When Italian suitmaker Kiton expanded its collection to include handmade dress shirts, seven-fold neckties, and even bespoke shoes, the strategy did not seem to be a major departure from the company’s traditional tailored roots. The Neapolitan manufacturer’s plunge into jeans, however, is more difficult to fathom. But for Kiton owner Ciro Paone, the decision to add jeans to the collection was easy. After all, even those who don Kiton suits for work reach for a favorite pair of jeans on the weekend.
Kiton’s version of the classic five-pocket staple is wearable, not fanciful. Aside from some discreet embroidery on the belt loop and back, there is little flourish and no handwork, nor any visible Kiton signature. What distinguishes them most is the material. Instead of pedestrian denim, they are constructed of cashmerelike cotton that is overdyed in a rainbow of fashion colors to complement other Kiton pieces. “We’re using the same color palette as our sport coats, so they work together,” explains Dan Wolman, the firm’s U.S. sales associate.
Kiton is not alone in its bid to dress down men. Borrelli, another top-tier tailored clothing manufacturer, has launched its own jeans collection made from colorful cottons and three types of Japanese denim (considered the world’s finest), all appointed with sterling silver–plated buttons.
European brands Seal Kay and Blue Blood are also looking to tap into this burgeoning market staked out over the past few years by premium denim brands. Like Rogan, SBU, Paper Denim & Cloth, Evisu, and Seven for All Man Kind, the newcomers expect little resistance to their price tags of $200 to $400 at stores such as Wilkes Bashford, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Stanley Korshak, and Scott Hill.
What makes these jeans stand apart from standard Levis is the quality of material and the intricate finishing methods, so they feel supple and comfortable right off the rack. At SBU, a new Italian fashion denim brand, the denim is infused with trace amounts of polyurethane to enhance stretching, while hand-sanding methods are employed to weather the cloth and give it a softer finish. The company’s priciest jeans, at about $400, are made from selvage denim, the fabric at the edges of rolled bolts of cloth that is naturally aged and softened by exposure to the elements. This top-of-the-line collection is also appointed with rivets made of copper instead of aluminum.
“We have a sort of dual image of what denim is,” says Simon Goldy, SBU’s U.S. sales representative. “For some it will always be a commodity. For others it’s also a fashion item. When we went to Texas, a jeans state, it took a while to convince the stores that a man who spends $3,000 on a Brioni blazer and $1,000 on a Brunello Cucinelli cashmere sweater doesn’t want to wear them with a pair of denims he’s going to see on every kid in town.”
SBU, through IMC Group