NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Jeans giant Levi Strauss & Co. launched a new brand of denim today aimed at conquering the fast-growing Asian consumer market.
The new brand - called Denizen - is headquartered in Hong Kong and will be sold in China, South Korea and Singapore. The company plans to open about 50 stores featuring Denizen jeans, tops and accessories in those countries by the end of the year.
"This is the birth of a new history of Levi Strauss & Co. in Asia," said Aaron Boey, president of the Levi Strauss & Co. Asia Pacific division, in a press release. "With our 137 years of denim heritage and recognized jeans leadership in Asia, Levi Strauss & Co. is strongly positioned to meet this need among emerging middle class consumers in Asia."
Levi's has been selling its iconic jeans overseas for generations, and first opened its Asia Pacific division in 1995. Moving away from its legendary brand is a remarkable move for Levi's, one of most well-recognized names in the world, alongside companies like Coca-Cola (KO, Fortune 500) and Ford Motor Co. (F, Fortune 500)
Levi's spokeswoman Kelley Benander told CNNMoney.com that the Denizen product "will appeal to a different segment - younger middle class consumers who are interested in a lower-priced jean that is still focused on quality and style."
"We see a significant opportunity amongst emerging middle class consumers, particularly in Asia, who are looking for great-fitting, quality and affordable clothes from a company that they trust," she added.
Levi's is making a play for the booming Chinese economy, which is expected to soon knock Japan out of its spot as the second largest economy in the world. By the end of the year, the Chinese economy could trail only the U.S. as a worldwide economic giant. The International Monetary Fund is projecting 10.5% growth for China in 2010 and 9.6% in 2011.
But China's annual per capita buying power of $3,600 still lags far behind the U.S., at $42,240, and Japan, at $37,800.
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