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NEW YORK — Hae Yong is making the transition from denim manufacturer to premium label owner with the launch of Pur Premium Denim.

Yong has more than 15 years of experience in the denim industry, working in production and manufacturing positions with brands such as Pepe, Bongo, Lucky Brand and Blue Cult. But it was her experience manufacturing denim for other brands over the last five years that convinced Yong to venture out on her own.

This story first appeared in the January 3, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“With the beginning of the premium business, I saw our whole business change,” Yong said.

As new brands flooded the market seeking to cash in on the trend, the level of quality subsequently fell and consumers were faced with product that didn’t stand out.

“I could see almost two years ago the consumer was going to be tired of bad product,” Yong said. “I kept hoping I was wrong, but from last year up to now the denim business has been really flat. I believe it’s not about the denim. The consumer isn’t tired of denim, they just have nothing new to buy.”

Yong’s commitment to quality products pushes Pur into the higher levels of the premium denim spectrum, with retail prices starting at $200. Much of that cost can be attributed to fabric.

“The base cloth must come first,” she said. “A lot of people don’t like to spend a lot of money on the base cloth and it’s a mistake.”

The collection, which will launch at next week’s Intermezzo trade show here, consists of more than 70 pieces. The majority use Candiani denim. The line’s basic collection consists of two fits, each produced in slim, boot-leg and flare styles. Yong used herself as the fit model for the Scarlett, crafted for a petite woman with smaller thighs and hips.

“She’s only maybe 15 percent of the denim public, but because of her body type she’s extremely loyal,” Yong said.

The second fit, called the Bardot, was described by Yong as the “all-American fit” designed for a more curvy woman. Pur will also have fashion pieces, such as dresses, skirts and a catsuit. Detailing includes embroidered images of a phoenix and a signature stitch shaped like a bolt of lightening.

Yong understands retailers are reluctant to try new brands without a proven track record, but feels boutiques will look to offer something new and different to compete with department stores.

“With the market being this flat, it’s almost time for the next ‘It’,” she said. “When something hits in this climate it will hit big.”

Yong said Pur could generate as much as $10 million at retail in the first year. A men’s collection will also launch at the Blue show on Jan. 20.

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