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The Death of the Expensive (and the Skinny) Jean
Alisa Gould-Simon
August 8, 2006

Bid adieu to the expensive jean. While it may be hard to believe (considering how easily the terms premium and designer denim have been introduced into our lexicon), the overpriced, $300-and-up pair of jeans is a dying phenomenon. Inexpensive denim has never been as stylish, or in demand as it is right now. Cheap denim is, of course, nothing new. For years, Old Navy, Abercrombie & Fitch, even Levi's have been doing brisk business hawking denim for under $100. Yet, finding a pair of well-cut, stylish jeans that are in fact easy on the wallet is something else entirely. (Why can't The Gap make jeans fit like Helmut Lang?) "Denim for the masses is cheap, but the cut might not be right for a hipper person, " says Humberto Leon, co-owner of Opening Ceremony - a downtown Manhattan boutique that specializes in lesser-known international designers. "Right now there is a huge push for fashionable, affordable denim. There's no longer such a status associated with having an expensive jean."

As if they were listening, this September, American Apparel will debut its very own denim line. The hipster fashion haven - best known for bringing style-charged athleisure wear to the masses - is introducing unisex slim denim slacks (rumored to be modeled after the LA-based premium denim line, J brand) in a handful of different, arrestingly bright colors including red, silver and electric blue. Yet, the biggest news of all is the price-point: "When it's all said and done we'd like them to sell for around $60," says Mathew Swenson, American Apparel's Fashion Media and Product Placement rep.

"It's a shocker to people that they can buy well-cut jeans this cheap," says Leon in reference to Cheap Monday, the super-skinny Swedish denim brand marked with a skull and bones tag that sells for $80 a pair. Leon stocks it in his shop alongside similarly inexpensive jeans from London retailer Topshop. "And before Cheap Monday," which has been selling out in the handful of Manhattan stores that carry it (like Seven New York), "there was Trash and Vaudeville," he adds, referring to the East Village punk boutique's extremely popular namesake drainpipes, priced also at $80.

But then again, denim wasn't ever supposed to be expensive. It was, after all, introduced in the late 19th century as utilitarian workwear. Thus, denim - at least for now - is returning to its roots. Just don't expect economical fashion to be permanent. "Everything happens in phases. We'll probably see the rebirth of expensive denim eventually," Leon predicts. Not to mention fuller cuts. As he forsees it: "Skinny jeans are going to die soon, because they've hit the masses."

Get Yours:
Opening Ceremony, 35 Howard Street, New York, (212) 219-2637,
American Apparel Denim Slim Slacks, prices TBA,
Cheap Monday, $65,
Seven New York, 110 Mercer Street, New York, (646) 654-0156,
Trash and Vaudeville, $49, 4 St Mark's Place, New York, (212) 982-3590,
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