, a former moderate junior brand, also has upgraded its product with newer finishes and higher prices in the last six months.

“There’s a huge gap in prices between the moderate denim, status and contemporary brands, so there’s gotta be another business out there,” said Halle Redman, junior denim market analyst at Directives West buying office in Los Angeles. “The key is that the lines have to be about the fabric and the look of the jeans. They can’t look like moderate denim or it won’t work.”

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