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Have we been getting ripped off by "premium" denim manufacturers?

Poll Results: Which price-tier has the best value?

  • 50% (13)
    The Mid-price brands are still a better value.
  • 50% (13)
    Gustin & the other budget brands offer a better value.
26 Total Votes  
post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

So, these new companies are putting out heavy Japanese denim at budget price points.


I can clearly see the justification of brands like Iron Heart who focuses on specialty, heavyweight products, and Flat Head, who specifically develop their own fabrics with unique fading patterns, but what about mid-range "premium denim" brands like 3Sixteen, APC, Naked & Famous, Nudies, etc? Each has their own set of "gimmick" jeans, but is the price tag justified for a pair of indigo?


For example, Gustin just put out 16oz Japanese denim jeans for $81 shipped (And I have heard good things about their jeans). RPMWest is also doing a similar jean for $95, and they send you 3 different sizes to choose the best fit from. And there are others.

post #2 of 18
i dont know about everyone else but i dont really care about ultra limited edition heavy japanese denim woven in some ancient forest somewhere, as long as its half-decent quality, I care much more about the cut, which is why I like APC's, the cut just works well for me.

If these cheaper brands can produce a good cut, and not just endless amounts of straight leg jeans, then more power to them.
post #3 of 18
i would rather not think about it, however i bought a pair of pure blue japans for $300+ and already have gotten 3 years out of them. they are like my prized possession at the moment. as long as they last (which i don't doubt) i'll have these puppies for another 5+ years.
post #4 of 18

N&F, Nudies, 3sixteens all go on sale and near full size runs can be had for around $100 normally at Barneys so it's not much of a price difference. Also, you get more fits, styles, and colors with those brands.

post #5 of 18

I have great respect for the Japanese niche brands that create their own unique weaves and dyes, as both new and old Japanese textiles are an obsession of mine, but I agree that a lot of the mid-tier stuff is boring. Additionally, many of the new American brands use the exact same Cone denim; only the cuts are slightly different and it's tough to tell them apart. I'm not completely opposed to American brands; my current summer pair is from Left Field, though even that pair is made from Kaihara denim.


The die-hard Japanese brands are very open about their manufacturing and sourcing processes which is important to me. Flat Head, as previously mentioned, creates all of their textiles in house, the CEO of Samurai does charity work and volunteers on the farms they use, the president of Sunrise dyes his own jeans in mud and persimmon pits, Kapital is run by a father and son team, etc.


Though it's mostly the denim that's gained popularity in the west, these Japanese brands do amazing work in other areas. Flat Head's shirting fabrics are super complex and beautiful and Kapitals integration of traditional Japanese farming aesthetics and reinforcement is very cool. I don't see the American brands providing much other than jeans.

post #6 of 18
For me this is hardly a question of being objective.
I'm proud owner of a pair of Momotaro 0905SP, and I just love, love, love these jeans. The fabric is thick but soft, the cut is perfect for me and now, after wearing them for about 2 months, they start to show some nice fades.
Also in my rotation there is an Edwin Nashville and an Eat Dust.
While the Momotaro cost me about 300 Euros, the Nashville is only 100 Euros and the Eat Dust was around 200 Euros.

Is the Momotaro worth 100 euros more than the Eat Dust? Is the Nashville only 1/3 as good as the Momotaro? Honestly, the Edwin Nashville is a very well made jeans. 14 oz denim, stitching ok, durable. Same for the Eat Dust. In fact, no visible difference in overall quality.
But!!! The Momotaro is a different animal! Here you can see why these jeans are more expensive than the other two. Not only the better fabric, but also the details make a big difference here.

All in all I would recommend trying out "budget" (since when are we talking about budget if a pair of jeans costs you over a hundred dollars?) denim. If you're ok with their quality and appearance and, most important, they fit you, you're fine and save a few maybe hundred dollars ready to spend for other nice stuff.
But just to warn you: high end denim can become addictive. I'm absolutely sure, whenever my Momotaro will be done in some years, the first thing I'll do is buy the next pair of high end jeans.
post #7 of 18
i'm no expert on denim, but having more money than sense as a teenager I've tried out a couple of those artisanal brands just because...iron heart, okayama denim, blah blah
my conclusion is that while their quality is obviously up a notch from my "other" pair of jeans - a slim cut levi's - there's just not enough difference in terms of aesthetics to justify that immense price hike.

i've given them to the salvation army because in retrospect, they were hideous. personally, i couldn't be arsed if they were dyed from the purest indigo sourced in the amazon, or weaved in intricate patterns...
in particular, their cutting was often problematic, and their overall look rather bland. the one thing going for them is that they were comfy.

today my opinion on denim has changed a lot...i now only consider buying from dior, devoa, julius, undercover, viridianne...that kinda stuff. mostly because they look cool and fit well, and to me that's what is worth the extra cash.
post #8 of 18
in a business pov, I'd be interested in finding out how these brands could sustain a business selling small batch jeans for less than a hundred dollars shipped.
post #9 of 18
post #10 of 18

are those $81 jeans any good?  I'm pretty sure once people get over the hype they'll find a million things they would change about the jeans.  reminds me of everlane, who's whole business strategy is promising designer products at a lower price because they cut out the retail middle man stores.  Yet there products are way below that of promised.  


As for the brands you mentioned, you really can't lump them to together and generalize--they are all great different.  


APC doesn't market themselves as premium.  The denim is made in china.  The price of the jean also has risen considerably (~50%) since it first came out and was popular.  

N&F doesn't really market themselves are premium either.  Sure, they have japanese fabrics, but it's made in canada and the construction is average at best.  they differentiate themselves by having the largest selection of fabrics.


Anyways, you can get really nice made in japan jawns with japanese fabrics for less than $200 retail.  Would I buy them at $100?  Definitely, would I buy the jeans you listed at $80? definitely not.

post #11 of 18
I think that with the pros and cons, things come out in the wash. With something like Gustin's $81 jeans, you can't inspect them, you can't return them, and you can't try them on. If they fit, then you are set. If not, it's a sunk cost. When you buy a pair of jeans from a retail store, you are paying for a host of things that will make that garment a satisfying purchase, from the customer service to the ability to try them on and feel the material and look in the mirror and be like the girl in the l'Oreal commercials. If you buy the same pair online, you can return them if they don't fit, or exchange them for a different size, etc..., all things that cost the retailer money. If you want to gamble, however, something like Gustin's kickstarter jeans (note that they also sell at retail for much more), might be your ticket

tl;dr the poll is silly.
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 

LA Guy, Gustin actually allows exchanges for similarly styled items. And that other startup brand ships 3 different sizes to the customer so that they can keep the one they want to, all included in the cost.

post #13 of 18
Interesting. I apparently didn't do my homework. Nonetheless, an exchange is not the same as a non-purchase or a straight refund. There are jeans (and other garments) that have feature that I will not like, regardless of the cut. These preferences are very idiosyncratic, and it would be unrealistic to be able to communicate this without actually handling the garment. I think that if straight returns were allowed, I'd be much more likely to say that we are then comparing oranges to oranges.

It's an interesting approach. Vastrm, for example, sends several "try on shirts" with different bodies. I personally think that that is the best way to nail down fit. Measurements mean very little, especially the measurements given on the net. For example, for jeans, one of the most important measurements is the seat, and it is never reported.

I think that these companies, if they do things right, could be quite significant in the coming years, and force retailers to become more competitive and innovative. I don't think that they are there yet, or, at least ime, near, but they are getting closer.

If you want to really read about the innovations in these companies, Jefferyd, (Jeffery Diduch) who is a member of this forum as well as a bespoke tailor and also a player in RTW, addresses this in his blog: on numerous occasions.
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 

It all comes down to how much that shopping experience is worth to a consumer. These budget jeans are about half the price of the mid-tier brands. I love shopping in person, but that's a damn hard sell. At that point, I might as well pay a bit more for something special, or pay less for something more affordable.


The online vs retail conflict will lead to some interesting changes in fashion consumerism. I don't think it'll change shopping as a whole, but for more niche hobbyist stuff like denim, it would be a damn shame if all the cool boutiques selling this stuff downsized or went out of business. 


Then again, the whole online budget-price range might just attract a ton of new people into the hobby. Then the mid-range brands would have new customers to compete for, using new, interesting products. These companies have the power to create a product to match their price point--something situated between the high-quality budget jeans and uber-expensive premium lines. 

Edited by Distorbiant - 5/24/13 at 10:10pm
post #15 of 18
When I bought my first pair of APC jeans about 6-7 years ago, there were hardly any brands making raw slim fit denim at a decent price, well worth it. That being said I would never buy full price APCs again when you can get lots of other good stuff cheap... (i.e. wings + horns, 3sixteen, etc).
The $400 RRL denim I have which I have owned a good 5 years, (bought for $80) was the best deal I think. Also the flathead jeans i've had for over 4 years when the yen was around 120/dollar (so i paid maybe $210 shipped from japan) - I think these were well worth it, I still find them to be my most solid pair of denim. but my biggest surprise of all is my levi's 511 rigid which I paid $22 for... I wore the shit out of them, they have faded nicely, but they are in need of a ton of repairs.... so overall I think you get what you pay for.
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