True Religion jeans enters bankruptcy

HARLINGEN — Upscale fashion retailer True Religion Apparel Inc. has filed for bankruptcy.

True Religion announced a pre-packaged Chapter 11 filing early today, hoping to slash $350 million from the company’s debt load.

The retailer, which sells pricey denim jeans from $160 to $300 and T-shirts for $60, has stores at the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets location in Mercedes and at La Plaza Mall in McAllen.

However, company has not released a list of any store closures, which generally follow a Chapter 11 restructuring agreement.

“After a careful review, we are taking an important step to reduce our debt, reinvigorate True Religion’s iconic brand and position the company for future growth and success,” president and CEO John Ermatinger said in a statement.

Like many of the recent announcements of store closings and bankruptcies, analysts said True Religion also has been hit hard by online clothing sales by companies such as Amazon.

But they also said True Religion’s financial problems were related to changes in fashion taste among consumers, who are buying less denim for their wardrobes.

True Religion, founded in 2002, has about 130 stores.

The bankruptcy of True Religion and the possibility of closings at the Mercedes outlet mall and La Plaza Mall are just the latest potential blows to Valley malls.

Since April, the Mercedes mall has seen retailers Rue 21 and Bebe Stores Inc. announce they would close, and Gymboree went into bankruptcy. At La Plaza Mall, Gymboree, Crazy 8 and Janie and Jack’s are in bankruptcy, while a Bebe Stores announced its store there would close as well.