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The Roundup May 22 — fashion forward edition

Tight times seem to fit well in tight jeans.

While consumer spending remains woefully depressed, expensive designer jeans have been one of the few bright spots for manufacturers and retailers, according to NPD Group Inc., a market research company.

Sales of premium brand jeans grew by 17% during 2008 and eked out a 2.3% increase in the most recent three-month period that ended in February, making premium denim one of a few “pockets of growth in an otherwise fizzling fashion market,” NPD Group said. . . .

Denim is one area in which some of the most fundamental rules of the global economy don’t appear to apply. Other industries turn to the least expensive foreign labor pools for production. Jeans makers have found that the high cost of manufacturing in the U.S. is actually a selling point

(“Designer jeans seem recession-proof,” Los Angeles Times, May 22) This is a wonderful story that inadvertently gets at several business truths. The first is this: it’s not the designer jeans are recession-proof, but the relationship that certain specialty brands have set up with a particular market segment. There are plenty of jeans companies, including the premium fashion labels, that have seen precipitious declines in sales. But the companies featured in this story, such as True Religion, deliver a particular type of value (extremely good fit coupled with durability) with a very narrow, moneyed, fashion-conscious consumer demographic. The consumerist mantra chanted all throughout the article (“it’s worth every dollar”) is a vital clue to how to maintain a premium brand in a declining retail market.

I wore the wolves and scored a $150K a year job!

A black t-shirt being sold on has realized newfound coolness thanks to loads of funny user reviews posted on the item. The shirt features three wolves baying at a full moon.

It has become a best seller in the apparel category. Reviewers have touted the shirt’s magical properties to attract women, including cheerleaders.

(“‘Wolf shirt’ on goes viral with newfound coolness,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 22) These guys are selling more shirts than they ever dreamed of (#1 in Amazon’s Apparel category) — and they have hundreds (508) of ludicrously outrageous insulting Amazon reviews to thank for it. Who knew that a user-initiated viral product insult campaign could result in undreamed-of sales. However, I’m sure the same type of viral product insult review game hasn’t helped the sales of JL421 Badonkadonk Land Cruiser tank. But the Badonkadonk, at 20,000 smackers, doesn’t have what you’d call a recession-proof sticker price.

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