According to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™, the average woman owns 8 pairs of jeans. Even with such a high ownership, three out of four female respondents say that they would likely buy another pair in the coming months.

Newness appears to be the primary motivator for most women. “Newness totally drives the market because denim is worn pretty much on every occasion,” considers Jennifer Scott, a buyer for Tobi, a West Coast-based online denim retailer. “Denim seems to be the staple in everyone’s wardrobe and is the perfect comfort piece for many women.”

But a desire for newness does not only apply to the shoppers who peruse the myriad of premium denim brands sold on, but to jeans sold at virtually every price point. “With denim as a staple in the wardrobes of Americans , JCPenney constantly seeks opportunities to add freshness to denim in a wide range of offerings,” says Kate Parkhouse, a spokesperson for the retailer. “We are constantly looking for new ways to add excitement to our customers’ shopping experience, offering style and quality at a smart price balanced by national, private and exclusive brands.”

Denim Purchase Intent (Women)
  2006 2007 Point
Don’t Need, Won’t Buy 26% 25% -1
Might Buy 1 or Items 48% 50% +2
Probably Buy Several Items 25% 25% 0

“The key is to find something new that no one else has done and then do it better,” says Tara Corral, the denim buyer for Revolve Clothing, a retail site known for its variety of denim brands.

One designer accepting and meeting the challenge of offering cutting edge denim is Alexander Wang. At his recent runway presentation during New York’s fall fashion week, the internationally-renowned wunderkind debuted garments treated with the STORM DENIM™ technology. “It’s the first innovative treatment I have seen and worked with that is remarkable without changing the appearance or feel of the original goods,” Wang shares.

The STORM DENIM™ finish, introduced by Cotton Incorporated two years ago, provides water-repellency, protection from the cold and damp, and breathability. While it was created with functionality in mind, whe n applied to denim, the finish also boasts fashionability. “In the jeans segment, it’s always about the next new thing,” says David Earley, Cotton Incorporated Associate Director Strategic Initiatives, Global Product Supply Chain. “The industry has seen water-repellant denim finishes before, but they are usually applied in fabric form. This has been a limitation since most jeans are garment processed in some way to apply styling effects such as whiskering, localized abrasion or decoloration processes. Applying in garmentform means that the finish is applied as the last step, following any styling effects that are applied to the garments; creating more consumer benefits, more marketability for specific end uses and with that, more sales.”

Alexander Wang certainly believes so. In a Nylon Magazine segment currently appearing on YouTube, he demonstrates the performance aspect of his STORM DENIM™ treated jeans by literally putting them in his studio’s sink. “Everyone was amazed and couldn’t believe what they saw when I put it underneath running water,” the designer shares, noting in the video that the jeans remained perfectly dry after their dip. Wang also waxes enthusiastic about the application of STORM DENIM™. “It is basically undetectable but is so exciting to work with something so new, fresh and actually useful.”

In addition to finishes, newness in denim also occurs in the form of cut, color and washes. “During the last few tradeshows, I have seen that denim companies are really trying to win over buyers with light washes and destruction,” says Scott, the buyer from Tobi. “Denim companies are offering every single leg width since the consumer base is so broad. Even though skinny continues to be the strength for many retailers, in the fall season due to boots, wide legs and bootlegs will continue in popularity because of the wedges and platform sandals.”

“It is important to understand that women need denim choices and all types of leg widths and washes will succeed since denim is the staple and the go-to item in most people’s wardrobe. Variety gives consumers choices,” adds Corral from Revolve Clothing.

Choices and options remain important. While newness and innovation drive the market in denim at virtually every price point, most women embrace change in their own leisurely fashion. According to the Monitor, an outstanding 72% of female respondents say that they are not among the first to try a new style.

“Newness is important because the fashionistas get bored and want the next best thing. However, most women don’t want to change their denim as quickly and as often as Kate Moss,” opines Scott. She cites the skinny jean as an example. “It took time for women to finally become comfortable wearing skinny jeans and sales were extremely slow that first season because consumers were out of their comfort zone.”

That comfort zone for women does appear to be with denim. According to the Monitor, 77% of female respondents say that they prefer to go places where they can wear their jeans.

Denim appears to offer it all to women in one concise package of comfort, function, fashionability and flexibility. That alone explains why women are storming the denim market for their favorite and beloved styles.

This story is one in a series of articles based on findings from Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor™ tracking research. Appearing Thursdays in these pages, each story will focus on a specific topic as it relates to the American consumer and her attitudes and behavior regarding clothing, appearance, fashion, fiber selection and many other timely, relevant subjects.