Buyers Seek Lower Prices, Versatility at Denim Fair

Exhibitors at last week’s Denim by Première Vision show adjusted prices and looked to offer more versatile products.

PARIS — Exhibitors at last week’s Denim by Première Vision show adjusted prices and looked to offer more versatile products in an effort to entice inventory-averse buyers working with smaller budgets.

This story first appeared in the June 9, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The show ended its two-day run here on June 4, attracting 1,489 visitors, a 2.8 percent dip compared with last year’s June session, according to organizers. Weavers cited robust demand for superstretch fabrics, washes and artfully destroyed denim.

“We saw new ideas in patching techniques with embroideries,” said Carrie Yee, senior product manager of women’s denim for A|X Armani Exchange. “It was nice to see everybody’s handiwork, the way they’re tearing holes and the detailed abrasions.”

Creativity aside, the dire economy cast its shadow over the event. Several exhibitors said they had lowered prices, some by more than 20 percent, while certain designers cited smaller budgets.

“It pressures the designer to get creative on pricing and fabric,” said Stephan Szkotnicki, senior director of men’s denim, and men’s and women’s jewelry for A|X Armani Exchange.

Pockets of optimism came from the likes of French contemporary chain Zadig & Voltaire, which has seen denim sales nearly double over the past two years.

“We’re buying more and more — it’s a big part of our collection,” said Emilie Clement, assistant product manager for the brand, lauding JBG’s paint-splashed, colored jeans.

Among visitors shopping for inspiration was Salli Deighton, a freelance denim consultant whose clients include British retailers Marks & Spencer and Topshop. Deighton noted the emergence of heavier weights and more compact denims blended with fibers such as Tencel.

“It’s to allow for versatility in washing,” she said. “Everything’s about creating the right base for the wash.”

Other strong trends included colored denim, from brights to classic greens, browns and grays, as well as subtle sheens. Along with drainpipes, key silhouettes ran the gamut from carrot and bow-legged to engineered styles with twisted legs.

Bruno Van den Weghe, commercial director of family-owned Italian weaver ItalDenim, which works with the likes of Diesel, Miss Sixty, Replay and Tommy Hilfiger, said clients were comparing prices, tightening collections and opting for cross-seasonal weights.

“It’s the market that regulates [pricing],” he said. “It’s pretty tough, as our customers are suffering…decreases in sales of [up to] 50 percent.”

Spain’s Tavex, which bills itself as the world’s leading premium denim producer and churns out some 120 million meters of denim a year, recognizes clients are eager to keep inventories low. As a result, Tavex was among many pushing versatile fabrics suited to a variety of washes and investing in permanent inventories geared to short deliveries.

“The concept is important in a market like this where everybody is trying to avoid markdowns and also empty shelves,” said Natanael Kaminski, global commercial development director.

Tavex presented its new eco-friendly denim finish, Alsoft Amazontex by Tavex, at the event.

“It’s a well-rounded, eco concept and we’ve prepared material about how a brand can take advantage of that,” said Kaminski.

The fabric comes imbued with a cream obtained from the cupuaçu fruit, culled by fair trade cooperatives in Brazil’s Amazon region.

Japan’s Collect also introduced a denim weave with a vegetal collagen extract in its finish.

“After a day’s wear, your legs will feel moisturized,” said Rei Ichiro Yoshida from Collect’s sales division.

Ralph Lauren is said to have picked up on one of the firm’s new lamé denims.

Lycra launched what it terms a new industry standard in denim at the event, Lycra lastingFit. Using its T400 fiber, Lycra lastingFit is said to give a minimum of 15 percent stretch and a maximum of 3 percent growth. This represents the ideal denim fit, according to research commissioned by Invista conducted with female consumers in the U.S., Italy, Germany and China. A Lycra lastingFit trade media campaign in print and online banner format will roll out this month in Europe and the U.S., followed by Asia later this year.

Jeanologia, a denim research and development center based in Valencia, Spain, presented its Truth & Light concept, involving an enhanced laser technology developed to mimic the effects of wear and tear, and dry processing effects on denim using light energy. Using a scanned photo of a pair of old jeans, the laser burns out pigment on denim to replicate details such as whiskers on the thighs or the outline of a wallet around the pocket.

Enrique Silla, Jeanologia’s president, said the tool is set to bring the vintage craze to another level.

“Even more than vintage, the future of the jeans market is clones of real garments,” he said.

Around 8 percent of global high-end denim producers use the technology, according to Silla, who estimates this will grow to around 20 percent over the next three years.

“They’re using it for certain lines, but quite massively already,” he said of factories supplying the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch, Levi’s, Diesel and American Eagle Outfitters.

A laser capable of treating around 3,000 pairs of jeans daily costs around $200,000 he said. It takes around 90 seconds for a laser to complete one pair of jeans.