Business

Denim Killer: American Giant just created the first real leggings designed to replace your jeans.

A common theme among today’s top modern luxury companies is the proclivity to take things one step at a time. In fact, this very characteristic might be modern luxury’s most significant divide with the fashion world. Pure fashion companies fetishize seasonal collections and constant newness; modern luxury brands generally favor months of R&D on prototypes before they’re individually released, and often avoid doing seasonal collections altogether. At a modern luxury company, once a product is put out to market, they’ll continue to chisel away, almost obsessively, as they refine, improve, and modify — all in full view. The idea is to bring each product as close to perfection as possible before embarking on other new ones.

Of all the young brands that have emerged within the last decade, San Francisco-based American Giant (AG) might be the epitome of this line of thinking. Since its debut in 2012, CEO Bayard Winthrop has played his cards brilliantly, using the brand as something of a Skunkworks workshop to rethink casual wardrobe staples, and modify them in order to solve problems. It’s possible that Silicon Valley has rubbed off on AG. Like its tech firm neighbors, the brand approaches product development from a critical thought process: “What problems need fixing, and how can we make our products better than what’s currently on the market?”

At a price range between $49 and $89 American Giant is likely hovering in the $30-$45 million range per year in hoodie sales alone.

Mr. Winthrop, then, has built a modern luxury clothing firm that is the opposite of a fashion company. He avoids the practice of flooding the market with new items merely to stay top of mind. In the process, he’s molded AG into a simple, unpretentious brand, and one that’s devoted, before all else, to online sales.

Today it is unmistakably successful. AG first caught fire shortly after launching with its men’s full zip hoodie. Rather than pushing yet another hoodie onto shoppers, AG sought to upgrade the form. It used a robust, heavyweight 100 percent cotton fabric as the canvas. It featured a modern, slim fit, and was durably constructed with features like reinforced elbow patches, and a double-lined hood to combat the chill. It was fully sourced and made in the US. And at $89, it was relatively expensive for what it was, which certainly helped to raise the standing of the product.

Mr. Winthrop and the AG team essentially elevated the full-zip hoodie from a slacker culture signifier into a high-quality piece of comfortable clothing that you wanted to tell your friends about. “The hype around this hoodie seems absurd,” one customer famously admitted. “But once you try it on, the quality really does take you by surprise.” It aligned perfectly with the rising desires of the market, and became a hot seller after a Slate writeup went viral, bringing in over $600,000 in sales in just 36 hours.

Mr. Winthrop declined to reveal current financials, but by all accounts, the company has been on a tear since the 2012 Slate report. To get a sense of its size, consider this: It produces around 10,000 full-zip hoodies each week alone. At a price range between $49 and $89 — and assuming these hoodies are all sold each month — AG is likely hovering in the $30-$45 million range per year in hoodie sales alone.

They’re intended to be the “‘best-of-all-worlds’ stretch pant. Something that combined the comfortable feel of a compression exercise legging, with the polish, substance and shape of a street pant.”

Today, Mr. Winthrop and his team have two big announcements to for us. First, they’re announcing their holiday partnership with Bloomingdale’s, which marks their first ever retail partnership and their first experience in a brick-and-mortar setting. Mr. Winthrop says that he’s been a Bloomingdale’s fan for quite some time, and when presented with the opportunity to partner with them, he jumped at the chance. “In my mind, they represent the best of the curated department store experience, delivering the best product out there to mainstream customers,” he told us. The arrangement lasts through the holidays, and there are no plans beyond that time for something more permanent with the retailer.

Still, it bears mentioning that Bloomingdale’s has itself ramped up their support for modern luxury brands of a certain type this year. Already, it’s partnered with LA-based Combatant Gent, and New York-based Knot Standard (both are contemporary men’s tailoring firms) by unveiling Bloomingdale’s shops-in-shop for both brands within the last month. These are modern luxury brands on the accessible and mass-interest side of things, rather than the purely niche. And given that pattern, the AG deal makes plenty of sense.

But while the Bloomingdale’s news a sign of the brand’s progression, it is the second half of AG’s two announcements today that we find most compelling. They’re unveiling a new workshirt, a new waffle henley, and a brand new pair of leggings. And within this product lineup, it is their new leggings, called The Pant, that we believe to be the most important talking point in AG’s news.

American Giant's new denim killers.

American Giant’s new denim killers.

We have been skeptical and sharply critical about the yoga pants market for some time now. We believe it’s far too easy for brands, both old and new, to latch themselves onto the tail end of the current activewear trend and release a standard pair of yoga pants that the market simply doesn’t need. The fabric is easy to source, and its stretchy nature is more forgiving, meaning that it takes little technical skill to produce a pair of leggings. Furthermore, since most leggings are designed for the gym the art of wearing yoga pants outside of the studio and into the office often feels like forcing a round object in a square hole.

It seems that Mr. Winthrop too has noticed this issue. Not one to rest on his laurels, and demonstrably eagle-eyed when it comes to spotting opportunity, he sought to offer a solution. The leggings market is bifurcated, he says, and leaves a lot to be desired. At the top end, prices are overly expensive, bordering on unreasonable (they’re ultimately still just leggings, after all). And at the low end, the quality is horrendous: poor fits, fabrics, and construction are standard — par for the course in fast fashion).

“To correct this problem and introduce something we felt great about, fabric and fit had to distinguish the program,” says Mr. Winthrop. “The ponte fabric we used is expensive and technical and really responds to the body’s form. The fit is comfortable and covering so that women feel like they don’t need to compensate with a longer top to feel secure.” As with every AG product, the testing process was rigorous. “We used something like 65 testers over many months to make sure we nailed the product across sizes and shapes,” he says.

With their new non-athletic leggings, AG seems to have found the answer to the denim versus yoga pants dilemma. The Pant is fully wearable on its own — a perfect jeans replacement that rids the look of a halfway-in, halfway-out feel that yoga pants so often give. According to AG’s description, they’re intended to be the “‘best-of-all-worlds’ stretch pant. Something that combined the comfortable feel and mobility of a compression exercise legging, with the polish, substance and shape of a street pant.”

The AG Pant, in other words, has a reason to exist — and it’s not to usher in some flashy new design. There’s real function at play here. And we would not be surprised to see these fly off shelves this winter.

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  • azure67

    When are the pants available? By the way, congrats on your hoodies –
    C

    • LeanLuxe

      Hey C, they’re already available here: http://www.american-giant.com/the-pant/W1-11A-9.html

    • Metal

      Oh, BTW they are still leggings and are ugly!

      • EcurbTheProphet

        Oh, BTW… That girl couldn’t make anything look ugly!

        • James Kelly

          Me, :O

          • sinshoup

            Funny!!!

      • sinshoup

        I was thinking in a similar vein: Aren’t these simply “jeggings?”

        It seems this is high fashion’s commercial version of re-inventing the same product? I do get the whole better materials/quality angle, but I’m not overly impressed nor motivated to buy the product at a higher price point.

  • susan f

    do they come in big and tall? I need a 2XL 36″ length.

  • therudedude

    Why aren’t they pushing mini skirts? Remember when women used to look like women and wore dresses and skirts? They liked to look feminine. Some even wore high heels once in a while.
    Those days are long gone. A lot of women are getting lazy and sloppy these days. Women don’t care how they look anymore. Woman used to dress up and make themselves look attractive. These days if a woman makes herself look pretty she will be accused of demoting women’s rights.
    Women have to make themselves look like dog shiit or the women libbers, (who mainly consist of fat, masculine looking lesbians), will hate them. If a girl is hot and fixes herself up, the homely and fat women are jealous and won’t respect them. The fat, ugly pigs are convincing the hotties to make themselves look unattractive. It’s a shame the lazy fat pigs are winning.

    • AndreB

      WHEN, if ever, was the last a woman kissed YOU? ‘Cuz I’m guessin’ it’s been a very loooooooong time.

      • Regan DuCasse

        I know, right?
        Guess this guy has no clue how UNCOMFORTABLE or impractical the things he likes on women can actually be.
        Mostly, impractical.
        Good one, AndreB!

        • therudedude

          Yeah Regan it’s a lot easier for lazy, fat slobs to just let themselves go and look like dog shiit. It does take a bit of effort to look nice and attractive. The effort is too much for some lazy people, so they would rather complain and put down those are beautiful and keep themselves looking great.

          • Regan DuCasse

            And the woman in the picture isn’t in a miniskirt, nor high heels…and very little make up. One doesn’t have to be a fat slob, as YOU put it, that’s all or nothing when it comes to heels, and miniskirts and so on.
            YOU try and wear all that affect you’re demanding and see how it is in the real world for females.
            A person can look great in things that AREN’T painful high heels, or impractical miniskirts.
            And…btw…rapists have gotten off from prosecution because of what people think is immodest on a female.
            And it’s usually insane, and contradictory what anyone thinks that should be.
            And it IS harder to physically defend yourself, or run for your life in the crap YOU like on women.
            Figures you wouldn’t know about THAT either.
            Get real, bub.
            You have NO idea what you’re talking about.
            And you’ve said enough derogatory things about females for me to take you for exactly what you are.

      • therudedude

        AndreB, when was the last time you made yourself look like a woman? Carpet munchers like you love to make yourself look like a heavy set MAN. I’m not too in tune with the gay world but in your world you would be what they call a “butch”. When was the last time you kissed a woman’s meat wallet? Last night????? LOL

  • Falcon 78

    So I checked out the site and it does look like the pants are made of a heavier material that might do well but they have forgotten that some people like pants that hit above the belly button. All my jeans hit just above that marker and I won’t buy anything that doesn’t. Too bad.

    • Beth Bishop

      I agree! I prefer jeans/leggings that hit above the belly button. I like to wear a small shirt without having to always show my midrift when I raise my arms or my little butt crack when sitting down……This style dooms you to constantly wear long shirts if you want to look less suggestive. .Although I do like styles which hit at the belly button or below it sometimes.
      Unfortunately, using less material saves the clothes makers money. Savings for them can really add up with millions of garments. I believe this is partially why styles which use less material are encouraged and marketed so heavily and will continue to be. ….Making it harder and harder to get what you want.

  • Lauri Neva

    Too damn expensive for us retired folks. I will stick with my Levis thank you!

    • AndreB

      Levis? You must be into fashion/style. They cost 2x what Lee and Wrangler jeans – both are more rugged than Levis.

  • Murph

    Since the company is San Francisco based and San Francisco is a sanctuary city I’ll never own a pair nor will that city ever see any of my tourist dollars.

    • AndreB

      Is that so? And where did your ancestors first touch American soil? Unless we were Native Americans, we ALL came from somewhere OTHER THAN America, right? You’re a real genius…

  • northward

    I hope they are thicker than the leggins. Seeing butt is not cool. Cover it up girls!!

  • themishmosh

    The overhyped sweatshirt I bought gets minimal use. Overhyped!

  • Sonsarae

    Nope jeans are jeans – leggings are leggings. No matter how good looking they are they are still leggings. I’ll keep my 501’s.