Page last updated at 11:36 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

North Korean designer jeans go on sale in Sweden

A textile factory in North Korea
The Swedish entrepeneurs were turned down by N Korea's biggest textile firm

North Korea is to make its debut in Western fashion by selling denim jeans in Sweden.

The first pairs of the jeans go on sale in a trendy department store in Stockholm on Friday - with a designer price tag.

The jeans, marketed under the Noko label, will cost 1,500 Swedish kronor ($220; £132) a pair.

But the jeans will only be available in black - because the North Koreans associate blue denim with the US.

Noko Jeans' founders - three advertising executives in their 20s - say the idea of their project is to increase contact with the isolated communist country.

One of the three, Jakob Ohlsson, explained: "It's a country that sometimes treats its citizens terribly, but we think our project is a way... to influence things."

Blue jean taboo

The first of 1,100 individually numbered pairs of Noko jeans will initially be sold in Stockholm's PUB store and on the internet.

The three entrepreneurs first contacted North Korean officials by email in 2007, but the project ran into a number of difficulties.

North Korea's biggest garment company turned the idea down, but eventually they struck a deal with the state's largest mining group, Trade 4, which runs a textile operation on its site.

Mr Ohlsson explained black denim was chosen because North Koreans "usually associate blue jeans with America. That's why it's a little taboo".

But the high ticket price for the jeans is not simply aimed at finding an exclusive niche in the market.

Mr Ohlsson admitted: "The reason they are so expensive is that we didn't have any experience in fashion, trading, or anything like that."

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