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Levi's new jeans throw women some curves

August 11, 2010 | 12:00 pm

For the last 18 months, the folks at Levi Strauss & Co. studied women around the world, conducting thousands of interviews and looking at 60,000 body scans of women in 13 countries.

The company says the result -- besides confirmation that for women, jeans shopping ranks right up there with buying bras and bathing suits -- is a new global denim program that, by taking their curves into account, will provide nearly any woman a five-pocket pair of jeans that feels custom fit to her shape.

Called Curve ID, the line officially launches on Sept. 2 and consists of three fits: a slight curve (for the Rage_levis_curve woman who finds that regular jeans "fit in the hips and thighs but are too tight in the waist"), a demi curve (if your jeans "usually fit in the waist but don't flatter the figure") and a bold curve (if jeans "fit in the hips and thighs, but gap in the back").

"The fits that we're launching with account for 80% of the women's body shapes in the world," boasted Levi's president Robert Hanson in a phone interview last week.

"And when we launch the fourth one -- our most extreme curve -- at the end of this year or early next year, then we'll have 96% of women covered." 

You Nguyen, senior vice president of women's merchandising and design for the Levi's brand, explained that the fits are based on the differences between a woman's hip and seat measurements -- formulated from the body scans and information Levi's gathered over the last year and a half.

He declined to be any more specific than that, noting only that Levi store employees have been specially trained on what measurements to take, and that a digital fitting room to assist online shoppers was scheduled to go live at the Levi's website next week.

"That’s like our [recipe for] secret sauce that we don't share," Nguyen said. "The exact ratio is proprietary information." But Nguyen did offer up a few famous figures that might be appropriate for each fit.

"Now these are just my opinions since I don't actually have any of their measurements," he cautioned. "But off the top of my head, I'd say the bold curve would be someone like Beyonce or Jennifer Lopez, a demi curve would be someone like Charlize Theron, and the slight curve would be Lucy Liu."

Hanson emphasized that Curve ID was not a plus-size program. "This is about shape, not size. Look at the photo [above] for example. All three of those women are wearing a size 27 [-inch waist], but each one is a different shape."  

The waist sizes of the Curve ID program range from 22 to 34, and will be available in three styles (boot cut, straight and skinny), with a handful of different finishes, and all of the denim has a little bit of stretch to it  ("Stretch is an important part of the fit technology for these jeans," explained Nguyen) and prices at launch range from $60 to $148.

While Hanson called the Curve ID program "revolutionary" and spoke about solving the "democracy of denim,"  the bottom line has more to do with dollars than democracy; the company's business skews heavily male (73% of company sales -- which includes the Levi's-owned Dockers brand -- come from the men's side), and the last big push in the Levi's women's denim program was in the late '80s and early '90s.

And Hanson is up front about efforts to capture some of the women's premium denim business from the curve-hugging crowd at the top end of the market.

"This is a major offensive for us," Hanson said. "We want to come out of this recession with momentum and energy, and we think this will allow us to win.... In these trying economic times, we're offering a premium aesthetic and a premium fit for an incredibly great value."

"It's close to a custom fit, but instead of $250 it's a price she's willing to pay -- clearly we want to compete for that market share."

In other words, jeans that are a better fit for her -- and her pocket.

Now, that's actually a goal we can get behind.

Although the official global launch date isn't until the beginning of next month, Levi's Curve ID jeans are currently available at Levi's stores in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Canoga Park and Torrance, as well as online.

 -- Adam Tschorn

More All The Rage coverage of Levi Strauss & Co.

Photo: Three models with different body shapes -- but the same 27-inch waist -- wearing, from left, the straight curve, the demi curve and the bold curve, from Levi's new Curve ID denim program, the label's' new effort to go after the women's premium denim business, which launches worldwide on Sept. 2. Credit: Levi Strauss & Co.


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