You have to hand it to Mickey Drexler and everyone at J. Crew: they certainly haven't been resting on their laurels. Between launching both a men's store and a women's store, adding the "J. Crew Collection" (and a new Collection store), and taking the brand up-market inspite of a down economy, it is clear that Drexler is not one to stand still. Additionally, this past year J. Crew has begun offering products in direct partnership with larger brands including Red Wing Shoes, Mackintosh, and using Thomas Mason fabrics for their shirts. Their latest partnership is a bit of a puzzler to me, though.
First, I am a bit surprised to see Levi's doing this type of partnership. Clearly with the current popoularity of 501s and classic American clothing in general, it does seem advantageous for both parties. I guess it's just that I wouldn't have really expected to have Levi's allow their products to be sold under someone else's name.
Second, the jeans themselves are a bit of a mystery, and the description on the website doesn't really seem to help any. They seem to be selvedge, but do not appear to be raw denim (i.e.- shrink-to-fit). They also say "Import" meaning that they are likely made in Mexico. While they have a non-standard leather label, the wash, "Dark Rinse", is one that is available for regular (sanfordized) 501s. It is difficult to tell just how "slim fitting" they are without being able to directly compare them to a regular pair of 501s.
With price tag of $265, I'm afraid that it is simply a bit of a bait and switch for people who don't know any better. These basically appear to be regular 501s with selvedge denim that were probably made in Mexico (or some 3rd world country). They should probably retail for about half that price. In fact, I was able to pick up a pair of Mexico-made (raw) selvedge 501s off the Levi's website on sale for about $40 several months back. I believe they may have been marked down from about $100. For the price J. Crew is asking, one could buy some very nice (read: quality) pairs of jeans (A.P.C., Nudie, etc.) and definitely get more for their money. Even if someone wanted a pair of slimmer fitting 501s, a repro of the 1947 501s from SugarCane only cost $247 from Denim Bar. They are based on the actual pattern for the 1947 Levi's and are made in Japan.
I guess I'm somewhat conflicted by J. Crew offering these jeans. On one hand, I think it is a little bit low for the company to be ripping off people by selling these jeans that seem to represent something, when they are, in fact, something else entirely. On the other hand, I have to hand it to them for doing so since it is simply capitalism, and if someone wants to drop that much cash on a pair of jeans without knowing why they cost that much, more power to them. Caveat emptor.