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JNCO Resurfaces With a New Collection

If you thought JNCO’s super wide-legged jeans from the ’90s were a fad that had passed, you may have to think again. The brand is announcing its return just as wide-leg jeans are blanketing runways and trendsetting celebrities alike. The company is planning to make a comeback this summer, debuting a line of the wide-leg heritage styles, as well as denim silhouettes aimed toward both the fashion, streetwear crowd and the more conservative dresser.

After making a splash in the ’90s, JNCO slowly lost its way after 2001. Steven Sternberg, JNCO managing director, explained that after the brand lost its first big account, mall chain Merry-Go-Round, in the mid-90s, the brand transitioned from a suburban to an urban brand. With this change, the brand really took off and enjoyed several years of success, however, when September 11th occurred, the tragedy made a big impact. Sternberg, who was running the New York office, decided he needed to take a step back, and closed up shop in New York. Though the business continued to run, it wasn’t having the same influence.

Then, in 2014, the first step toward the brand’s resuscitation occurred when Guotai Litian, a successful Chinese import-export company, took the global license for all product categories. Guotai Litian owns a private label company that sells to major U.S. brands, but JNCO is their first brand.

Margot Lewis, president and creative director of Platform Media, has been tasked to promote the brand’s comeback. Lewis said they are not trying to force the brand’s image in any particular way through traditional advertising, but trying to create the buzz underground.

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Sternberg feels more confident in the marketing plans this time around. He said, “We learned our lesson, and what might be important to grow quickly.”

The brand will first be sold at Macy’s, but JNCO will also be opening a pop-up store on Fairfax in Los Angeles, capitalizing on the hype that surrounds the location. The brand will eventually open pop-ups in five other cities, and also look for retailers who want to do in-store shops.

In its second act, JNCO will be marketed toward a slightly older customer. Originally, the brand was completely targeted toward youth, with a style whose extremity signaled rebellion. Sternberg said, “We became the jean the kids would wear and the parent never would.” Now, the customer is the guy who would have been a teenager when the jean was originally popular. This customer’s options have widened, he can go back to the 23-inch leg opening or can opt for one of the brand’s more traditional styles.

With help from a new team of Los Angeles-based designers, JNCO has created three tiers of styles: core business, fashion business, and heritage business. Some select styles from the heritage range already launched online at the end of April. The complete collection will include the 20-inch and 23-inch leg openings with the same washes and logos as in the 90s. Over time, the brand will expand the options and washes of its heritage collection based on styles from their archive.

The core business, which will also target an older consumer, includes skinny, slim straight and relaxed straight styles. Jeans will be updated each season with new washes.

The fashion business is targeted toward a younger customer, made mostly in the U.S. and offered in limited quantities. The aesthetic is meant to be “more in tune with contemporary streetwear,” said senior designer Karl Bernardo. The Fall ’15 line includes a denim cape with a screenprint design and a denim jumpsuit.

In addition to the denim, there will also be a graphic tee program, with continuous release, offering new styles every 60-90 days. JNCO will also offer woven shirts, cut and sewn hoodies and outerwear, and accessories like caps and beanies.

The brand isn’t worried about making big moves or partnering with celebrities at this point, but is looking to keep in contact with the old fans and cultivate a new audience at a grassroots level. Sternberg said, “What we’re really trying to do is establish ourselves as a denim company with a great history.”