Denim is hot, and the proof is in the numbers. More than 562 million pairs of men’s and women’s jeans were sold in the 12 months ending May 2019, and reflects a 1 percent increase from the prior year, resulting in $14.2 billion in sales.
For women’s jeans alone, year-over-year sales rose 2 percent to $8.8 billion — accounting for nearly two-thirds of all adult jeans dollar market share, according to NPD’s Consumer Tracking Service.
NPD’s new “Denim Evolution” report also noted that for consumers today, the focus is on the material, noting that fabric is the primary influence when both women and men decide what pair of jeans to buy. For women, this is followed by denim that shapes and enhances curves; and for men, an adjustable/stretch waistband jean takes top priority.
But sustainable materials are another point of contention for shoppers, as consumers are demanding cleaner, better supply chains and processes for their jeans — and it follows that denim brands have been spotlighting sustainability, too. Tricia Carey, director of global business development apparel, Lenzing Fibers, told WWD, “Each season we see steps towards developing products with a lower environmental footprint. In denim, sustainability is about making a change from fiber to finished garment by combining technologies. Over the past several months, some brands, including Gap, Inditex, and Ralph Lauren, have announced their commitment towards sustainable raw materials. The actual roadmap to achieve these goals will make collaboration in the supply chain essential and exposes new opportunities for innovation.”
Carey continued, “In denim, I am also seeing an increased implementation of circularity in product development. We welcome more brands as early adopters of Tencel x Refibra Lyocell with Closed, Kings of Indigo and Boyish Denim, as well as several other U.S. denim brands launching in September. The recent announcement of the Denim Redesign by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation brings the discussion and execution of circularity to the forefront in the denim industry. I am [also] seeing a shift in men’s wear fabrications with more core men’s programs using Tencel Lyocell for sustainability and comfort.”
From an international scope, trends for fall and holiday 2019 are centered on sustainable fabrics and monochromatic looks, according to Nitesh Dhingra, general manager at Raymond UCO, a denim manufacturer based in India. “Overall, green is the new blue — which means more sustainable practices such as indigo-dyeing technologies that reduce the use of water and chemicals. This might include the uses of natural indigo (Bio Indigo) or Cadira in the dye process. Black shades for holiday are front and center, ranging from double sulphur to stay-black dyeing techniques. Other trends for holiday might include brushed-back looks for that added warmth, as well as thermo technology.”
In the premium denim market, brands such as Citizens of Humanity, Agolde and Goldsign are featuring organic cotton pieces and retro looks for fall, alongside jeans outfitted with details such as ruffles and braided waistbands. Federico Pagnetti, chief operating officer of Citizens of Humanity, told WWD, “Moving into the fall season, we remain committed to reducing our global footprint on the environment. Our use of fabrics crafted in 100 percent organic cotton continues to grow across all the divisions. We are also increasing the adoption of recycled eco stones as planned, expanding our use of ozone machines as well as the capacity of our laser technology, to reduce the amount of water used throughout the wash process.”
For heritage brands such as Wrangler, Southwestern influences and Seventies-style pieces are leading denim looks for fall, introducing throwbacks such as flare jeans, old-school logos and butterfly collars alongside sustainably made denims. Jamie Fason, Wrangler Modern North America, director, told WWD, “This fall, we will continue to introduce new and authentic denim product lines that celebrate our storied past. We believe strongly in our ‘Icons,’ which are all rooted in our history and brand with new twists for today’s consumer. And, as Western continues to trend, we proudly incorporated some of our own archival pieces remastered for a new generation in our premium denim collections. It’s wonderful to see how new and existing customers are embracing Wrangler in exciting ways.”
And Vivian Rivetti, global vice president of design at Wrangler, added: “At Wrangler, sustainability is the platform for innovation. We are extremely excited about our latest Indigood foam-dye technology, which uses 100 percent less water than conventional indigo-dyeing practices. We are continuing to advance through new innovations that revolutionize sustainability — even in unexpected ways. For us, it’s about doing good for our consumers, community and planet.”
As the fashion industry continues to take steps towards embracing sustainability from a more holistic perspective, denim brands and beyond are using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) as a benchmark for becoming sustainable. Carey told WWD, “Brands are setting goals around water, land, circularity, chemicals, energy and labor, so [defining sustainability] is really a complex question. We are on a track to lower environmental impacts — there is still so much to learn together.”
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