When you think of Haute Couture, you probably don’t think of faded denim. But in fact, the latest crop of designer jeans comes in a variety of custom-made options decked with rich embellishments, from embroidery to platinum rivets to precious diamonds accents. And the prices are just as extravagant, with some pairs costing as much as a luxury car or even more. Not all denim is created equal. When the price tag is sky high, you can expect the finest materials, including the best weaves, rarest batches of fabric and lots of hand-work and details that you won’t find in more mass produced clothing. And when the budget is unlimited, there are many fresh and eye-catching options to choose from. In addition, while style is important, so is fit. That’s why the best pairs of jeans are cut, finished and accented in all of the right places to enhance the wearer’s shape. Just keep in mind that not every buyer thinks newer is better. In fast, some prefer to stick with the real tried and true styles. That’s why several items on this list are either distressed or, in the case of number 9, date very, very far back in time.
10. Levi Strauss & Co.
The name Levi Strauss & Co. may conjure up images of basic, practical jeans, but the well-known company has recently taken its reputation up to new heights with the introduction of its premium denim. Called the Levi Capitol E jean, these high-end pants are sewn by hand out of high-quality denim and it can take as many as 30 people from start to finish to craft just one pair. Such intensive workmanship doesn’t come cheap. In fact, the most expensive cuts of these jeans sell for as high as $500 a pair and no two are exactly alike. (And it’s interesting to note that these actually aren’t even close to the most expensive Levi’s out there. See number 9 on this list for more about noteworthy Levi sales.)
9. 7 For All Mankind
The popular 7 For All Mankind brand has become known for its high quality fabric and exceptional cut. Pairs start at a few hundred dollars and are readily available at better department stores in a variety of colors, weaves and styles. The top of the line pairs can run as high as almost $1,000, and some fans of this line swear that the cut gives the illusion of thinner legs and leaner thighs, which just may make it a worthy buy. (DenimBlog editor’s note: I’ve never seen a pair of $1,000 Seven jeans, have you?!)
8. Earnest Sewn
Imagine having a pair of jeans made for your exact measurements and taste. That’s the lure of the Earnest Sewn Custom Fit Jeans, which are a hit among fashion lovers who demand a perfect fit. These jeans are also made from rare batches of fine hand-dyed denim, making them unique. When you order a pair, they are made to perfectly fit your individual size and body shape. In addition, you can select the details that you would like to add, such as rivet material and size. The cost for such a customized style is about $1,000.
7. Roberto Cavalli
If bling is your thing, then consider the bejeweled premium denim jeans offered by Roberto Cavalli. This is a favorite among celebrities and fashion insiders, including Jennifer Lopez, who is known for her cutting-edge style. The well-dressed cast of Sex in the City have also been known to wear the Cavalli clothing line. You can find these extravagant jeans at high-end department stores, or at the Roberto Cavalli boutique on Madison Avenue in New York City. A pair will cost you close to $1,200.
6. Dolce & Gabbana
The Italian design team of Dolce & Gabbana has an excellent track record for designing beautiful clothes for some of the best-dressed women. Therefore it should come as no surprise that they’ve captured a piece of the high-end jean market. Their take on this item is a distressed faded denim with an embroidered butterfly design. The finishing touch is an elegant gold D&G logo centered on a pink leather patch that decorates the back pocket and let’s people know who is the creator behind this attractive and eye-catching design. The price for a pair is just under $1,200 and this unique item is in limited supply, resulting in a waiting list worldwide.
5. APO Jeans
Do you prefer silver, gold or platinum hardware? When you select APO Jeans custom denim, you can choose rivets made from any of these three metals and can even opt for real diamonds in the place of a regular button. Further, the pockets are lined in pure silk and the zipper is polished and plated to perfection. Of course such luxurious details, in addition to the finest denim, doesn’t come cheap. APO considers its premium denim and detailing “cream of the crop,” and charges accordingly. In fact, the price tag for this product with all of the bells and whistles is $4,000. But in return, you receive a written appraisal from a prestigious New York City jeweler so you can protect your investment.
There is an elegance and timelessness that is conveyed by anything Gucci. This premise holds true even when the item in question comes tattered and ripped. At least that’s the idea behind the Gucci Genius jeans, which were made from a pair of regular jeans that were specially treated and torn to make them look old and worn. Then the jeans were covered with African beading, feathers and buttons to give them a unique look. The finished product, which was unveiled on the Milan back in 1998, was priced at just a bit more than $3,100, earning it a mention in Guinness World Records. (Today this would be equal to just over $4,000.)
Do you like to be the center of attention? If so, then consider luxe designer Escada’s version of the custom jean, which lets the buyers select any details and styling their hearts desire. The finished item is priced accordingly. Some fans of this jean really exercise their creativity, adding a range of embellishments worthy of a princess or queen. The most expensive custom pair to date was decked in Swarovski crystals. The price for this indulgence was $10,000.
2. Levi Strauss & Co.
While most of the jeans on this list are new, the ones that hold the number two spot are a pair that is actually very, very old. These jeans are a pair of original Levi Strauss & Co. that date back to the 1880s and lots of history is captured within the weave of its vintage fabric. These jeans, which are an original example of the Levi 501 style, sold at auction on eBay in 2005 for a shocking $60,000. This translates today to more than $65,000. The winner was a Japanese collector who asked to remain anonymous.
While this is a record-breaking Levi sale, there are two others that are worth mentioning here. The first was a pair of Levi’s also from the late 1800s that were bought by Levi Strauss & Co. in 2001 for about $46,000 (today this equals more than $55,000). In addition, a recent EBay auction for a pair of Levis more than century old that were found in a California goldmine sold for more than $36,000.
1. Secret Circus
And the winner for the most expensive jeans is . . . an unusual pair that is designed by a new company called Secret Circus. The creators are banking on the idea that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, no matter whether you wear them around your neck or on your back pocket instead. That’s why they included a design made from a large collection of high-quality (and substantially-sized) diamonds on their pants. Rumor has it that the first pair was sold for a shocking $1.3 million.