From skinny and vintage to boyfriend and embellished, denim is scoring at retail, giving store merchandisers more creative freedom to generate interest on the sales floor.
This story first appeared in the April 20, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Shoppers are responding. As a result, some retailers are reporting substantial gains in the segment, particularly at the high end.
“Denim has been explosive for the past three years,” said Stephanie Solomon, Lord & Taylor’s vice president and fashion director. “We are not just talking about jeans. Denim is a way of life. Denim jackets, denim duster coats, denim dresses and tops — they’ve become an integral part of the wardrobe. It’s now cool to wear denim with denim. You can wear it head to toe. That used to be fashion taboo.”
At L&T, denim decorated with patches, messages, embroidery and pins to personalize the look is a hot trend. Also, denim in white and rust colors; jeans being frayed or cropped above the ankles; high rise, and kick flare are important trends. Stretch has become a standard ingredient.
“Denim is really the quintessential street fabric,” Solomon explained. “We are living in a casual world right now. You don’t need to be dressed up, unless you are a lawyer. Even politicians aren’t adhering to dress codes.”
L&T will stage a patch event this spring and is incorporating denim into its fast-fashion assortment called Design Lab.
“Denim is a category that’s really evolved in the last season, with designers leading the charge and showcasing it on the runways,” said Roopal Patel, senior vice president and fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue. “It’s elevated from just being casual, everyday dressing. Denim has become so much a part of everyday dressing that designers are looking for creative ways to expand the category.”
Patel cited Marc Jacobs, Saint Laurent, Chloé, Alexander McQueen and Alice + Olivia as some of the designers taking an advanced approach to the category.
“As we move into fall, we are seeing a much more whimsical and novel approach to denim, with lots of personalization and customization, everything from emoji patches to monogramming,” she said.
Key trends include denim jackets with pins and ornamented denim skirts, and boyfriend, cropped and flared silhouettes.
“We are having a great season with denim as a whole,” Patel said.
Corey Epstein, chief executive officer of West Hollywood, Calif.-based DSTLD, is taking a disciplined approached to the denim market.
“We’ve seen 150 percent growth in our denim sales alone over the past year,” Epstein said. “We stick to lasting styles that customers will come back for time and time again rather than focus on passing, trend-focused fits. While there’s been a resurgence of vintage, 100 percent cotton denim, we believe only a small share of the market is looking for that and our customers come to us because they want some stretch in their jeans — both men and women.”
Epstein said as a direct-to-consumer brand, “our premium denim at under-$100 price points give us an edge when competing with traditional premium brands, especially as consumers become more educated on the problems with fast-fashion quality and are tired of paying upward of $180 at department stores.”
Michael Mente, co-ceo of Revolve, based in Cerritos, Calif., said the company’s denim business “as a whole is growing steadily.”
“The Revolve customer is clearly gravitating toward vintage style and boyfriend jeans, along with key fashion items such as overalls, jumpsuits and denim jackets,” Mente said. “They are more style-conscious than price-conscious and are always willing to pay for great product.”
Regarding new collections at retail, Jimmy Taverniti, who was named creative director of Siwy last August, is rolling out his first line for the brand.
Siwy’s new seamless collection — named for its innovative no-side seam construction — is available in two fits: the Brook, a high-waisted skinny jean, and Felicity, a midrise skinny.
The lack of side seams gives the jeans a legginglike look with faux-front pockets. The seamless collection is priced from $154 to $185. Siwy is sold at Siwydenim.com, Shopbop.com and Revolve.com, among other online retailers and select specialty stores.
Taverniti was attracted to Siwy’s environmentally friendly washes and premium focus. He’s known for his own high-end denim brand, launched in 2004 as Taverniti So. The designer, who was born in France, favored a feminine, vintage aesthetic for his own label.
For Istanbul-based Mavi, which operates 387 stores, the Feather collection is its most recent launch and its latest addition to its Gold line. Partnering with Orta, a Turkish denim fabric producer, Mavi Feather is created with exclusive fabric in three shades: Special Neptune, a deep green cast with a true blue indigo bottom; Future Blue, a mix of green cast and indigo achieved by using less water and chemicals, and Aqua Light Green, a retro denim shade for the Bohemian look. Mavi hand-washes all of its jeans.
Orta used patented Alchemy technology to create Feather’s ultrasoft fabric, which is also extremely lightweight. The denim is airy and cool to the touch due to the mix of cotton, Tencel, lyocell and viscose fibers. Feather’s other quality is power stretch shape-holding with high recovery standards.
Feather’s launch last month kicked off Mavi’s 25th anniversary celebration. Mavi price points are between $98 and $148. The Feather collection will retail at $148. Styles include the Lexy, a new ankle-length jean, a high-rise super skinny jean, and a midrise super skinny.
Mavi has flagships in Istanbul, Berlin, Moscow, Vancouver and New York. The brand is also available at Nordstrom, L&T and Brooklyn Industries.