Working With the Masters
If it didn't seem the price of jeans could rise any higher, Escada is offering "Haute Couture" jeans at $7,500 — and that's just for starters.

In an exclusive program with select Neiman Marcus stores, the German fashion house is designing one-of-a-kind, made-to-order jeans for women who placed orders last week at doors in Newport Beach, Calif.; Houston, and Chicago.

The bonus was personally working with Escada design director Brian Rennie in creating each pair. At their side, busily sketching away, was senior designer Karen Baker, who weighed in with suggestions for Swarovski crystals or embroidery.

"It was so fun, if not a little nerve-wracking for some of the women," Rennie said before a flight from Houston to Chicago last week. "They could have any color, any embellishment they wanted. Once they got it, Karen was sketching like crazy."

Rennie worked with individual clients, taking measurements and ensuring each design would be totally different.

Orders then head to the Escada design studio in Munich. Any requests for rips, shreds, fringing or other tatters are accommodated.

"Some were even asking for holes," Rennie said. "I might do them myself in my washing machine at home."

From there, the jeans are sent to India, where a team of 10 tailors hand-bead Swarovski crystals and semiprecious stones, and embroider the brocade patterns provided by Rennie and the client. Even with so many hands at work on each jean, the process may take as long as three weeks.

The most coveted perk, however, might be the special Escada label inside, also stitched with the client's name.

In all, the turnaround is three-to-six months, Rennie said.

"It's quite an undertaking," he said. "We've never done anything on this scale. We've only done a few custom wedding dresses or party dresses, and only for very, very good customers."

Rennie's own uniform prompted the limited-edition program. In his personal life and at personal appearances, the designer lives in jeans, the more embellished and altered, the better.

"I'm always asked, ‘Can I have your jeans?'" said Rennie, who was seated in the airport in a pair ripped and shredded, and festooned with real turquoise and crystals.

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