Green is the new blue for premium denim label James Cured by Seun.
In January, the Los Angeles-based brand will begin shipping a new eco-friendly line, dubbed Green Edition, which uses natural dyes, organic cotton and natural latex.
Green isn't a color often associated with jeans makers, who rely on synthetic indigo dye, potassium permanganate and other chemicals to treat denim. As environmental awareness grows among consumers, James is joining an expanding circle of labels, including Linda Loudermilk and Loomstate, in using organic textiles and eco-friendly processes to make high-end dungarees.
"Going green is a prominent global issue," said James Sway, the owner of James, which is designed by his wife, Seun Lim.
The inaugural spring collection for Green Edition will be divided into three categories: denim, cotton-linen blends and colored denim. Incorporating all the bodies from the main line, Green Edition also will offer new styles such as a cuffed trouser with a 28-inch leg opening, buttons on the front pockets and an $84 wholesale price. There's also a microshort, costing $66 to $72 depending on the fabric, with a wrap front, rugged zipper trims and a palette of 10 colors, including rust. For a waxy feel, James coated a natural latex on five-pocket jeans wholesaling for $88. An embroidery of an olive tree leaf distinguishes Green Edition from the main line.
"Design-wise, we can do anything," Lim said. She conceded the only drawback is that it takes more than twice as long to tint the fabrics in natural dyes, and even then the hues are muted. She said the company soaked shredded newspapers in water to create one grayish-white dye. While the blush pink seems adorable for spring, she said, "it is hard to do a cherry pink color. It'd take a long time."
James first went green two years ago, when it launched a subbrand called Dry Aged Denim for the spring 2006 season. Made of organic cotton, Dry Aged Denim achieved its vintage look by drying in the open air under the desert sun for two days.
Past success with Dry Aged Denim convinced retailers like Katy Kippen to order Green Edition for eco-conscious customers. "People like Dry Aged [Denim] because of the lack of chemicals," said Kippen, who manages a contemporary boutique called Nolita in Portland, Ore.Ranking James as the top seller among The ProportionofBlu, Habitual, William Rast and some 15 other denim brands carried in her shop for men and women, Kippen said she ordered Green Edition's cuffed wide-leg trousers in black and all the models available in the cotton-linen blend. "The style was so good," she said. "Even if they weren't organic, I would have bought them."
Sway said he will limit distribution to 100 retailers worldwide, including Nolita, Barneys New York, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, because he wants to keep Green Edition exclusive. He expected the new subbrand to help total sales increase 10 percent. This year, the company is forecast to generate $30 million to $35 million in wholesale sales, Sway said. Acknowledging that jeans retailing between $150 and $190 do the best on the sales floor, he said he decided to cut his profit margins for Green Edition even though the eco-friendly processes increase production costs more than 10 percent. "It's so people can enjoy [Green Edition]," he said.
The decision to keep prices competitive surely will help boost sales. "People are going to jump all over [Green Edition] because it's the same price as all the other jeans," Kippen said.
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