On Net-a-porter.com, the lowest-priced pair of jeans is £100 (there’s a reason Khloe Kardashian’s Good American “Good Legs” style is a bestseller) and the most expensive is a cool £1,790 (Feather-trimmed Valentines, anyone?). Granted, this is a luxury retail platform, with bestsellers including The Row shirts, Saint Laurent bags and Gucci ball gowns, but the gap between denim prices suggests that the industry is slowly waking up to the idea of investment clothing, but is still plagued by fast fashion. (a quick look at ASOS shows that its signature range of skinny trousers start at a shocking £6). So how much should you pay for a pair of classic flats that hold their shape and stand the test of time? It’s a complex equation, according to industry leaders and high-end customers, who closely follow the brands we support and, tellingly, pay hundreds for them.
“Within the Levi’s denim portfolio, we have multiple price points depending on the fabric, construction, finish, trim and design details,” says Karyn Hillman, product manager at Levi Strauss & Co. “We take all of this into account when we position the product, as well as look at the market and the competitive environment.” Customers don’t fit the cookie-cutter model either. “Everyone’s denim is forever different, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all style—it could be vintage 501s or a pair of The Rows wide-legs,” says Tiffany Hsu, Mytheresa.com womenswear, kidswear, and lifetime VP of fashion buying, who lives in The Attico cargo denim and pink Chanel high-waisted pants. “You have to look at the uniqueness of the style and materials to decide if it’s worth the money, as well as where and how it’s made.”
Libby Page, director of marketing at Net-a-porter.com, agrees that buying jeans is an emotional process that has as much to do with our feelings (we’ve all had a soul-crushing experience in a denim store) as with our wallets. “Ultimately, if you’re a big denim wearer, then investing in a good pair of ‘forever’ jeans really will be one of the best investments you can make,” she urges. Here is a list that you should consider before proceeding with your purchase.
Japanese selvage denim produced on vintage looms will obviously cost more than popular cotton blends, so pay attention to the details on clothing labels – crucial when checking brand traceability in one of fashion’s most polluted sectors, too. “Each denim company comes from different origins, adheres to its own strong values, and has its own relationships with a select number of manufacturers around the world,” says Paige Adams-Geller, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Paige. “The country of origin of fabrics and manufacture plays a big role in denim prices.” While quick blends of cotton, polyester, elastane and viscose can be pumped out at lightning speed, Paige usually takes a year to work with new textile formulations, such as her “transcend denim,” which uses specific performance fiber technology to produce a super-soft denim that still holds its shape.
East London-based ELV Denim, meanwhile, sources pre-loved fabrics that would otherwise end up in landfill for its hand-reconstructed jeans. “The difference between our design and creating mass volumes from pristine flat material is incomparable,” says Anna Foster, founder of the zero-waste brand. “The level of craftsmanship, skill and time it takes to create each unique piece is what makes ELV Denim a luxury item.” While brands such as Paige design to a certain price point, if it costs more to build, the company “eats the cost into the margin, because [it] he knows that the cost for the customer is the most important guarantee”. For smaller labels, such as ELV, this is not an option.