Slim or flared, indigo or colorful, embellished or clean, high waist or low waist, trends for spring here appear to be as murky and uncertain as the current economy. However, there is one definite trend that overshadows the others: a return to vintage looks. Perhaps in their quest for something similar to a security blanket, customers are looking for denim that harkens back to a reassuring past, with a Seventies inspiration and a strong “used” patina.

“We are working meticulously with our development team to create authentically inspired vintage washes,” said Susie Crippen, co-founding partner and creative director of Los Angeles-based label J Brand. While believing that the used, distressed and worn look is a must for spring, Crippen also noted that “anything goes” in this market, from low- to high-waist models, from slim to flared designs. “There is no specific trend, except to buy to cover whatever mood you are in,” said Crippen.

Wilbert Das, creative director at Diesel, said the company “has been using history as a palette, imagining denim handed down for generations, picking up influences from each decade while retaining the imprint of the past.” To this end, modern pieces have a vintage patina, said Das. While key fits are workwear for men and flare for women, the focus for spring is on washes, in particular the Bastonati (Italian for thrashed) and Bleach. Das described the former as an “ultra-sophisticated wash [that] replicates the cool, natural effect on denim that has dried naturally under the sun without turning it inside out. The latter boasts an ultrafaded, shadowed effect — highlighted in some cases by darker detailings, as if a patch was removed in those areas — that show off the superused look typical of Diesel.”

Conversely, at Miss Sixty, co-founder and creative director of Chieti, Italy-based Sixty Group Wichy Hassan said it will “not be so much about the washes, which, yes, are important, but we focused on fi ttings, not small changes, but macro concepts.” Case in point: harem pants that are exaggeratedly large, balloon shaped, very tight at the bottom, with a very low crotch almost grazing the knees, and tight at the hips. “We are thinking strong concepts, more runway fashion,” said Hassan, who believes this will be a way to give a saturated, “tired” market a new impulse. Because a lot of fabric is needed for these models, Hassan said that “you must choose the right weight, a lighter denim for a comfortable and draped effect. Denim is the most extraordinary, adaptable material.” As for colors, the designer said he believes in acid washes in tones of green and burgundy.

Replay, on the other hand, is not endorsing aggressive silhouettes for spring. Gaetano Sallorenzo, chief executive officer of the Asolo, Italy-based company, said the firm is looking for exclusivity through precious accessories and handmade details, such as richer leather labels, buttons and rivets, or jewel zips, rather than over-the-top shapes. “Everything is more understated, and shapes are not extreme,” said Sallorenzo, citing confidence in flared pants rather than exaggerated bell-bottoms. Replay also is banking on vintage washes, exclusive treatments and manual interventions such as cuts or abrasions.

Sallorenzo noted that “denim manages not only to survive despite the surrounding negativity, it actually grows.” Also, the executive said he has seen customers being more drawn to historical brands. “They need novelty, so they turn to those brands that have culture and history and are a guarantee for innovation,” he said.

Angelo Caroli, who stores more than 50,000 designer vintage pieces and denim rarities in his shop and so-called “Vintage Palace” in Lugo di Romagna, off the Adriatic coast, concurred, citing “an evolution toward the past” and a late-Seventies inspiration, pointing to that period’s high-waisted and detail-rich pants. “This is why customers are turning to historical brands,” said Caroli, who also sees a return to vivid colors such as red, yellow, green, electric blue and purple.

Vintage is the key word at Civitanova Marche, Italy-based Fornarina, as well. Veronica Bertini, the brand’s fashion coordinator, said Fornarina is banking on “intensely treated denim with a defi nite vintage look” and sorbet shades, in addition to light gray, sky blue tones and indigo, black and white. Scratches, rips and pressed folds add a vintage, destroyed look to the pants. Fornarina is aiming for a feminine look, with a skinny, slim and superslim fit, with slightly high-waisted and flared pants. The focus is also on special details, such as Eighties-inspired studs and ethnic embroideries, while multicolored microstitching and crystals embellish the pockets. As part of its ongoing collaboration with Swarovski, crystal patterns continue to decorate a number of pieces.

In reference to the perpetual debate of low waist versus high waist, Augusto Romano, general director of Puglia, Italy-based Meltin’ Pot, said he’s seen a demand for a high waist in front of the pants and a low waist in the back. However, “trends are not very evident,” said Romano, who believes this is a consequence of a “depressed market.” Romano described the women’s denim segment as “complicated.” That said, he identified one of the main trends as “a predominance of slim with a slight flare and a larger fit, slightly baggy, more masculine, yet sexy.” In accordance with his peers, Romano also sees a return of strong colors, such as violet, red and yellow.

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