James Jeans’ popular Twiggy

THERE are some things only a jeans fan will know — Acne is not a skin condition and Seven isn’t a movie starring Brad Pitt. Citizens of Humanity is not a charity organisation and Cheap Mondays is quite pricey. The rise of premium denim is meteoric. A decade ago, jeans were just the blue weekend staple. But with makers specialising in denim fabric, focusing their trade on the cut and fit and roping in celebrities for star exposure, luxury jeans became a status symbol.

Seven for all Mankind is now a cult classic. Rock and Republic, Evisu and True Religion are household names among designer denim lovers everywhere. The United States and Europe became the bedrock of cult denim creations, with prices sometimes exceeding RM1,000 for each pair — out of reach to most wage earners juggling between life’s necessities and looking good.

Former quantity surveyor Yvonne Lau, 38, has a better idea. Realising that the jeans craze is still very much alive, she decided on something clever: Bring new brands in, sell them online to slash overhead costs so consumers can get those denim even when they don’t have deep pockets. “Even if you order online from the brands’ websites, you have to pay courier charges and import duties. To make an exchange would be a hassle, not to mention expensive.”

And that’s how new and up-and-coming denim labels such as Postage, James Jeans and Karl Kani Live Life and Love Denim are available locally with prices from RM429. The concept seems to work well. Since the Malaysian arm of jeansbaronline.com — the original is based in Los Angeles — was launched late last month, sales have been brisk.

“We’ve sold about 15 pairs. Not bad considering that we are new and very few know of us,” said the mother of one who works from home. Her organisation is lean “so that I can pass the savings to my customers”. There are enormous overheads when you open a store and I feel sorry that people cannot afford great jeans that come with a four-figure price tag. But if you cut cost — store rental, launches, celebrity fashion show — you can get a great pair at a fraction of the price.”

For example, the Internet price of James Jeans’ popular Twiggy — worn by Halle Berry, Kate Beckinsale and Blake Lively — is US$114 (RM365). Jeansbar sells it for RM499. Compare that with US$189 for a pair of Seven for all Mankind which fetches up to a four-figure mark in a designer jeans store and you get an idea of the kind of savings Lau is talking about.

“Everyone deserves a good pair of jeans. One that makes you feel good and look like a million bucks,” she said. The three brands offered by Jeansbar have different characteristics.

Postage, known for its denim leggings, is clean-cut and simple while Karl Kani Live Life and Love Denim comes with artistic touches such as embroidery on the back pockets. But the star has to be James Jeans with its coveted Twiggy, worn by some of showbiz’s famous women.

Skinny yet comfortable, Lau said they are cut “to lift the bum, give a slimming effect and make legs look longer”. The denim is dry-aged, meaning there are less chemicals and mostly dried under the sun, making it, as far as the industry goes, one of the most environment-friendly denim brands.“

These brands are relatively new. They are hardly a decade old and I want to expose the Malaysian market to young denim labels.” By offering good prices via an unconventional way of selling designer jeans, Lau is opening up new options for a different market segment.

“I know most shoppers want the store experience and to be seen toting a designer paper bag. Our customers are those discerning enough to cut through the frills and focus on the quality of what they are paying for.

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