NEW YORK — Can clothes get more casual than denim?

For the junior and contemporary markets, the answer is yes. For teens, jeans are the school uniform, but in a culture where comfort is key, velour and terry sweats are fast making their way into the classroom.

"It’s casual, but not all at the same time," said Jane Buckingham, president of Youth Intelligence, a market research and consulting firm focusing on Generations X and Y. "It still looks like a pulled together look without trying too hard. I really think it has to do with the whole anti-styled look that’s so popular right now. We are also seeing a lot of celebrities wearing the velours, which has a lot of appeal to teens."

One of the first companies to make the velour track suit popular was the Los Angeles-based Juicy Couture, which was purchased Tuesday by Liz Claiborne Inc. When designers-owners Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor started the company six years ago, they made it their mission to create comfortable, colorful and sexy clothes.

Since the launch, the brand has made a name for itself, first on the West Coast and now in the East, mostly by introducing it to various celebrities like Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Madonna."Celebrities are always sent so many clothes and we see so many of them wearing Juicy," Skaist-Levy said. "They call us now for the product."

Skaist-Levy said she believes the appeal of the Juicy suit is that it is the ultimate in casual luxury. It’s fitted to the body and as comfortable as wearing pajamas, she said.

According to Denise Seegal, president and chief executive officer of JLo by Jennifer Lopez, velour track suits account for 40 percent of the business, partly because Lopez is constantly photographed wearing them and partly because the casual lifestyle is more acceptable.

"Casualization is fashion today, it’s the dress code for the workplace and since working out has become so important it’s only natural that athletic looks are a growing trend," Seegal stated.

While the velour track suit trend is so popular, Seegal said she sees the future of casualwear leaning toward alternative sports-inspired looks. "The surf trend started on the West Coast and now it’s moving East with some snowboarding-inspiration on loose fitting clothes that are easy to move in," she said. "Surf is the most casual: a bikini top with a denim jacket, skirt and flip-flops."Dick Cantrell, president of the Los Angeles-based Hard Tail, said, "There is a fashion element to these clothes. Dick Cantrell, president of the Los Angeles-based Hard Tail, said, "There is a fashion element to these clothes. They are more than just your basic workout wear. They are made in an array of colors and fabrics and this wasn’t done in the past."

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