at home

While COVID-19 has disrupted new seasons across all categories, shifts toward comfort and at-home lifestyles have significantly disrupted the denim industry.

After years of decline, denim was predicted to be looking forward to a fresh start with initiatives for a cleaner, more sustainable denim as the key. Consistent innovation in fabrics for development of trendy yet comfortable jeans appealed to the consumer in 2019, according to Euromonitor’s 2020 Jeans in the U.S. report.

The denim market is being led by legacy brands who win on consumer nostalgia, though new labels with innovative products have also come into play. Levi Strauss & Co. was called out as a leader in the industry by Euromonitor, among others, with plans to reduce its overall water usage by 50 percent in its factories and finishing plants by 2025. Though they were hardly the only denim focused brand to put a higher focus on sustainability. Wrangler recently celebrated its 50th anniversary by surpassing its global water goal, saving 7 billion liters of water in its production of denim since 2008.

Trendalytics March 2020 top trends report found ethical eco-friendly denim continuing to accelerate growth, with “sustainable denim” searches increasing 123 percent year-over-year and “sustainable jeans” searches increasing 195 percentyear-over-year. The terms were predicted to grow further over the next six months with 90 percent confidence. Levi’s, Cheap Mondays and Asos were the top associated brands.

Denim Do-Over

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation under its Make Fashion Circular initiative launches guidelines on redesigning jeans.  Shutterstock / urfin

Concurrently, Kingpins Show, the seminal denim supply chain event announced a partnership with the Conscious Fashion Campaign in collaboration with the United Nations Office for partnerships earlier this year, amplifying its already prominent moves for sustainable development and social responsibility in the denim industry.

At the end of 2019, it was predicted that the denim industry would grow more than $14 million by 2024, according to a report from Technavio, the global technology research and advisory company. Still, coronavirus has taken a toll on denim brands, which are ultimately discretionary spending. In the last few months, the fashion industry at large has seen buying trends and consumer behaviors shift dramatically due to the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19 and a new stay-at-home culture.

In the past, denim has taken a backseat as ath-leisure has risen in popularity. And during coronavirus, sweatpants have thrived. Though despite falling on hard times in 2014, Edited, the retail-decision platform points to streetwear’s ability to incorporate both ath-leisure and denim as denim’s key to reinvigorating, in its 2020 denim report.

According to Edited, in an analysis of men’s and women’s jeans, leggings and sweatpants arriving online since the beginning of 2020 across major retailers in the U.S. and the U.K., denim showed to be the dominant style. Further, Edited found denim with comfort features have seen particular success with the majority of stockkeeping-unit sellout of women’s stretch jeans rising 23 percent year-over-year. The company notes that these styles are a low-risk investment for retailers to refresh denim promotions during this time.

At the same time, in its “dressed up” apparel report, Edited noted that as people continue to work from home, items like stretch denim could be a contender for an alternative to loungewear and pajama dressing though still “relatively comfy.” Similarly, a study by Trunk Club on popular apparel trends during coronavirus found that women are continuing to get dressing in the morning before working from home, saying that the practice makes them feel more productive.

Tracking U.S. pricing on jeans, Edited found average advertised full price has increased since 2018, demonstrating a more competitive market overall. Simultaneously, NPD’s 2019 Jeans report found that 80 percent of women’s jeans were sold in-store, online sales were rising. As told by experts, coronavirus has served to amplify digital trends that were on the verge of escalation, including shifts in online sales for certain markets.

In its launch of Kingpins24, a two-day online denim conference, brands came together to share ideas, information and inspiration for the fall 2021 season. Among the forecasted trends presented were “Peacenik: The Graduate, Pause and Art Haus,” with sustainability and nostalgia themes running throughout.

Edited’s denim report similarly predicted eco-friendly denim and nostalgic themes for fall 2020. So far in 2020, Edited reported straight leg, wide leg, high rise, miniskirt, flares, shirts, shorts as the top-selling denim fits in Q1, including light washes and white denim. Looking ahead, the report expects to see slouchy silhouettes, lighter tones, and reworked denim begin to trend.

Afterpay, the popular buy-now-pay-later company with a largely Millennial and Gen Z user base, saw a 120 percent increase in denim sales from January 2020 to May 2020 in comparison to denim sales from January 2019 to May 2019. Some of the top brands on Afterpay so far this year include Levi’s and Madewell. Popular styles include shorts and jackets.

For More WWD Business News: 

Online Fitness Surges Amid Coronavirus

Short Takes: How Is Denim Doing During COVID-19?

Edwin Relaunches in the U.S. With Sustainability Ethos

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