Charting New Territory With 7/Great China Wall

In the competitive jeans market, industry leaders cannot afford to be complacent.

That is why this summer 7 for All Mankind and The Great China Wall will begin shipping embellished jeans, corduroy pants, denim miniskirts and tie-dyed hoodies, among other items for men and women, under a collaborative label called 7 for All Mankind/The Great China Wall.

The partnership bridges the mainstream contemporary appeal of 7 and the rarefied world occupied by Great China Wall. The denim business has grown increasingly aggressive during the past year, with new lines such as Antik Denim and Paige Premium Denim and the expansion of True Religion. One of the early players that established the American premium denim market, 7 is keeping its name in the forefront with the joint venture. As one of the first companies to capitalize on the heavily embellished jeans trend, Great China Wall uses an experienced hand to decorate apparel with vintage hardware for an authentic look.

The joint line is more affordable than Great China Wall’s core collection, which can retail for as much as $2,000 a piece. Details include paisleys swirling down the front panel of jeans legs and Great China Wall’s signature sunburst on back pockets.

Some retailers are excited about the alliance.

“I love Great China Wall, but the price point is so high,” said Danielle Bourhis, who owns the Brown Eyed Girl boutiques in San Francisco. “It’s a great idea [in] reinventing 7 a little bit.”

For 7, the collaboration with Great China Wall is a way to simultaneously extend its future and return to the past. Rick Crane, executive vice president at the Vernon, Calif.–based company, said the latest project revives the collaborative spirit the brand had with Swarovski Crystals in 2004 for crystal-adorned jeans.

Crane also was previously a partner in Great China Wall. He began the Los Angeles company with Alfredo Settimio in September 1999 and left in 2000 to work at 7. “We wanted to collaborate with an innovator in the embellished market, and Alfredo is simply the best in this field,” Crane said via e-mail.

Crane said the Scoop boutique in East Hampton, N.Y., will host a launch event in early August and that other events are in the works. He also said a few stores that had not sold 7 before are buying the collaborative collection, but he declined to list them. He said 7 is planning more partnerships with other designers. The company declined to provide revenue projections and financial terms.

Thomas George, owner of E Street Denim Co. in Highland Park, Ill., is eager to receive his first delivery of 7/Great China Wall clothing, which he expects in July. He said he will get 80 to 90 pieces, ranging from crystal-free tie-dyed tees ($100 retail) to hand-studded and bejeweled jeans ($300 to $700 retail) and embellished jackets ($800 retail). “I want something that is fun to talk about,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the jean for everyone.”

Not every shop that carries Great China Wall will stock jeans from the collaboration. Greg Niebel, the owner of B.NY. in Santa Monica, Calif., does not sell 7 and does not plan to, although the new Great China Wall jeans have been selling well in his boutique. With his mix of Martin Margiela, Undercover, Yohji Yamamoto and other fashion-forward labels, Niebel said his rationale for not ordering the collaboration line is simple: His is not a jeans store.

—Khanh T.L. Tran