Levi's says Denizen clothes will be stylish, well-made and comfortable, but much cheaper than the company's flagship brand. A pair of Denizen jeans, for instance, sells for about $45 -- about half the cost of a pair of premium-price Levi's -- putting it within grasp of 18-to-28-year-old consumers outside North America and Europe. The brand will compete against retailers such as Hong Kong-based Giordano and Japan's Uniqlo.
"We've realized a new consumer has emerged, status-seekers in rapidly-emerging middle classes. This is primarily a developing-market phenomenon; they exist outside the U.S. in markets like China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil," said Aaron Boey, Levi's Singapore-based president, Asia/Pacific.
"Their numbers have escalated over the years, so we realized we need a new brand property to serve these young people with great quality and a great fit but a more accessible price point," Mr. Boey said.
Denizen will eventually be sold worldwide, primarily in developing countries in Latin America and Africa, but was largely created by and for Asia, at least initially.
The brand is headquartered in Hong Kong and was unveiled last week in mainland China "because the biggest potential is in China," Mr. Boey said.
Besides key markets in eastern China like Shanghai, Denizen jeans, tops and accessories will also be sold in Singapore and South Korea in about 50 standalone retail stores opening across those markets by the end of 2010, as well as in branded shops in department stores. Levi's is testing the brand in some southern states in India and plans to roll it out in the rest of China, including Hong Kong.
Denizen clothes will not be sold in Levi's stores, but the company isn't hiding the brand's parentage. Labels and packaging indicate the brand is from Levi's.
The name -- which Levi's writes dENiZEN -- combines the first three letters of "denim" with "zen," a word with Japanese and Chinese roots that means "meditative state" or an "escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life," Mr. Boey said.
"Denizen also means a place where someone lives, and these consumers are still very connected to communities in which they grew up and place a lot of emphasis on belonging. Family and friends still important."
To market the brand, Levi's has created a pan-Asian social-media project featuring 10 well-known personalities based in Singapore, China, Hong Kong, South Korea and India such as fashion blogger Ditto Ding and artist Yan Wei. Over the next 100 days, the brand ambassadors, called the Denizen 10, will share their experiences and response to Denizen on their personal blogs, Facebook pages and websites.
Wieden & Kennedy, Shanghai, helped develop the campaign in China, but no other agencies have been appointed in the rest of the region, Mr. Boey said. "We're focusing on retail-marketing activities and social media now."
UPDATE: Levi Strauss announced on Aug. 26, 2010 that Havas-owned MPG has been appointed to handle media strategy, planning and buying for its Denizen brand in China.
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