Selling $300 Jeans In A Down Economy

CIO Today:

A little over five years ago, Michael Ball looked at his then-girlfriend’s expensive jeans and decided he could design a much better pair himself.

Not long after, Ball, who had no fashion design experience, did just that, creating an ultra-slim fitting line that caught on with the celebrity set in Los Angeles.

Having stirred interest, he got financial backing, suppliers, and manufacturers together and began selling his high-end jeans for $300 from specialty stores within the city. A cult following soon developed.

Since then, Ball has turned his idea into Rock & Republic, a $300 million brand of men’s and women’s jeans that now includes cosmetics, accessories, shoes, and other clothing lines that are sold in 86 countries.

His long-term goal is to create a far-reaching lifestyle brand that includes boutique hotels and restaurants and a domestic airline. Ball says he is far from done.

According to market researcher NPD Group, denim is an $11 billion industry in the U.S. and has been growing at around a 5 percent to 7 percent clip in recent years.

Premium labels such as Rock & Republic now account for a 7 percent chunk of the total market.

“Consumers will pay $300 for the right pair of jeans,” says Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry analyst. “They see it as an investment.”

Moreover, Cohen says, “certain denim brands have made it their focus to be a game-changer. They make you feel really great and you will pay twice as much for those.

What [Ball] is able to do is get the consumer of many different age segments and deliver on the implied promise that these jeans will make your life better, you will feel better.”

Even in an economic downturn, Cohen calls denim “recession-resistant.” “People are going to make significant changes,” he says. “They don’t have a lot of money in their pockets.

They may not buy three pairs, but they will buy one pair and it has to be about who has the right message.”

Photo by Rock & Republic.

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