There are no two opinions about the influence of denim in wardrobes across the world. However, fashion is a fast changing world, and in the last few years especially, the appeal of casual denim has heavily been upstaged by athleisure’s gifts like yoga pants and jeggings.
New advancements in fabric technology and a changing aesthetic had consumers flocking for five-pocket trousers in materials that provided extra stretch and trendier style variations. Even a brand like Levi’s that is an industry stalwart in denim was struggling but things are looking up for denim aficionados. The brand reported 8% rise in revenue in 2017, making the year its strongest growth period since 2011.
Elsewhere, PVH that owns two of the world’s biggest denim-focused labels Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger also posted remarkable growth, and mostly from the jeans category.
According to CK’s CEO Manny Chirico, “Calvin Klein jeans showed tremendous strength and outsized growth, above our average order book growth.”
Brands that are more youth-oriented like American Eagle and Abercrombie are betting big on denim’s much expected revival. While the segment had been lying dull for a long time with hardly any new trends, save for some flares and ruffle, the industry is innovating denim with a fully renewed focus.
Thanks to a return of ’90s styling and the influx of new technology, designers are developing clothes with added properties that go beyond style and trends to create ‘technical’ denim.
The younger generations, which grew up in joggers and sweatpants, are discovering the ubiquitous jeans with a whole new identity, and the ones who wore denims in their youth have come to expect both nostalgia and a much-needed update from the garment. There is no better material than denim to quench the thirst of both comfort and utility seekers in the same garment.
Performance is our saviour
Performancewear is an unmissable theme in the world of fashion right now. The trend will serve as denim’s crutches in its return to everyone’s closet. From luxury players like Ermenegildo Zegna, who is working on Japanese materials and construction that rivals formal trousers, to Patagonia and Wrangler working on migrating the most favoured properties of performancewear like moisture wicking, stain free finishes, extra stretch, everyone is investing in the premium denim category.
Arvind Ltd., the Indian leader in textiles, recently unveiled its new denim collection in the Capital that was no short of futuristic denim innovations. Aamir Akhtar, CEO, Denims, Arvind walked us through the collection that showed new ways of dyeing as well as products like their Boomerang 360 Denim, which offer extreme stretch and high-recovery capabilities that rival with jeggings and the infamous yoga pants.
The performancewear induction in denim will see manufacturers working on functional properties that will compete directly with the growing sportswear market.
Sustainability cannot be ignored
Denim goes through a great deal to get to the point where it looks and feels like what we have come to love. But along with denim, the environment also undergoes a lot; the denim industry has one of the worst images when it comes to ethical and environment friendliness in production.
The biggest issue being the amount of sweet water wasted to produce a pair of simple jeans. Nevertheless, denim’s future focuses on production technologies that help reduce this significantly. People are working on solutions such as dry ice cleaning and ozone washing, among several other future facing machinery.
At Arvind, the teams are innovating with sustainable dyeing and washing solutions like ikat, ozone wash and indigo to come up with processes that are eco-conscious and also create innovative finished products at the same time. Sustainability is no more a fancy concept or copywriting tactic but an actual issue that manufacturers will have to deal with head on.
Gender defying silhouettes
In terms of silhouettes, the denim jeans has not seen very many changes, but new demand skews towards the changing perception of genders themselves. Gazi Mahbubul Alam, Director, Mahmud Group, manufacturing for mega fast fashion brands like H&M, Zara, and K-Mart, told the Apparel Resources team that the entire perception of femininity is changing. The notion that body-hugging jeans are for women, and men prefer loose fits, is getting completely reversed.
“If you look closely, for women, we are getting demands for straight fits like the boyfriend jeans and rugged overalls, whereas men are going for the lean fits. The world is looking at gender in a very fluid way. So even value additives like patches are all being used in both women and men’s assortments, perhaps more commonly for men’s,” added Mahbubul Alam.
In terms of styles, he said that skinny jeans are definitely not a womenswear piece anymore; they are more about high waists and tapered hems now.
From upcycle to recycle
While sustainability in production is important, denim is undoubtedly one of the longest lasting fabric and can survive the worst of wear and tear. This was the main reason for its initial surge in popular culture. Hence, it is natural that upcycled denim is hugely trending. People are creating hybrid weaves, mixing up different washes in the same garment for modern looking cuts.
Sandeep Agarwal, Founder of the trade show Denimandjeans corroborated this demand, adding, “Two-tone denim and blends with fibres like elastane and lyocell are dominating majorly.”
The internationally, cult-favourite brand Vetements is the biggest pioneer of the two-tone cut-paste style trend, which came to fruition in the brand’s collaboration with Levi’s Strauss last year and several retailers and brands are now religiously following suit.
Embroidery gets reformed
A stronghold for India, embroidery is definitely sticking as a strong point of value addition. Mahbubul Alam also agreed on the trend, adding that both women and menswear garment makers should watch this one out.
In terms of what trends will govern the embroidery scene, our research suggests that like the teen-favourite movie Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, travel and themes of escapism will thrive. Careful references to global cultures, especially the Middle East (another streetwear favourite), and weaving patterns from antique African cultures can serve as great inspiration boards.
Patchwork that takes a dig at heirlooms and kitschy all-over paisleys or bandana in all-over prints can be used with simpler denims to create balanced jackets and statements tops. Apart from embroidered motifs, a strong demand for stand out topstitching and light quilting is also there, observed Agarwal. Designers can work on contrast stitching on dark tint denims for simple but trend-embedded jeans.
Simple is significant
Vintage has always had a big influence on denim. Most of the fabric’s appeal comes from its worn out, old-world charm. Add this up with the fact that ‘ugly’ or ‘dad-core’ fashion is trending all over the runways; you have a theme that is all about going back to basics and relooking at past archives. Going forward, customer preferences are going away from overpowering washes and raw appeal of pure denim. “Washes are out!” agreed Agarwal.
A hint of preppy but mostly just plain silhouettes that have not been updated and stay true to core double denim focus will come to fore. The inspiration here is American workwear and uniforms, but taking an ironic approach while still keeping functional details like pockets and buttons in focus.