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Key retailers from California to Germany that specialize in denim.

U.S. WEST COAST

Store name: Kitson

Location: Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles

Owner: Fraser Ross

Years in existence: Six

Target consumer: Lindsay Lohan

Annual sales estimate: $15 million-plus

Cheapest brand: 1921 jeans hover at around $150 a pair.

Most expensive brand: Great Wall of China — its crystal-encrusted models for Seven For All Mankind ring in at $395 a pair.

Current bestsellers: Slim-cut models from Stitch’s and 1921.

Next hot trend: “Wide-leg jeans for the fashionista,” said Ross, who added that Goldsign’s wides are already flying off the shelves.

Next hot brand: Kitson Denim, of course, which launches in August.

Perennial celebrity haunt Kitson has become synonymous with L.A. style. While the buzz surrounding the store has hushed to some extent, there are still plenty of paparazzi lurking in nearby bushes, ready to spring on Paris or Lindsay when they exit the boutique carrying armloads of Kitson bags. On Saturdays, there is often a line outside the store to get in. Despite these potential hassles, Kitson is still one of the best denim depots in the city — carrying a continually evolving mix of fashion-forward brands such as Serfontaine, Taverniti, Antik Denim, Genetic Denim and Yanuk. “We look for denim that’s contemporary, casual L.A. style,” said owner Fraser Ross. “Something people can wear to Starbucks and also to dinner at Koi. The fit is also very important. We look for brands that are experts in denim — people like Adriano Goldschmied, Stitch’s and 1921.” Kitson stocks a range of sizes so “people don’t have to run around” to other stores, said Ross. And with gas prices in Los Angeles hovering around the $3.50 per gallon mark, such conveniences may soon become key in Los Angeles retailing.

Store name: Villains and Villains Vault

This story first appeared in the May 25, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Location: Neighboring stores on Haight Street in San Francisco.

Owner: David Engel, who now resides in Thailand.

Years in existence: Villains is 20 years old; Villains Vault is nine.

Target consumer: 20- to 35-year-old label-conscious women.

Cheapest brands: Hurley and Volcom at Villains.

Most expensive brands: Rock & Republic and True Religion, whose Metallic Joey jeans sell for $378 at the Vault.

Current bestseller: “Skinny-leg jeans across the board,” said Randy Brewer, general manager. “Rock & Republic, True Religion and Diesel right now are our three strongest. Gray [washes] are also really strong.”

Next hot trend: Fabric blends. “Melting Pot did a really nice cashmere/denim blend,” said Brewer.

Next hot brands: Tsubi, Genetic and Odyn

David Engel opened the original Villains in the heart of Haight-Ashbury in 1986 selling heavy-metal-loving brands such as Lip Service, but by the mid-Nineties, the business had morphed into a fashion-forward specialty store for the urban set. In 1997, Engel opened the more upscale Villains Vault across the street. While the original Villains specializes in more action-sports-oriented apparel, including a healthy selection of youth-friendly denim from such brands as Z-Brand and Seven For All Mankind, the Vault stocks a wide selection of premium denim. Brands include established names such as Joe’s, AG and Hudson; up-and-comers such as Loomstate and Tsubi, and under-the-radar players such as Meltin’ Pot and Brown Label. “I think with all the brands we have, we should have every fit and every wash out there,” said general manager Randy Brewer. “And our employees are trained to size up customers when they come through the door and have at least three different pieces of denim in their mind for that person.” Quality, feel of fabric and size of distribution are key factors when choosing brands for both stores, Brewer said. “If the distribution is really small, that’s always a plus for us,” he said. “If someone says we’re the only ones carrying it in the city, we try to snap that up.”

Store name: Blake

Location: Portland, Ore.

Owner: Blake Nieman-Davis

Years in existence: Three

Target consumer: Hip, upwardly mobile Portland-ites.

Annual sales estimate: $1 million-plus.

Most expensive brand: Evisu, which is in the $500 range.

Least expensive brand: Big Star, at $89 a pair.

Current bestseller: The Laurel Canyon boot-cut jean from Paige.

Next hot trend: “Less branding,” said Nieman-Davis. “J-Brand is a jean that has no branding on it and it’s great.”

Next hot brands: J-Brand, Z-Brand, Rag & Bone, Lee.

After working at Villains in San Francisco, Blake Nieman-Davis decided to bring the specialty jeans-store concept to his hometown of Portland, Ore. “There was nothing like that here,” said Nieman-Davis. “I felt like the market in Portland was more sophisticated than it was given credit for.” The streamlined, 1,200-square-foot Blake sells more than 36 premium denim brands, many of which aren’t sold anywhere else in the state. Labels include Chip & Pepper, Union, Earnest Sewn, AG, Brown Label, Paper Denim & Cloth, Goldsign, 575 and Siwi. Although Blake stocks skinny and straight jeans, “I’ve fit thousands of women in jeans, and I can say most are still going for a boot and a flare,” said Nieman-Davis. “Skinny is definitely trendy,’ he added, “but at the end of the day, only a few will be really happy in it. Every day, women come in asking for it, and then they get it on, and they’re not happy. They’re always going to accentuate your hips.”

Store name: Planet Funk

Location: Thirteen stores in greater Los Angeles.

Owner: Brothers Noy and Oren Hayun

Years in existence: 10

Target consumer: The UCLA set.

Most expensive brands: Rock & Republic, True Religion.

Cheapest brands: Citizens of Humanity, Seven For All Mankind.

Current bestseller: True Religion skinny and boot-cut varieties.

Next hot trend: “I think that high-waisted may be something that speaks to our customers at some point, but I don’t think she’s there yet,” said Oren Hayun.

Next hot brands: Paige and Antik Denim.

Since opening their first store on Melrose Avenue in 1996, the Oren bothers — sons of a Los Angeles manufacturer of denim for designer brands of yesteryear — have infiltrated most of the major malls in Los Angeles, including Beverly Center, Westside Pavilion and Hollywood & Highland. Eight to 10 new doors are scheduled to bow this year, said Oren Hayun, adding the openings will likely be in Southern California, but may extend into the northern part of the state. Though the chain built its reputation as a power denim seller, Oren said the company is hesitant to test unproven denim brands — after a trial period of doing so resulted in less-than-stellar sales. Instead, the stores stock a stable of “old faithfuls” that includes Frankie B., 1921, Seven For All Mankind and Hudson. For competitive denim shoppers, Planet Funk’s Jean Junkie program awards cardholders a free pair of jeans valued up to $150 after they purchase seven pairs within 18 months. Who spends over $1,000 every year and half on jeans? “You’d be surprised how many jeans people buy,” said Noy Oren. “There are people on their second and third cards.”

ITALY

Store name: D Event Store

Location: Adriatic seaside town of Riccione, at Galleria Croce del Sud, 3.

Owner: Siblings Cristina and Massimo Novelli

Years in existence: 11

Target customer: Young, trendy residents who frequent Riccione’s discotheque-soaked shoreline; weekend visiting out-of-towners with style.

Annual sales estimate: Undisclosed, but D Event Store pulls in the best sales among the five multibrand Riccione-based boutiques owned by the Novelli family.

Cheapest brands: Cheapest include the Diesel and Nolita basic jeans for 100 euros, or $128.

Most expensive brands: A new line from Ravenna Follie de Pigalle, and Swarovksi-encrusted pieces by German designer Philippe Pane selling for 600 euros, or $768.

Current bestseller: Straight and tight Diesel model in plain wash for 100 euros.

Next hot trend: Clean, pared-down, straight-leg looks that include white washes and plain darker blue washes for men, and tighter, low-front-waist seafoam blue washes for women.

Next hot brands: Italian brands Nolita and Rare.

The sandy beaches and epic nightclub scene of Riccione have been a magnet for the young and the hip since the late Seventies. The Novelli family opened its first boutique there in 1976 and now owns five stores there, with plans to relocate the D Event Store to a bigger space in an old cinema. For the party-bent youth who visit Riccione, the D Event Store stocks exclusives from Italian labels Diesel and Nolita, as a sort of test-run on the market. “We get some items exclusively or before other retailers, because Riccione attracts a specific customer who is attentive to trends,” said co-owner Massimo Novelli.

Store name: 10 Corso Como

Location: Part of the 10 Corso Como space in Milan, which includes two art galleries, a bookstore, a restaurant and a hotel.

Owner: Carla Sozzani

Years in existence: The store was founded in 1991, but the denim space was added three years ago.

Target customer: Women between 20 and 50 years of age.

Cheapest brand: Love Therapy.

Most expensive brands: Dior, Diesel, True Religion, Seven For All Mankind and Habitual.

Current bestseller: The shop’s signature 10 Corso Como jeans, which feature the company’s circular logo on the back pocket and retail for 200 euros, or $256.

Next hot trend: Rigorously tight looks inspired by the runway.

Before Carla Sozzani decided to open her store in an unused industrial space, the area of Corso Como was known solely for its one trashy nightclub and grimy post-war architecture. The store’s arrival gave birth to a new quarter of Milan, crammed full of sassy boutiques and slick bars and clubs. 10 Corso Como introduced edgier Milanese to high-fashion denim to be mixed with high-fashion accessories, so that they wouldn’t have to cram their suitcases full of American brands True Religion and Seven on visits to New York.

Store name: Jam Store

Location: Via Santa Redegonda, 10 Milan, a stone’s throw away from the central site of the Duomo.

Owner: Italian luxury department store chain Rinascente.

Years in existence: Two

Target customer: From teenagers to 25-year-olds.

Cheapest brands: Indian Rose and Wrangler are among the least expensive.

Most expensive brand: Levi’s.

Current bestseller: Meltin’ Pot model Nicole, Diesel’s Keate and Levi’s Enjeneered model 136.

Next hot trend: Ultra lightweight denims, tight-fitting styles modeled on jodhpurs in white and dark blue.

Next hot brand: Meltin’ Pot couture line Take Two.

Connected to the Milanese flagship Rinascente by a fluorescent-lit bridge, the three-story Jam Store is nothing like its formal, somewhat stuffy department store parent. Pay a visit to Jam Store on a weekend and it’s teeming with low-slung denim clad teens eager to snap up new high-trend looks before going to the multiplex cinema located downstairs or continuing shopping on the commercial stretch of Corso Vittorio Emanuele. After changing ownership last year Milan’s flagship Rinascente is undergoing extensive renovations that will eventually hit Jam Store by 2007. Plans are underway to increase the denim and sportswear offering and fine-tune the floor layout.

GERMANY

Store name: Galaxie Lafayette

Location: Französische Strasse 23, 10117 Berlin

Owner: The French department store Galeries Lafayette

Years in existence: Opened at the end of September 2005

Target consumer: Fashionable women between 18 and 25 with high buying power.

Cheapest brand: Firma Lee at 59.95 euros, or $76.

Most expensive brand: We Are Replay at 339 euros, or $434.

Current bestseller: Diesel and Meltin’ Pot.

Next hot trend: Drainpipes and jeans in slim fit combined with Victorian elements such as ruched blouses. Also drainpipes combined with Seventies rock-chic elements, such as striped or checked tops and pullovers.

Next hot brand: Cheap Monday and Acne Jeans, which is already selling well.

Galaxie Lafayette is an area devoted to young, premium fashion within the French department store Galeries Lafayette. The building is located on Friedrichstrasse in the center of Berlin, where many top-end labels, such as Gucci, Escada and Hugo Boss are also represented. Galaxie’s focus on expensive street fashion is relatively unique in Berlin, where traditionally department stores tend to cater to older customers, the midmarket or lower down the price scale. Galaxie also aims to promote young up-and-coming Berlin designers.

Store name: Jades

Location: Heinrich-Heine-Allee 53, 40213 Düsseldorf

Owner: The jeans agency Unifa

Years in existence: Six

Target customer: Women of all ages who are interested in fashion and open to new trends.

Cheapest brands: Acne and Superfine for under 200 euros, or $256.

Most expensive brand: Seven For All Mankind/The Great Wall Of China for over 1,000 euros, or $1,280.

Current bestseller: Victoria Beckham for Rock & Republic and True Religion.

Next hot trend: Skinny jeans will remain the trend for a while.

Next hot brand: Superfine and Sass & Bide.

Jades is a 3,200-square-foot temple to glamorous rock-chick fashion in the center of Düsseldorf. The store was set up by Evelyn Hammerström and her partner Reinhard Haase in 2000 when they founded the jeans agency Unifa, which brought the trend of premium L.A. jeans to Europe. While originally focusing on brands such as Seven For All Mankind, Rock & Republic and True Religion, the store now promotes new, edgy labels such as 2befree or Superfine, as well.

PARIS

Store name: Spree

Location: 16 Rue de la Vieuville, Paris

Owners: Roberta Oprandi and Bruno Hadjadj

Year of opening: 2001

Target consumer: Chic Parisians of all ages.

Cheapest/most expensive brands: Cheap Monday and Dr. Denim for 50 to 60 euros or $64 to $76.80, to Earnest Sewn, for around 200 to 250 euros or $256 to $320.

Current bestseller: Acne’s silver-like jeans, a mix of black and blue weaving that give a shimmer effect.

Next hot trend: Skinny jeans and ultra-high waists as well as corduroy pants in five-pocket formats.

At the foot of the Sacré Coeur on a cobbled street in the Montmartre quarter, contemporary fashion shop Spree has become as common a stop for the neighborhood’s cool dwellers as the local boulangerie. “We started out as a small neighborhood shop and art gallery and today we have fashionable women from all over Europe making special trips to the store,” boasted Italy-born Roberta Oprandi, Spree’s owner. And how — the shop’s fashionable regulars include Kristen Dunst, Audrey Marnay and Elodie Bouchez.

The 1,400-square-foot Spree offers a minimalist selection of contemporary fashion brands and design objects, as well as an art gallery run by Oprandi’s co-owner and husband, Bruno Hadjadj. Even designers like Vanessa Bruno and Isabel Marant take time to browse through the ultra-hip selection, which counts a handful of denim brands and contemporary fashion labels from Sweden’s Dr. Denim Jeansmakers, Cheap Monday and Acne Jeans, as well as premium picks by Notify, Earnest Sewn and Roy Roger jeans. Expanding its reach across the Seine River, Spree opened a Rive Gauche location in the tony Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood last year.

Store name: Weekday

Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Owner: Örjan Andersson

Year of opening: 2001

Target consumer: Die-hard denim heads.

Cheapest/most expensive brands: Cheap Monday retails for around 45-50 euros, or $58 to $64, and Sweden’s Pace jeans, which use Japanese selvage denim and retail for 250 euros, or $320.

Current bestsellers: Cheap Monday, Acne, April 77, Pace and Evisu.

Next hot trend: Soaring waists with a hint of Seventies style.

Next hot brand: Ijin, a high-end Italian label made from Japanese denim.

Örjan Andersson wants nothing to do with trends, but he can’t help himself. The Swedish rocker-turned-retailer-turned-designer has a knack for seeking out the most avant-garde denim brands. He also gets ahead of the crowd with his own label, Cheap Monday. Andersson created the line of ultra-slim stretchy black jeans as a “gift” for regulars at Weekday, his 320-square-foot vintage and jeans shop in Stockholm. He knew he was on to something when his initial run of 800 pairs sold out in three weeks. Andersson realized there was a market for affordable, yet exclusive, denim. The brand’s success prompted him to open new Weekday stores, including the flagship location in Stockholm that sprawls over 8,100 square feet, as well as a store in Gothenburg. Weekday carries a slew of cutting-edge denim brands often making their debut on the retail scene, such as Swedish favorites like Pace, Julian Red and Acne, as well as best foreign picks including Japan’s Edwin and France’s April 77. Cheap Monday accounts for about 65 percent of Weekday sales. The flagship location boasts a DJ platform, a T-shirt screening room, an in-house designer who creates daily fashion and accessories called “store made” and a tailoring office. Meanwhile, the basement is devoted to vintage and second-hand selections.

LONDON

Store name: Start-London

Location: Shoreditch, East London

Owner: Philip Start and Brix Smith-Start

Years in existence: Three-and-a-half years

Target consumer: Fashion forward, young men and women.

Annual sales estimate: Projected to be approximately 2 million pounds, or $3.7 million, in the next financial year.

Cheapest brand: Cheap Monday

Most expensive brand: PRPS denim

Current bestseller: PRPS and Acne Jeans

Next hot brand: Acne Jeans. “They’re a great product all over,” said Start.

Next hot trend: Elegant denim. “Dark and smartened up. Slim. Classic.”

Start-London opened in East London’s artsy Shoreditch in 2002, and takes its inspiration from the ultratrendy music and media scenesters who inhabit the area. It was one of the first stores to champion drainpipe jeans. That’s no surprise though, given that the store’s owner, Brix Smith-Start was once the guitarist in the Eighties rock band The Fall. However, while Start pioneers trendy fits, Smith-Start, who owns the store with her husband Phil, isn’t wedded to one look. All the store’s staff are trained to fit women with the jeans that will flatter them most, which run from Citizens of Humanity and Seven For All Mankind to Cheap Monday and Superfine. The store also provides a full complimentary alteration service for jeans.

Store name: Harvey Nichols

Location: Knightsbridge, Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Dublin, Dubai, Riyadh, and Hong Kong.

Owner: Dickson Poon

Target consumer: “Our denim customer shops the whole store, so they may be buying Chloé and Jimmy Choo to go back to their jeans. We sit the denim alongside contemporary fashion collections such as Larok, Trovata & Mike & Chris, lines that complement the denim to create a complete shopping environment,” said Suzanne Pendlebury, a denim buyer at Harvey Nichols headquarters.

Cheapest brands: Superfine, Sass & Bide, J Brand Denim, which retail for 130 to 200 pounds, or $245 to $377.

Most expensive brand: The Seven For All Mankind: Great China Wall range, at 300 pounds, or $565.

Current bestseller: “Frayed misfit from Sass & Bide, Blondie from Superfine skinny. Goldsign do a fantastic straight fit called Envy in a dark indigo Typhoon wash,” said Pendlebury.

Next hot brand: J Brand — midrise skinny in inky blue denim.

Next hot trend: Dark skinnies. “Skinny goes even skinnier and almost legging like, with a higher-rise super skinny from Earnest Sewn known as the ‘Esra’; perfect with an oversize sweater dress. The skinny jean has also been translated into an amazing stretch leather jean from Goldsign which is very rock ‘n’ roll. On the opposite side we are also seeing the return of the slouchy, sexy boyfriend jean,” said Pendlebury. “Washes are becoming much more sophisticated and chic. There’s a return to a much cleaner, sleeker look. I think this will lead onto a more tailored trouser style jean.”

While Harvey Nichols may be synonymous with the fashion victims of Absolutely Fabulous, the Knightsbridge store has a healthy denim scene to complement its luxury brands. Alongside pioneering hip British labels such as Superfine, (it carries the brand’s jeans, jackets and T-shirts,) it’s also a source for new U.S. brands, among them James Jeans, Earnest Sewn and J Brand. This reflects their varied customer base, who include tourists, trend-seeking hipsters and women looking for a tailored jean with a great fit. The denim area sits on the same floor as the store’s contemporary brands, so that customers can browse the denim offer alongside finds from James Perse, Trovata and D&G.

Emili Vesilind, Emilie Marsh, Lucie Greene and Damien McGuinness