DENIM TREND: Customized Jeans

DENIM TREND: Customized Jeans
Walk into 3×1, a new boutique in Manhattan’s Soho launched in August, and you may discover a team of pattern-makers, sewers and designers, all wearing pristine white lab coats, putting together a pair of jeans right in the middle of the store. Part atelier, part retailer, 3×1 offers limited-edition jeans sewn on site for $295 to $475. But for customers who want something truly special, it also offers a step-up: the chance to customize or even create their own pair of jeans from scratch. The price: $500 to tweak an existing style to $1,200 to for the full-on made-to-measure, bespoke process.

“I always wanted to show people the craft and beauty behind a pair of jeans — the stuff that got me so passionate about it in the first place,” says 3×1 founder Scott Morrison, the 39-year-old fashion entrepreneur largely credited with introducing luxury denim to the U.S. with Paper, Denim, Cloth and then Earnest Sewn. “I wanted to bring them into the production process.”

He’s not alone. From couture veteran Mychael Darwin, who started a bespoke denim business when his wife couldn’t find a pair of jeans that flattered her curves, to Brooklyn’s Loren Cronk, who crafts custom jeans by hand in the back of his tiny retail space, small designers are beginning to cater to a wealthy and underserved client base willing to plunk down between $500 and $10,000 for denim slacks done just right.
“I once had a woman client who wanted me to make her a complete denim and leather outfit,” says Darwin, whose jeans are a favorite among the Hollywood A-list. “She wanted sterling silver buttons, and she wanted her name engraved on all the buttons. She wanted really expensive Japanese denim. The whole thing cost her $15,000.” He starts chuckling. “But, hey, she could afford it.”


Suffice it to say, most bespoke denim clients aren’t spending more than $10,000 for flashy slacks adorned with monogrammed hardware or Swarovski crystals or intricate embroidery. “There are two main consumers for custom denim,” Michael Williams, a brand consultant and the founder and editor of menswear site A Continuous Lean. “One is the really big, tall guy who has trouble fitting into normal sizes. The other is the super discerning customer who wants to be unique, who wants things to fit perfectly, who wants something special.”


Take Jon Platt, a 45-year-old executive at EMI Music Publishing who measures over 6’6″. “I like nice things, but I don’t even bother going to most stores because it’s a waste of time,” he tells me over the phone. “I just end up going to Big & Tall, and I hate that.” When one of Platt’s employees told him about 3×1, the beefy music publisher rushed to make a bespoke appointment. That was about three months ago; he now owns 13 pairs. “These jeans are freakin’ amazing,” he says. “I feel like a kid again whenever I get a new pair.”


If fit is part of the appeal, so is the craftsmanship. That’s why Andrew Kozusko, a 37-year-old pharmaceutical patent lawyer based in Pittsburgh, visited Loren Cronk’s studio after he read an article about him. “I was immediately drawn to the custom nature [of his business],” he says. “I try to support artisans any way I can — whether it’s in the wine industry or in clothing. I like those lost arts.”
Cronk, who also designs three lines of ready-to-wear jeans, attributes the interest in handmade, special-order jeans to a growing malaise toward mass-produced goods. “People have a hunger for authenticity, for things that are locally made and unique and special,” says the designer.
Morrison agrees. “There’s something romantic and relevant about the idea of knowing where your money is going.”

But for these denim designers, bespoke still constitutes a tiny fraction of their businesses — labors of love rather than big moneymakers. “You just can’t do custom full-time,” says Los Angeles-based Karl Thoennessen, whose clients have included Kanye West and whose label Rogue Territory also offers ready-to-wear raw-denim jeans. “It’s not sustainable; you don’t stay in business with a customer who only wants one pair of jeans.”
Yet the love of the craft, and the process, inspires them to continue their specialty services. “I love seeing people’s eyes light up when you ask them what color thread they want for their back pocket,” says Thoennessen.
“On the inside of my jeans, it says 1 of 1,” boasts Platt. “The first and only one in an edition of one. I like that. And in my business, I always gotta keep it fresh.”
From Forbes

Saturday, October 22, 2011 · Categories: Consumer Intelligence, Trend Analysis, Fashion, Menswear, Retail and E-tail , Lifestyle
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