AT first blush, Bread Denim, a one-year-old clothing maker in this city's gritty industrial district, appears to be a flash in the fashion pan, a fledgling, trend-riding company without a future, the New York Times reports.


Its headquarters consist of two desks, a conference table and a clothing rack, all squeezed behind a partition in an office it shares with a larger company. It has just three employees.


Its sure-fire business plan? To manufacture $200 vintage-washed, 100 percent organic cotton jeans , not in Asia or Latin America, where the vast majority of jeans are made, but in downtown Los Angeles.


"We went into this knowing we could fail," said Jason Ferro, Bread's founder.


But the story of Bread Denim , which is, in broad strokes, the story of the designer denim industry , is more reassuring than it seems. Mr. Ferro is no novice. He has a decade of experience designing jeans at Guess, Levi's and Abercrombie & Fitch.


The reason his staff is so skeletal is that he contracts much of the work to a small army of renowned denim experts with offices nearby. The Los Angeles company that stitches together Bread's jeans once sewed jeans for Guess and Calvin Klein. And the laundry house that washes and sands his denim used to do the same for Pepe Jeans and Tommy Hilfiger.


Everything about the luxury denim industry, which began taking root here in 2000, has a fly-by-night feel, from the esoteric brand names , Antik, Nudie, Evisu, Monarch , to the sky-high prices, which have hit $1,000 a pair. But the new business is firmly rooted in this city's rich blue-jean past, tapping into a vast network of experienced designers, sewers, laundry houses and fabric importers who gave birth to the first generation of designer denim in the late 1970s and '80s , brands like Guess and Hilfiger , only to fall idle when such companies moved much of their manufacturing to China and Latin America.


Premium denim companies like Bread, far from dropping from the sky, picked up the pieces and rejiggered and retooled that ailing industry to become a $400 million economy that sustains an estimated 100 companies in Los Angeles.

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