A new business venture in Slaton, Texas, aims to produce a new brand of blue jeans, grown, designed and manufactured in West Texas with farmer/investors receiving parity prices, approximately $2.67 a pound, for the cotton used.
West Texas Blue Jeans, Ltd., a company developed by Slaton entrepreneur and farm supply dealer Jerry Kitten, will use cotton grown in West Texas and made into denim at the American Cotton Growers Mill in Littlefield. Jeans will be cut, sewn and finished in El Paso.
Kitten says the idea has been brewing for years. Offering parity price, he says, provides incentive for farmer/investors and helps stimulate rural economies.
“Parity price is what farmers would receive for their products if farm prices had increased at the same rate as expenses,” Kitten says. “West Texas Blue Jeans, Ltd., will be the first company to capitalize on an idea created in the Agricultural Adjustment Act, established in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Parity pricing has never been offered to farmers since its establishment.”
Currently, farmers receive about 50 cents a pound for cotton.
Kitten hopes to manufacture as many as 100,000 pair or parity jeans the first year. “We need to make a lot of them,” he says.
Needs 10 farmers
He's looking for 10 farmers to invest in his company. These farmers would supply the cotton and receive parity price. “Eventually, I hope to expand and add more farmer/investors,” he says. “I hope to keep it an all-Texas product.”
Initial marketing will be over the Internet and from his fertilizer dealership in Slaton. “If that goes well, I hope to develop franchises to sell the jeans,” he says.
Gina Lee Fraser, a budding country music singer and native Texan, has designed a jean that incorporates a fashion flair with comfort that working men and women want in jeans. Women's jeans will be marketed as Gina Lee Tractor Jeans. The men's line will be GL Tractor Jeans.
Kitten will aim toward the lower range of the designer jean market. “A lot of folks spend from $60 to $120 for designer jeans,” he says. “We'll price ours from $50 to $70.”
He admits he could make blue jeans cheaper by paying going rate for cotton but says parity pricing helps the cotton economy and helps promote the product.
“That will give us a good idea of interest,” he says.
Kitten says one bank has agreed to help promote his product and hopes others will follow suit. He also hopes to attract a young clientele and may provide special collegiate labels, Texas Tech, for instance.
“I've had this idea in my mind for about 20 years,” Kitten says. “If we can make this work there is no reason why others can't do the same with other agricultural products. We have a lot of possibilities with all our commodities.”