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Edwin Denim Relaunches in the U.S.

Japanese denim brand Edwin is returning to the U.S. this fall, after more than two years away from the American market.

Japanese denim brand Edwin is returning to the U.S. this fall, after more than two years away from the American market.

This story first appeared in the April 15, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The company is relaunching in America with a men’s denim line, which will be followed by women’s product next year. The initiative is in partnership with New York-based sales and distribution partner The Foundation.

The first men’s denim collection features about 25 stockkeeping units and will be available in 75 specialty stores in August, including Bergdorf Goodman Men, Scoop, Atrium, American Rag and Fred Segal Man, as well as Revolveclothing.com and four doors of Bloomingdale’s.

Edwin exited the American market after the spring 2008 season, due to the impact of exchange rates, said Michikazu Kobayashi, managing director of the Tokyo-based company. The previous distributor was Montreal-based Mark Schick, who operated the North American business for over 10 years.

“Edwin entered the U.S. market about 30 years ago. At that time, the exchange rate between the yen and the dollar was very good,” explained Kobayashi. “After some time, the yen became very weak in comparison to the dollar and the company decided to leave the U.S. as it was difficult to run a profitable business.”

The Foundation will buy and import Edwin product and distribute the line here. The company — which also distributes G-Shock watches in fashion accounts and does sales for trendy labels like Pro-Keds, Generic Man, Super sunglasses and Stüssy Deluxe — operates a warehouse and customer service center in Virginia Beach, Va.

“Edwin was one of the very first denim manufacturers in Japan and it’s a real jewel in this arena,” said Ari Langsdorf, a partner at The Foundation. “One of our goals has been to align our business with heritage brands and we couldn’t think of a better line than Edwin.”

For fall the men’s denim assortment includes four fits, from slim to a traditional straight leg. Washes range from raw to full vintage looks, with many styles featuring Edwin’s signature buckle-back detail.

All the jeans are produced in Japan, from the fabric to the finishing. The core price points are $225 to $300, with special product embellished with sterling silver hardware going as high as $700.

“We wanted to launch with the brand’s top-of-the-line Japanese product. As time goes by, we’ll bring prices down by bringing in some product that isn’t made in Japan,” noted Langsdorf.

The Foundation is aiming for sales of $2.5 million to $3.5 million in the U.S. next year, growing to $12 million to $18 million within five years. Edwin declined to provide total worldwide sales for the brand, but Langsdorf pegged it in the “hundreds of millions” of dollars. Until recently, Brad Pitt appeared in Edwin’s Asian advertising campaigns for a number of years.

Edwin was founded in Japan in 1947 by Yonehachi Tsunemi and is still privately held by the Tsunemi family.