Yes, jeans can cost $300
To answer the question, it is mostly accurate which isn’t the same thing as agreeing it would cost you the same to produce a similar pair of jeans but I’ll get to that in a minute. The only discrepancies I see are the costs of pocket linings, hardware and the waste allowance paid to the contractor. I can’t speak to the cost of selvedge white oak denim but you can buy nice denim (not to be confused with premium denim) yardage costing between $5 and $8 a yard depending on any number of things, one of which is the number of yards one buys.
Pocket linings: Obviously they want the best pocket twill there is but $1.90 seems very pricey indeed. Even half that price seems high.
Hardware: All of the hardware to include the zipper seems high, you could probably get products in the same category for about half that. One thing to keep in mind is that all of their inputs are custom and being that the brand is prestigious, there’s a lot of policing of hardware items that can inflate their costs. I don’t know if this is factored into the hardware costs or overhead.
Labor is probably on par with the LA market. LA isn’t the only place to do 5 pocket cut and sew. I know contractors in Texas that specialize in denim; their prices are 20% to 30% less.
Other items such as the 4% waste and mark up paid to the contractor is news to me; this total additional cost is about 25%. I’m wondering if something was lost in translation during the interview. Possible explanations are that this is a cost plus contract or it includes the cost of incidentals such as thread. I didn’t see an accounting for that. It could also include services such as ferrying jeans in whatever stage of completion to an outside contractor (embroidery etc). Schlepping stuff around can be costly.
The subtotal without washes or other hand applied affects is $56.06, multiply that by the mentioned 2.2 to 2.6 mark up and you get $123-$145 for a wholesale price. Retailer will then mark that up keystone (at least but usually more) so a price range of True Religion premium denims will cost the consumer anywhere from $250 to the $310 listed in the article.
If you wanted to produce a nice pair of mid range jeans in the US, your costs could be less than $30 a pair. Fabric, trim, labels and packaging would run about $12-$20 (trim not customized) and CMT would be about $7-$8.50 without washes etc depending on where you had the work done. You really should mark it up at least X2 or 2.33 ($38-$66) with an estimated cost to the consumer of $76 to $165. If you were vertical and did the sewing in house and sold it consumer direct, the consumer’s price could be as low as $55 to $57. The latter figure presumes 70% of the contract labor price and a 3X mark up over expenses.
Obviously your mileage may vary and I’m ready to hear all about it. Go ahead, tell me why I’m wrong :).