“My most basic definition of premium denim is a pair of jeans that start at $100,” says Claire Dupuis, a Senior Product Trend Forecaster at Cotton Incorporated and a denim specialist. “There are prices that go well above that, but the industry standard is set at $100 as a starting point. However, there are really so many considerations in the premium equation beyond price.”

Suzy Radcliffe, founder and Creative Director of Radcliffe, a two-year-old premium denim label agrees, “I would say that the textbook answer is price but that’s really just the beginning.”

Real women appear to feel similarly. According to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™, most women say their personal definition of premium denim is based more on perception than price. One in three female respondents cited the fit, cut and length of the jean. One in four cited the designer label, one in five cited the quality and durability and one in six cited the style. A similar one in six cited price and Jamila Galloway, a buyer for DJPremium.com, an online shopping destination, ascertains that it’s not about what you pay for your jeans but how much your jeans pay off for you.

Top Five Factors In Considering A Jean Premium Denim
Fit/Cut/Length 34%
Brand/Designer Label 27%
Quality/Durability 20%
Style 18%
Price 17%

“When buying for our site, I don’t typically consider the price point, but whether or not the jean is worth the price,” she explains. “If a pair of jeans retails for $500 dollars, it has to be more than just about the name; this is especially important with online retailing.”

Other criteria that women considered in labeling a jean premium included the fabric or fiber, the feel or texture, the color or wash, comfort, trendiness and stitching, indicating that the premium designation is both personal and individual choice.

Chad Jackson, a spokesperson for Evisu, a leading denim label, adds that premium denim must boast a specialty that the wearer can see, feel and appreciate, and for every woman, that’s something different. “At Evisu, we go to great lengths to ensure our jeans are some of the finest ever made.”

That definition of finest is what the typical woman expects when shelling out additional dollars for the best that the denim world has to offer. Kerry, a twenty-something law student in North Carolina, reveals that she is looking for what she calls the “whole deal.”

“While I need to be careful about what I spend, I can justify the price if it delivers unbelievable fit, good wearability and something I can wear anywhere.”

Kerry’s expectations regarding fit resonate with each of the experts. “Fit was revolutionized by premium denim,” tells Tadd Zarubica, Designer and Chief Executive Officer of Denim of Virtue, a premium label. “It’s all about that quality of fit that we deliver.”

“The true beginning of premium started with the quest for perfection,” agrees Dupuis, the trend forecaster. “Brands at lower price points have taken notice and are working on that, too.”

The availability of flattering jeans at every price point is excellent news considering that three out of four female respondents told the Monitor that fit is the most important factor in their next denim purchase. Interestingly, the chief concern about fit is length, as claimed by 36% of Monitor female respondents; other fit issues identified as important relative to ideal fit were waist (29%), hips (14%), thighs specifically (13%) and legs in general (5%).

“As a denim fanatic, I used to find myself buying every designer jean just to have one from each brand and I would later find that they did nothing for my figure. I have learned to go with what works and makes me feel the most confident,” Galloway from DJPremium shares.

Trying out new brands and trusting what one sees in the mirror goes a long way in helping women build a denim wardrobe that they love and count on; that’s important considering that women wear their jeans four days a week on average. “Women are wearing their denim everywhere and for everything,” Zarubica from Denim of Virtue says. “And considering that denim performs so well over time, it makes a smart option.”

Premium denim can be beneficial to personal economy, as well. “A good pair of premium jeans will be in fashion for many seasons, making them a wise investment,” Radcliffe says. Averaging out the total cost over the number of times a woman wears her jeans may translate to just a few cents per wear and definitely makes good old common sense in the long term.

“Premium isn’t just about the price, where the item is sold, or the material,” Galloway says. “In my opinion, it is most of all about the satisfaction you get in investing in an item that looks good on you.”

That sounds like a sound yardstick for women and brands looking to justify the premium for their premium jeans.

This story is one in a series of articles based on findings from Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor™ tracking research. Appearing Thursdays in these pages, each story will focus on a specific topic as it relates to the American consumer and her attitudes and behavior regarding clothing, appearance, fashion, fiber selection and many other timely, relevant subjects.