By  on October 12, 2011

Levi Strauss & Co. is more than a principal supplier to Industrie Denim, the new multiline denim retail concept from American Rag Cie that showcases a broad selection of the world’s leading jeans brands. It’s also a minority owner.

Industrie Denim is an outgrowth of the World Denim Bar, which American Rag founder Mark Werts opened as a platform for a variety of jeans brands adjacent to American Rag in Los Angeles in 2006 and repeated next to American Rag’s other location at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Calif., earlier this year. When considering expansion of the World Denim Bar, Werts ran his ideas by Robert Hanson, global president of the Levi’s brand, who was receptive to Levi’s and Dockers being presented alongside an array of denim offerings chosen for discerning customers.

Industrie Denim is “one of the few locations that under one roof would feature the most-sought-after denim brands in the world,” said Hanson. “We love the concept. We love the company. We love Mark and his team. If this concept is successful, which we believe it will be, we believe it will not only be great for Levi’s and for Dockers, but also for our industry, and it will be a new innovative concept that we will have been a part of since the first brick.”

Hanson said Levi Strauss provided a “modest up-front equity investment” in Industrie Denim, but declined to be more specific about the company’s financial interest. “Although we work in close collaboration with Mark and his team, especially about how our brands are going to be shown, it is really his team running the stores’ day-to-day operations and driving the strategy, concept and look and feel,” he explained.

Levi’s brands will anchor Industrie Denim’s merchandise with an assortment of Levi’s Red Tab, Levi’s Made & Crafted, Levi’s Vintage Clothing and Dockers styles, but there will be more than 80 denim brands at Industrie Denim stores. Werts said between 15 and 20 stockkeeping units of most brands will typically be available. Outside of Levi’s, brands include Double RL, J Brand, Prps, Nudie, AG, Earnest Sewn, Joe’s Jeans, Current/Elliott and Mother. The mix will be split about evenly between men’s and women’s, with healthy assortments of related sportswear and accessories.

“Denim is the main protagonist,” Werts said, “but on this stage there are many actors.”

Emphasizing that style and quality are a greater consideration than price, Werts estimated about 40 percent of the jeans at Industrie Denim would be priced from $45 to $129, another 40 percent would be from $129 to $350, and the remaining 20 percent would be above $350, with geographical adjustments as needed.

Even though consumers are short on cash and time, Hanson said they still crave a multitude of denim options and a segment of them prefer to shop in a boutique environment. The target Industrie Denim shopper “is clearly a progressively minded consumer who is into not only the denim category, but into clothing broadly. They tend to buy at a higher frequency than the average consumer,” said Hanson.

Werts expects Industrie Denim to grow to seven locations averaging 3,500 to 5,000 square feet by the end of next year, and 10 to 15 units shortly thereafter before expanding abroad. The first unit opened at Scottsdale Quarter in Scottsdale, Ariz., last month and a 6,500-square-foot flagship will open at 300 Grant Street in San Francisco this Friday. A Dallas location is planned for spring, and the company is scouting locations in New York.

Rudolph Faulcon, Werts’ partner in American Rag and Industrie Denim along with Larry Russ, led the design of the Industrie Denim stores. They stick to an industrial aesthetic, but Werts stressed that they will be filled with fixtures and decorative elements that speak to their environs in each location. The dressing rooms have American Rag’s so-called “booty cam,” which enables shoppers to view how jeans fit at every angle. “Every store is going to be different,” said Werts. “If you close your eyes in America today, and you are in a center, I defy you to say I’m in Minneapolis, Chicago or someplace else. They all look the same. I don’t want to do that.”

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