Contemporary: Denim direction

by Elise Diamantini

Bootcut styles and color are triggering new interest in denim.

With many diverse trends in denim, retailers need to pick and choose. Get behind the trends you believe in (and the ones that are right for your customers) in order to make a strong presentation across the board. It’s better to buy narrow and deep than show a little of everything. Draw him in by displaying cool colored denim in your windows, update your store’s blog by highlighting new styles and washes or send out an e-mail with how-to styling tips for slimmer silhouettes. Get behind denim, because contemporary retailers agree: it’s back.

Trends like colored denim and slimmer silhouettes have led to a resurgence of the category. Bloomingdale’s Kevin Harter says, “Denim is back and strong. We’re seeing good trends…our customer is navigating to bootcut again, in washed and vintage looks. Colored denim in white and gray is selling as well as some actual color. Non-denim resources have contributed to that. Hoyle Jackson from Los Angeles is selling well. It’s all about finding your fit.”

Saks Fifth Avenue’s Eric Jennings says denim is up and performing particularly well at pricepoints just south of $200. He says they’re seeing huge increases from brands like Hudson, AG and J Brand, which he attributes to occasion dressing. “He’ll wear one style casually, one out at night, one for work… It’s a range of styles from clean to dark, and even colored denim. Coated denim is continuing to do well as a ‘going out’ jean; we’re seeing this in full lifestyle collections from brands like Z Zegna. The silhouette is moving slimmer but no one wants to call it skinny. We tested colored denim for fall and based on its success, we’re pushing it forward in a big way for spring. Bestselling colors were red, blue, olive and teal from J Brand. Hudson offered selvedge denim styles in a range of colors. It looked great rolled up to show the selvedge stripe against the bold color. Non-denim is also performing in styles like slim, dressier cargos from J Brand. Soft and colored corduroy styles from AG are also performing.”

AG’s Sam Ku says that their business is up 40 percent from 2010. “We’re experiencing the best year we’ve ever had. Colored denim like sand, black, charcoal and khaki shades are performing. We do a little bit of raw denim, but our bestsellers are dark, rinsed denim. Comfort and hand feel is so important and we’re doing more with new blends and fiber development. There’s been a lot of progress with cellulose-based fibers blended with cotton, which creates that soft hand.”

Joey Gonzalez from Fred Segal Man says, “Denim is still strong—we’re in California—guys wear denim and T-shirts. Natural Selection, a U.K. brand retailing from $280 to $360 sold well for fall.”