Got enough Tupperware? Try jeans parties
Designer-jeans parties offer a fun ladies’ night of bargain shopping... But the increasingly popular parties can be hot spots for counterfeits...
On a recent Saturday night, Lauren Keizer-Nathan and a bunch of girlfriends gathered at their friend’s New York City apartment to drink some wine and drop their pants-in the name of fashion and a bargain.
Surrounded by piles of trendy designer jeans in the small apartment, Keizer-Nathan and her pals sifted through the slew of denim and streamed in and out of the bedroom, which became a makeshift dressing room for the evening.
“It was a pretty funny scene-all these girls and jeans sort of took over the apartment while we searched for sizes and checked ourselves out in the mirror,” said Keizer-Nathan, a 28-year-old dentist.
Call it the sartorial cousin of the Tupperware party. But unlike those parties and their association with household products and suburban housewives, designer-jeans parties are gaining popularity nationally among younger, mostly urban women in search of the latest denim trends.
Some parties center around a frenzied search through boxes of the designer pants, while others feature jeans experts, who help each customer find the perfect fit. But some in the industry say the parties are the perfect place to find counterfeit jeans.
During the jeans party that Keizer-Nathan attended, the denim brands included 7 for All Mankind and True Religion, which can retail for more than $200 each. Here, a pair cost $70-cash only. The hostess of the party received a free pair of jeans for bringing the eager buyers together.
About 60 pairs in different sizes and styles were brought in by a man who said he had bought the jeans from a wholesaler.
“My husband thinks maybe there’s something shady about the jeans,” Keizer-Nathan said. “I think some of them might have been irregular, but I don’t think they’re fakes.” The native New Yorker said she’s happy with her discount jeans, even though some of the buttons popped off almost immediately.
“They still fit great, and they were cheap,” she added. “It’s really just another fun reason to get together with your friends.”
Like many of her denim-loving peers, Keizer-Nathan said that she almost exclusively wears designer-brand jeans because they offer so much variety in color, fit and fabric.
Though high-end (priced over $100) denim accounts for only about 18 percent of the more than $7 billion in women’s jeans sold annually, the niche has experienced the fastest sales growth over the past several years, according to 2006 statistics from the NPD Group, a market-research firm.
But as designer denim increases in popularity, a thriving counterfeit market is also growing. The at-home jeans parties are often a place for fakes, according to Kris Buckner, the president of California-based Investigative Consultants, a firm hired by many brand-name denim companies, including 7 for All Mankind, Rock & Republic and Citizens of Humanity, to help stymie the illicit trade.
“In the last couple of years, I’ve seen an explosion in counterfeit denim. It’s a natural progression,” said Buckner in the June 11 issue of DNR, a men’s-fashion trade magazine. “Jeans parties are a smarter way to distribute because they’re not in a fixed retail location.”
In May 2007, sheriff’s deputies in Orange County, Calif., seized about 200 pairs of counterfeit designer jeans from two homes in the gated community of Coto de Caza. The jeans were confiscated from the two women who ran Bella Boutique, a company that specialized in the home parties.
The women were selling the fakes for about $80-while some of the authentic brands retail for upwards of $300.
Blogs and Internet forums devoted to designer denim also warn women to stay away from jeans parties. “If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is,” noted one comment on AuthenticForum.com.
But a few companies that specialize in private sales events are trying to combat some of the negative press associated with jeans parties. About two years ago, Sandi Haney started the website and company Party in Our Pants (partyinourpants.com).
The company only sells guaranteed authentic jeans, at discount prices, says Haney, a 30-year-old San Diego native.
Haney, a self-proclaimed jeans fanatic, said that “99 percent of the home jeans parties probably aren’t selling the real thing.” But, she added, there remains a huge demand for the private get-togethers.
As an owner of more than 50 pairs of designer jeans, Haney says she can easily spot a fake. Irregular fit, stitching and wash, as well as stiff fabric can indicate a counterfeit, she explains. “These high-end brands are meticulous about details and how supple the fabric feels. If it looks or feels off, that’s a sign you’ve got a fake.”
But women love the parties for more than the merchandise, Haney says; there’s no hard sell. “There’s no snooty saleslady at the boutique trying to force $300 jeans on you,” she said. “When 10 of your girlfriends ooh and ah and tell you your butt looks amazing in those jeans, they’re not lying.”
Haney says the parties she and her jeans experts set up aren’t “rifle through boxes” kind of nights. For about four hours, a sales consultant helps each customer pick the perfect pair of jeans for her body type. She says the company tries to cap the parties at a maximum of 15 people, so everyone gets personal attention. The hostess usually gets about 10 percent of the night’s sales.
Haney and her consultants regularly host between three and four parties a week in cities including Detroit, Memphis, Miami, Sacramento and San Diego. She’s also expanding her business to keep up with the daily requests she gets for the parties from all over the country.
Haney says that while a designer-jeans habit is expensive, it’s worth it. “The right pair of jeans can make your butt look higher, make you look taller and make you look thinner-they really deliver.”