Starting from next month, the Italian company will be in charge of the European distribution of the luxury denim-based ready-to-wear label, launched last year by Seven For All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity founder Jerome Dahan, his wife Elsa and designer Noam Hanoch.
“When I approached them I felt a different way of introducing new trends in denim. It is totally the opposite of what has been done in the last five years, which was mostly about the same skinny denim everywhere,” said Brama Group chief executive officer Renzo Braglia.
Jean Atelier focuses on elevated and embellished tailored denim shirts, jumpsuits, dresses and jeans. Creating a higher-end denim line that wasn’t constrained by price points was always Dahan and Hanoch’s dream when they worked together at Citizens of Humanity for 10 years.
“Price points really inform everything in the creative process at the end of the day, from your fabrics to whatever washes you can do, whatever technique you can use,” explained Hanoch.
“It’s not like having anything against low price points, it’s just that it was kind of a desire to creatively and technically push yourself to do the best you can do,” he added. “And it’s also the opposite of fast fashion, so in that sense it’s the right moment for it, because it’s kind of saying [to] focus on something that’s really special and unique, that you can keep for many years as opposed to focus on something disposable. It just feels right.”
“We thought it was the moment because it’s been a long time with Citizens [of Humanity]; the product was the same for a very long time and the past five years there was [an urge] for me to do something new, to come back with a new story in denim,” said Jerome Dahan, who is also the chief executive officer of the company.
“I believe every seven to 10 years there should be a new story, otherwise everything becomes the same. Only this time is great because it’s a very creative direction…it’s not doing what everybody can do in denim,” he added.
Entirely produced in Los Angeles, Jean Atelier’s seasonal collections include 30 to 40 items, with average prices ranging from $250 to $500 for jeans. The brand’s bestseller is The Flip, a denim pant with a flipped waistband inspired by how “in the Eighties or Nineties girls would take their boyfriends’ jeans which were too big and fit them over,” explained the label’s president Elsa Dahan. A more luxury option is a windowpane-inspired denim pant, crafted panel by panel and sold out in a week in spite of its $925 price tag.
Launched at Barneys New York and FWRD Elyse Walker with the fall 2017 collection, the label is also available in Nordstrom Space, a selection of American specialty stores and online at Moda Operandi. “In Europe we just started with Matchesfashion.com and we will be in Le Bon Marché in a couple of months,” added Hanoch, who thinks that with the support of Brama’s distributing network, the label will perform well, especially in Italy and Germany.
“Italy is very fashion forward. So Italy, France and Germany are the markets that are leaders in [getting] what is a new trend and the retailers from these countries are ready to invest in something new,” said Braglia, mentioning stores such as Marion Heinrich in Munich, Apropos in Düsseldorf and Antonia in Milan as examples.
“So we would like to work with these kind of retailers, that are about five to six per country… [these] are the ones that open the market, while the others – it’s not nice to say – but are more like followers. We need to be in these opinion leaders stores first and from there we will expand the business,” continued Braglia, underscoring that the goal is to have 90 stores in Europe carrying Jean Atelier within three seasons.
On the other hand, Jean Atelier’s cofounders are also thinking of launching e-commerce to increase the brand’s visibility and customers’ engagement globally, in addition to providing special products or capsule collections in the future.
Expanding the range to men’s wear is an option the founders are open to for the future. “We want to build a lot of different categories, it’s a long-time goal,” said Jerome Dahan. “I’m not interested to take this company like I did with 7 [For All Mankind] or Citizens [of Humanity] for two or three years, I’d rather have a very strong name and very strong brand in the long-term. Even if we’re not going to do $300 million, if we do $250 million or $100 million, I’d be happy, because I did a lot of brands that just took off overnight: it’s great but it could be your enemy to have a brand that takes off so fast.”
“I think the whole model of doing premium denim is going to change and it has already started,” said Braglia, underscoring that “most of the brands are still connected to the old model, which is based on the reorder and replacement of the core business, as the classic five-pocket [jeans] and the skinny ones, which has been very profitable for everybody but it is going to change.”
“Now it’s more fashion-driven, so I think [Jean Atelier] understands exactly what’s going on. Of course, it’s a trend that needs to grow and will take some seasons to go deep in the market but I see this new denim inside our retailers, as they need to be always [one step ahead] compared to the market or they will be killed by fast-fashion.”
Based in Modena, Italy, Brama Group registered a turnover of $50 million in 2017. The company operates eight showrooms in key European cities, with the first one opened in Paris in 2011. The others are based in Madrid, Düsseldorf, Munich, Copenhagen, London, Antwerp and Milan, which is the most recent addition launched in September.