ALL THAT GLITTERS Mercedes-Benz jeans have price tag to match

Customized denim and counterfeit-defeating stitchery help make them special.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Designer jeans costing $150 can hardly be called expensive now that Calvin Stewart has entered the fray.
The New York designer raised the stakes by introducing A.P.O. Jeans, offering fully customized denim embellished with diamond, gold and platinum details -- starting at $1,000 a pair.
"We wanted to be the Mercedes-Benz, the Maybach of the denim industry," Stewart said. (DaimlerChrysler's ultra high-end Maybach can cost more than $300,000.)
A.P.O. jeans are made from denim woven in India that costs $40 a yard, compared with the $2- to $3-per-yard cost of materials for most designer denim.
Buttons and rivets are made of precious metals or, if a customer is willing to shell out $4,000 or more, up to a dozen white, 48-carat diamonds on the main button.
Stewart, 42, says he'll make jeans to match a customer's measurements or copy the fit of a favorite -- but perhaps worn-out -- pair.
Not surprisingly, the jeans come with a certificate of authenticity, an appraisal and a "born-on" date. To guard against counterfeiting, Stewart employs a secret, continuous stitching method.
"If someone tried to copy the jeans, they wouldn't know where the stitch started or where it ended," he said.
Stewart doesn't come from a Madison Avenue background. Born in Florida, he served six years in the military and pursued an engineering degree at the DeVry Institute before attending Miss Wade's Fashion Merchandising College in Dallas. He then was head designer at DBA and Pro-Moves, a sports apparel company.
"I think there's definitely a demand in the market for premium things, whether it's with jeans or skin care or whatever," says Tim Kaeding, creative director for Seven for All Mankind, one of the brands to rekindle the designer-jeans market.
The Los Angeles company's jeans range from $120 for its best-selling boot-cut model to $200 for top-of-the-line denim adorned with premium Swarovski crystals, introduced two months ago.
"As you walk, you can sort of see the shimmer," Kaeding says. "It's really taken off. It's been a huge thing for us."
Gucci holds the Guinness world record for the most expensive jeans, which sold in stores for $3,134 in 1998 and featured African beads, feathers and designer rips.
Stewart has sold four pairs, with a waiting list that includes a New York Jets player he wouldn't name.
"In the fashion industry, a lot of people are driven by name, but that doesn't say they're using the best quality stuff," he said. "We want to be known for the quality."

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