Any independent denim retailer can attest that being in business for two decades is an unsurmountable challenge—one that has been made more difficult by the growth of e-commerce and the advent of social commerce, fast-fashion’s dominance, the mainstreaming of yoga pants and industry-wide consolidation.
And in the case of New Orleans-based Jeantherapy, add catastrophic hurricanes and a global pandemic to the list of hurdles.
This 20-years’ worth of experience overcoming adversity, however, is what will help carry the business, now with two locations—one on Magazine Street and a second at Lakeside Mall in the suburb Metairie—in 2022 as it navigates the new cycle reviving the denim category.
Established by siblings Vicki and Steven Adjmi in 2003 (Vicki is now the sole owner) at a time when Los Angeles-based premium denim labels like AG Jeans and Citizens of Humanity ballooned into celebrities’ favorite staples, Jeantherapy has spent most of its years in business serving the Crescent City with skinny jeans, though it has always offered a variety of fits.
Those other styles are finally finding their audience.“We can thank Gen Z for ending the skinny jeans,” said Meghan Kuhn, Jeantherapy’s buyer. “Everyday someone comes in and asks if skinny jeans are out.”
Her answer is always “wear what you want to wear,” and Jeantherapy continues to stock and sell a broad sweep of skinny fits, but Kuhn said demand for a wider variety of “old-school” jeans is a boost for the brick-and-mortar retailer which had to pivot to e-commerce and loungewear in 2020.
“For a while, we were only selling high-rise skinny jeans,” she said. “Consumers wanted a lot of stretch in their jeans, but now we’re seeing a rise in 100 percent cotton fabrications and different fits. People want more rips and details that make their jeans special. They want whatever is trending.”
The store stocks AMO, Denimist, DL1961, Citizens of Humanity, Hudson, Joe’s, Moussy, Paige and more. Current best-selling brands are Agolde and Mother, proving that the $200-plus jean still holds sway, but Kuhn said the retailer aims to please all styles and budgets. “We try not to be in a little bubble and appeal to only a certain customer,” she said.
Though Jeantherapy sells men’s and children’s denim as well, Kuhn said women’s jeans make up about 80 percent of the business. “When men come in, they get everything they need,” she said. “If they like a style, they’ll get three pairs and we’re like, ‘Okay, we’ll see you in two years.’ Women, on the other hand, come in on almost a weekly basis to shop.”
Echoing recent comments from chains like American Eagle, Jeantherapy confirmed that outfitting is a key part of the jeans business. It sells a deep range of button-down shirts, tees and knits by brands like Frank & Eileen, Z Supply, Chaser, and Rails to complete looks, and footwear from Birkenstock and Hunter to go with jeans. It also has a house label of New Orleans-themed tees for Mardi Gras and game days called J Tees. Kuhn noted that she would like to add Ugg and Aviation Nation to the assortment in 2022.
A “little bit of everything” will be on Kuhn’s shopping list when she attends her go-to market weeks in Dallas in Los Angeles for Fall 2022. “We [tend to] put most of the dollars into skinny and straight legs. And we are seeing an uptick in bootcut; we always try to have a flare, maybe a few pairs with a boyfriend fit,” she said.
Though Kuhn hears that mid-rise and low-rise jeans are coming back, she’s unsure of how quickly her clientele will give the styles a chance. “Oftentimes the things that are trending in L.A. and New York don’t make it to New Orleans for like another season or two,” she said.
Twenty years, however, is an increasingly rare milestone in the boutique world, one which Jeantherapy will celebrate during its annual sale event in August. Part of its long-term success, Kuhn noted, is owed to the city’s loyal clientele. “We have people that have shopped the us since we opened,” she said. “They were girls in high school, and now they’re married with kids and they’re shopping here for their entire family.”
“I think we’re very honest with customers,” she added. “We’re not here to just sell you a pair of jeans to make commission.”
In this low-pressure, judgement-free zone, Kuhn said customers are encouraged to spend time and try on a variety of fits and styles until they’re satisfied. “You can tell when somebody comes out of the fitting room and feels good in their jeans,” she said. “I don’t necessarily know that you would get that at a department store.”