Is blue denim really dead? Not at all, says Chetan Shah, managing director, Pepe Jeans London Clothing India Ltd. He says that two years ago, blue jeans bottomed out in Europe and the US. But since fashions tend to move in a cyclical manner, now some people have started wearing blues again.
He asserts that fashion has a way of bouncing back and blue jeans will ultimately come back. ''Remember the bell-bottom pants, a rage in the 70s, which disappeared by the end of that decade only to bounce back two decades later?'', he asks.
In India, Mr. Shah feels that blue denim never really went out of fashion completely. "There is still a good market for blue jeans here and Pepe intends to launch a blue denim brand within the next two months."
Although Pepe has, over the years, added casualwear to its line of offerings and now plans to sell even caps, socks and sunglasses, Mr. Shah is clear that, "basically, we are a jeans brand from London. Blue denim will never go out of fashion and in fact is reviving all over the world."
When Levi's launched its India operations in 1995, the decline of its blue denims range in the US and Europe was in progress. The decline of denim forced Levi Strauss to shut many of its factories in the US and Europe and eliminate thousands of jobs. However, it survived with its Dockers and Slates (another casualwear brand).
The scene in India was also not as promising as brands such as Levi's, Lee Cooper and Lee had hoped for. This was partly because of a thriving unorganised sector and the grey market that rapidly adapted to changing styles and priced its products lower. As in the Western countries, loose-fitting baggy trousers in colours other than blue were rapidly becoming the vogue. According to industry estimates, the growth rate in the premium segment of the jeans market had slipped from 30 per cent to 15 per cent in 1997, with worse forecasts for the next year.
Initially, the Levi's range began approximately at Rs 1,200 and went all the way to Rs 2,300. The company's distribution policy was also a trifle flawed as it went in for exclusive original Levi stores and also tied up with Weekender for some 30-odd outlets. The tie-up with Weekender was a mismatch as it targeted the slightly cost-conscious crowd while Levi's was for the high-end.
Somewhere along the way, Levi's did a rethink and dumped its "very cool, very aspirational" advertising, reduced its prices and started promoting its lower range priced at Rs 995 aggressively. The tagline: "At Rs 995, it is easy to get in. Bloody difficult to get out." The company followed its slashed prices with the launch of a non-denim casual range - twills, chinos, gaberdines - in a very unusual move.
So will blue denims ever go out of vogue completely? Unlikely, though they are bound to have their cyclical swings. Meanwhile, what's the harm in adding to one's offerings as fashions swing and consumers check other things out, if they are on offer?