BERLIN — The denim world is going even more casual.
That was the main takeaway from the Premium, Bread & Butter, Seek, Selvedge Run and Green Showroom/Ethical Fashion Show exhibitions held here. Buyers and manufacturers said that, while demand is stable, the denim and sportswear market is undergoing a major transformation in regard to product development and brand communication.
Looks are shifting towards casual shapes, with a comeback of culottes, flared legs, boot cut and fits like the Colette or jogg jeans in lighter blues.
“We are looking for light washes, ripped denim, open seams, boot cuts, Seventies-inspired flared legs, dungarees, but also denim dresses and overalls. Stretch denim and performance are also of note,” said Dita Somi, team leader for women’s apparel, denim and young fashion at German e-tailer Zalando.
“It’s flared jeans, boot cuts, culottes and jogg jeans for the next season with hyper-flex and light materials. People are less focused on brands but rather on a good price-for-value. It’s an emotional decision, and if it fits and looks good, it’s a buy,” agreed Alexander Gross, senior denim buyer at online sportswear platform Brands4friends.
But next season’s fits were only a secondary issue at the fairs. Gross noted that communication is increasingly important: “Nowadays, everybody offers jeans. Denim manufacturers are emphasizing their heritage to distinguish themselves from other brands and inspire their customers,” he said.
“There is a significant change in the development of the product every seven or eight years when brands grow ‘old’ and disappear, and right now, we are in such a phase of change,” said Kai Timpe, managing director of Deyk at Premium. “Consumers have changed: they combine more; they want to be casual, there’s more sportswear, and the price-for-value sensitivity is higher than ever,” he added.
The German brand launched by Brax Leineweber GmbH in 2012 is targeting premium sportswear with denim priced at 130 to 190 euros ($143 to $210 at current exchange rate) and produced in Japan and Italy. It is a segment Timpe said is still insufficiently available on the market. For 2016, Deyk has teamed up with Californian “Not Your Standard” blogger Kayla Seah for a capsule collection to create a unique selling point.
Besides communications aimed at brand distinction and the digital footprint, sustainability is becoming a predominant topic for denim brands.
SuperJeans of Sweden, for example, underlines the Scandinavian DNA: “It’s clean Scandinavian design in good quality denim. We care about honesty, authenticity and a good production environment,” stated Bo Bech-Nielsen, cofounder and creative director of the brand. SuperJeans retail for around 80 euros, or $90, a pair.
“There’s a more stable development of what we used to call fashion, I hope. Seasons are vanishing. Rather, we try to find style; we try to find something that will last. Clients want things they can hang onto and not just consume,” said Daniel Sarabia, a Swedish sales agent for denim brands like Kuyichi and Kings of Indigo at Seek.
“Consumers and the press are inquiring more and more on how brands are producing; on the environmental and labor conditions of the products they are wearing, and manufacturers are pressured to address these subjects,” remarked Andreas Becker, owner and chief executive officer of the recently launched Selvedge Run. “Contemporary raw denim is a niche, but with consumers becoming more demanding, the niche is growing,” he noted.
“The food industry is preceding what will come in fashion: People are more conscious about the quality of the products they are buying, and they care about how these products are made,” suggested Heiko Wunder of organic manufacturer Wunderwerk, which offered jeans ranging from 90 to 140 euros, or $100 to $155, at Premium. “We use alternative methods like oxygen bleaching and lasers. At the moment, it’s still very expensive, but if the market asks for it, the producers will have to change,” he said.
“The media has sensitized consumers on ethical and green fashion. And the segment is really catching up. The clothes are becoming more fashionable,” said Michaela Gielgen, owner of the Ludwig 3-store in Regensburg, Germany.
Olaf Schmidt, vice president for textile and textile technologies at Messe Frankfurt Exhibitions GmbH, agreed. “The demand is growing, as the expansion of the Green Showroom and Ethical Fashion Show indicate. The collections have become more fashionable and are competitive. We also have more retailers from classic department stores coming.”
“It’s the fastest-growing niche in the textile industry and producers can compete with classic textile manufacturers in prices and looks,” declared Ute Naumann, a sales agent for People Tree and Hemp Hoodlamb at Green Showroom.
At Zalando Fashion House, fashion director Claudia Reth also noted variety in the product portfolio is important, but that the e-tailer is “looking into niches, and sustainable fashion definitely is an issue.”
With the company’s involvement in Bread & Butter and the change of the trade fair to a business-to-consumer platform, the fair scenery in Berlin is transforming dramatically. Many of the regular exhibitors have moved to Premium or Panorama, with some brands like Herrlicher having a double presence at two of this season’s nine fairs. The new Selvedge Run has emerged to fill the craftsmanship and raw segments formerly supplied by Bread & Butter’s L.O.C.K. and Fire Department, and has attracted exhibitors like Nudie Jeans or Livid Jeans, which were also present at Seek this season. Premium Exhibitions has acquired Bright, a trade fair specialized in street and sportswear, to create a comprehensive platform for contemporary men’s wear along with their Seek trade show.
Visitors were less international, but for exhibitors, the city remains important as a meeting place to target the region of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. “We need a platform in Berlin because Germany is such a big market,” Emin Cezairli, a director of Mavi Jeans of Turkey, remarked.