By  on July 29, 2014

BERLIN — Indigo is on the comeback trail for spring 2015.

After a tough 2013 and a modest start in 2014, buyers and manufacturers at Berlin’s Bread & Butter, Premium and Seek trade shows are becoming more optimistic about the denim market, with stabilization and innovation bolstering their confidence.

At the three fairs earlier this month, skinny fits remained predominant for most companies, although some offered revised boyfriend fits or other models emphasizing comfort. Alternative ideas in jeans continued to emerge, as did new concepts for denim shirts, dresses, jackets and even accessories.

Non-denim interpretations of denim techniques like indigo dye and jeans weaving for cotton and linen also boosted the more traditional blues.

At Bread & Butter, non-denim specialists such as Joop, Tiger of Sweden and Marc O’Polo visibly increased the share of denim in their apparel collections.

“It’s definitely getting bluer,” said Nele Obst, senior denim designer for women’s wear at Marc O’Polo. Next year’s look will lean toward “clean vintage,” with a Seventies blue tone starring in more destroyed finishes and mid- to high-rise skinny fits, one boyfriend fit, denim dresses, shirts and jackets. The urban lifestyle brand’s new denim signature for spring will be a softer and more fluid Tencel blend as denim assumes a bigger role in the Marc O’Polo collection.

The Mustang brand is going back to its roots, as well. “There will be a lot of blue. Rather than trying to be a casual brand, we’re working on becoming a denim brand again,” said chief product officer Hans-Bernd Cartsberg. Mustang’s women’s wear denim designer Jasmin Ersümer pointed to next season’s “more fashion” jeans with skinnier fits and new signature washings. According to Cartsberg, Mustang’s new direction got “positive feedback from customers in the German-speaking market and we’re now looking at Russia.”

Buyers from Kolm, an Austrian chain with eight units, agreed denim is again on the rise, adding that “customers are looking for new optics.”

“What’s the definition of a contemporary denim brand? People want newness but they still like the traditional look,” commented Andreas Åhrman, international sales and marketing director of Nudie Jeans. “Our bestsellers at a price range of 99 to 149 euros [$136 to $205 at current exchange] are still the slim and tight fits, but there’s a tendency towards more comfortable regular fits coming up slowly, and black and gray are receding in favor of more blue.”

Like Nudie, which uses organic cotton throughout its assortment, G-Star Raw is also turning toward more sustainability and presented the Raw for the Oceans collection in collaboration with the Vortex Project and Pharrell Williams’ company Bionic Yarn. The range will be launched in August.

“Twenty-seven percent of our clothes are produced according to sustainability guidelines, and we’re planning to increase this share,” said Axel Wittmann, a German sales representative for the firm, adding that the company plans to disclose sustainability data beginning next year.

Organic cotton and a “triple-R philosophy” of “recycling, repairing, reusing” are also at the core of Amsterdam-based Kings of Indigo, or K.O.I. “The consumers in fashion are becoming more aware of the product. They are looking for something individual with a story,” according to founder and chief executive officer Tony Tonnaer. While he noted price sensitivity, “it’s more about price-performance ratio. People are willing to spend if the product is good.”

Vivian Hartog-Holla, representative of Denham the Jeanmaker, concurred. “The literacy of denim connoisseurs has increased considerably. If you sell quality, price is less important.” The Dutch company opened its first permanent store in Berlin this month, and is set to expand in Germany with jeans in the mid and premium range from 129 to 500 euros, or $177 to $688, with the segment between 165 to 185 euros, or $227 to $255, selling best. The focus markets are Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Japan, with South Korea and Australia becoming more important.

Indigo is branching out beyond jeanswear as well. At the Ethical Fashion Showroom and Bread & Butter, traditional indigo-dyed scarves from resources such as Living Blue and Indigo People, as well as indigo-dyed linen, popped up as blue spots besides the jeans.

Indigo and linen also come together in the denim collection of London-based Universal Works. “Indigo is simple, natural and honest; it lives and changes with the wearer and its instability holds a beauty of imperfection that people grow to appreciate more and more,” founder David Keyte remarked at Seek. The brand has a presence in the U.K., U.S. and Japan, but the German market is “becoming a business, too,” Keyte said.

Silvana Renck, a buyer from Geli’s near Hamburg, told WWD, “Denim is very strong. There was an increasing price sensitivity last year, but it’s more about the quality-for-price value — the customers want to know what they get and are more conscious about the story of product.”

“Denim is definitely taking a bigger share,” said Håkan Ström, chief operating officer of Cheap Monday, at Seek. “Our denim orders have almost doubled for spring-summer 2015. We started with skinny jeans 10 years ago, and tight is still driving the market,” he continued.

Cheap Monday introduced the “Spray-On,” very tight jeans in the rock ’n’ roll mode, for fall and will further develop the model for spring 2015.

With denim showing signs of a comeback, it’s appearing in categories other than jeans. Cheap Monday is now offering denim shoes, accessories, jackets and sweaters, while at Premium, Liebeskind’s accessories and apparel range included denim bags with a leather look for spring. After expanding successfully throughout the U.K., Northern Europe, Germany and the U.S., Asia and Australia are becoming more important markets, according to the company.

All in all, the Asian presence has grown at the fairs, with a greater turnout of exhibitors and buyers from Japan and South Korea.

Jin Cha, a South Korean merchandiser scouting for Central Post, a concept store in Seoul, said: “We are looking for lifestyle concepts and niche brands with an individual touch in denim and in fashion in general.”

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