The premium denim trend has been going strong for over a decade. It took one of the most common wardrobe items in the world and made it into a coveted luxury item. Premium jeans are marketed as a cut above the rest, as jeans that feel magical when you put them on, that don’t bag out, and that look good all day, day after day. And based on the popularity of premium denim brands, the superior fit, fabrication, workmanship, silhouette and fashionability justified the premium price for many people.
My experience with premium denim jeans has been that for the most part they lived up to the hype. Until recently I would have said that they couldn’t be beat. But that has changed.
For one thing, non-premium denim is improving. The Loft, Ann Taylor, Levis, Lane Bryant, NYDJs, Cookie Johnson, Eileen Fisher and KUT from the Kloth generally offer much better fits for curvy and extremely curvy body types and plus sizes. These days, straighter cuts from J.Crew, Madewell, Banana Republic, the Gap and Boden can fit just as well as premium denim (if not better), are equally well made, and go the distance laundry cycle after laundry cycle. All for a fraction of the price.
At the same time, premium denim is losing its advantage in some areas. I’ve found the sizing of premium denim for skinnies and straight legs to be smaller than ever at the moment, often sizing out clients who are larger than a US size 10. The fabrications are not as substantial as they used to be, and many are fashionably distressed to the extreme, making them less versatile and robust than you’d like for the price. It’s not uncommon for styles to have doubled up on their percentage of stretch which causes the shape to bag out during the day. Very few are made of 100% cotton, which makes truly authentic denim hard to find.
All that said, premium denim does offer more silhouette, fabric and wash variety than non-premium denim, thereby making it more exclusive. If you want a hot off the press fashion forward jeans silhouette, or something different from the mainstream offerings, premium denim is probably your best bet.
Unless, of course, fast fashion giants like Zara, H&M or Forever 21 have beaten the premium denim houses to it.
On the whole, my clientele has become less interested in premium denim over time. After all, if they can achieve a more flattering and comfortable fit with similar quality at a quarter of the price, why not? They would rather spend their budget on other wardrobe items. Premium denim hasn’t gone away, but it is a smaller component of their denim capsules.
I used to be a devout premium denim gal, but like many of my clients, I’ve added lots of non-premium denim into my wardrobe. It fits and feels fab. Some of my favourite pairs of jeans are premium and others are non-premium, which speaks to my love of high-low style. I will continue to purchase premium denim when it gets me the exclusivity in fabric and silhouette that I’m looking for. But I’ll snap up a non-premium pair just as happily when they fit the bill.