NEW YORK — Heading into 2003, jeans executives admitted they’re concerned that no new strong denim fashion trends have yet to emerge to draw shoppers into the stores to buy another pair.
The last big ideas to hit the market were the now-ubiquitous low-rise cuts and hand-sanded whiskers, intended to give jeans an antique feel.
Just how common the latter trend has become was illustrated by a recent episode of the TV cartoon “King of the Hill.” In this show, Bobby Hill made a pair of jeans for his middle-American, conservative dad, Hank. Once he was sure the jeans fit appropriately, he took a palm sander to the seams to soften them up and make the jeans look broken in. The propane-selling Hank was delighted with the results —and not just because his misunderstood son is using a power tool.
“It’s almost old hat, when a trend reaches the animated version,” said Michael Silver, president of Western Glove Works, the maker of Silver Jeans.
Dick Gilbert, president of junior jeans vendor Mudd Inc., summed up the worry succinctly: “We need a big trend desperately. But if I had an answer to that, I’d be the richest man in the world.”
On denim jeans, one common theme for spring that’s expected to carry through into fall is toned-down washes. After aggressively washing and sanding down jeans for the past few seasons, vendors are focusing on cleaner, subtler looks.
Stretch denim is also seen as a continuing important trend for next year, though Guess Inc.’s general merchandise manager for women’s, Rosella Giuliani, said, “We also think it’s important to reintroduce rigid [denim] back into the marketplace.”
However, a bigger trend is for makers to offer more nondenim fabrics, including corduroy, traditional cotton twill and knit athletic fabrics. That’s a hedge to ensure that companies don’t get caught with unsalable lines if consumers lose interest in denim.
One trend that isn’t changing yet is low rises, but it is evolving. After plunging to almost obscene levels with jeans that threatened to fall off the wearer at the shake of a hip, designers have raised waistbands up an inch or so, more at the back, to ensure the jeans fit and don’t reveal too much of the wearer’s anatomy.
In the junior market, designers are rolling out wider waistbands — adorned with belts or, in some cases, another piece of fabric — that can make the jeans look more plunging than they really are.
“It gives a lower-rise look,” explained Carl Eckhaus, president of So Sweet LLC, the New York-based maker of Angels Jeans.