In the taxonomy of the apparel industry, there’s an endless number of categories to classify price point: economy, mass market, premium, luxury, just to name a few. While the classification does offer some insight into a line’s likely customer (tween, Millennials, mature) and to a certain extent their brand’s style, what makes one item budget and another premium is more complicated. Take denim jeans for example. You can find them at different price points but are you paying for quality or status? Fit or environmental footprint?
The premium denim category, roughly classified as denim jeans that cost over $100, is growing in spite of the availability of less expensive alternatives, mainly because customers are embracing the adage, you get what you pay for. It’s sort of like comparing price to value. Price is defined as how much something costs, but value takes into account use, importance, worth. A pair of jeans that cost $200 but can withstand frequent wear (4+ times a week), fit like a glove and look nice enough to wear to work but comfortable enough to stroll the farmer’s market on weekends-- those are valuable. But understanding just what goes into a pair of premium jeans versus mass market is more than just a study in semantics; it’s a look inside the complexity of the entire sourcing and production process of a seemingly simple article of clothing.
Bluer Denim’s premium jeans retail for a little less than $180. They also feature the marks of exceptional quality: high-grade materials, thoughtful construction and designed for long-lasting wear.
Here’s a breakdown of just how this adds up:
The process of creating a pair of denim jeans starts with sourcing, the first being the fabric, which is, well, denim. Premium jeans use higher-quality denim, which begins with the type of loom used to weave the fabric. Mass market styles are generally made from denim woven on a modern, industrialized projectile loom that works quickly, but results in a weave that’s looser and therefore not as durable. Bluer Denim partners with denim mills that still operate a shuttle loom, a process that harkens back to the earliest days of denim and takes longer to weave the cloth. The shuttle loom produces a stronger, tighter weave and also creates what is known as a self-finished edge, or selvage-- the white seam that denim enthusiasts covet for the aesthetic (usually shown off with a wide cuff) -- which prevents the fabric from fraying and unraveling. The pace of the shuttle loom also accommodates the introduction of different yarns, such as more sustainable options, like those made of recycled fibers, that we at Bluer Denim are incorporating.
In addition to our raw denim (13 oz., made from 100% double ring-spun cotton, to be exact), Bluer Denim jeans feature quality trims that are thoughtfully sourced to maintain the integrity of the construction of each pair of jeans. These include:
- Tucked belt loops for added durability
- Certified nickel-free metal buttons
- Burrs and rivets forged in the USA by renowned manufacturer YKK
- Thread made in the USA by Coats, a 200-year-old company and pioneer of the textile industry
With the global adoption of more casual fashion, the denim market has grown around the world and with it a proliferation of brands with endless styles to choose from. Because mass market production boasts a faster turnover of trendy denim, this speed of manufacturing requires a massive amount of labor. In order to increase production while managing costs, many denim lines outsource their manufacturing overseas where local labor is cheaper. However, the savings comes at a cost, with many factory workers facing hazardous working conditions and unlivable wages. There’s often minimal oversight or transparency around the production process leaving many workers highly vulnerable to exploitation. To combat these humanitarian issues, some denim companies are returning to domestic production in the US. Bluer Denim is committed to ethical manufacturing so we partnered with a cut-and-sew facility in Los Angeles-- the denim production capital-- that adheres to state labor laws and pays a sustainable wage. We also opted for domestic production to reduce our carbon footprint and have easier access to hands-on time during patternmaking and fitting to ensure the final product has just the right fit.
The average person wears jeans at least three times a week. Given how much we rely on this wardrobe staple, our jeans need to keep up with our fast-paced and diverse lifestyles and offer a return on our investment. The durability of denim isn’t just how well they hold up -- though you should go multiple wears between washings of your Bluer Denim-- but also how they retain color and maintain their shape after each wear. Denim jeans are no longer a seasonal item, but meant to be worn year round, in all conditions for all occasions. Because Bluer Denim designs their jeans in classic styles, they will outlive any trend, so you can wear them forever. At Bluer Denim, we make premium denim jeans because we believe wearing our jeans should feel good-- not just because we use high-quality denim that’s thoughtfully milled, but because our jeans are made sustainably and respectfully by people who are paid a living wage. What’s more valuable than that?