The heat is rising for Fire Jeans.
Sales of the Los Angeles-based junior denim line have gained momentum since launching in 2004 as part of an expansion of the moderate-priced Fire sportswear brand. With its start-up days behind it, Fire Jeans is looking to capitalize with an expanded product line.
“We’ve come a very long way in a short period of time,” said company president Jay Heidhues. “We’ve created some great brand awareness within the industry in almost two years. Now our challenge is to create the brand awareness with the consumer.”
Sales of the denim line have grown to $12 million, said Heidhues, who has his sights on $18 million this year.
One of the key drivers of this growth has been a rapid expansion of its product array. Fire will offer as many as 120 different styles for the summer, ranging from skirts to jeans and gauchos, after launching with 40 styles in 2004.
“When we started, we had to be realistic,” Heidhues said. “We knew people were going to start with us by testing, so we had to be very focused.”
Expanding the line has been made easier by a change in fiber content. Initially, Fire had developed a denim constructed from more than 51 percent ramie fibers. It was a strategy intended to move the jeans into a different Customs category and save Fire charges on quota rights from China, ultimately helping to keep prices low. The trade-off, however, was limitations on stylings and treatments the garment could handle.
“We are now doing all cotton denims with stretch,” Heidhues said. “We’re not doing the ramie at all. We have the ability to do the treatments and have the product look better by using the cotton. We’re doing far more detail in the product, whether it be the washing or the stitching.”
Heidhues noted that consumers across the denim spectrum have demanded premium styles at lower prices.
“We’ve had to utilize our worldwide production capabilities to achieve those goals,” he said. “We’re still out there at $34.99 to $44 retail and we believe the consumer is finding that they are getting a real perceived value. At that next tier, the $60 to $80, that perception about what they’re getting for their money changes a bit. We’re looking at staying as a midtier moderate resource.”
Ultimately, Heidhues plans to introduce a premium element.
For the upcoming market, the line will be introducing 100 to 120 new styles, said Kelly Moustris, director of design.
“The styles feature a lot of hand-detailing, special details that the girl could do herself if she knew how or had the time,” Moustris said.
Hand-grinding and -sanding will be applied to styles that are slimmer fitting but retain a workwear feel, Moustris said, adding, “We’re rolling out some darker washes, as well.”
With 120 styles, there are a lot of different types of women Moustris has in mind when designing.
“I look at it as a pyramid,” he said. “There’s the newest fits or influences and you need to have that. But you need to have your middle layer, which is trend-right, but maybe not as forward. It’s fashion-based, but still very trendy. That’s probably where we do the bulk of our business. The lowest layer is repeating things that we’re still doing very well with.”