Most Americans can say that they own a pair of denim jeans. In fact, according to a recent world denim market report published by Cotton Incorporated, 96 percent of U.S. consumers own a pair of jeans, while the average American male owns about seven pairs of jeans at any given time. So how are retailers and brands reimagining this category to add buying incentive to this very important market? It isn’t easy in such an overstocked business, but both brands and stores are managing to add excitement.
“Denim is a huge focus for Saks Fifth Avenue, and we are consistently editing our offerings to ensure each brand serves a distinct point of view,” says Eric Jennings, VP and men’s fashion director. “Our customers are looking for comfort as well as fashionable denim with a hint of novelty or quirk. We will continue to emphasize a strong presentation that highlights the key trend and styles to our customers for spring.”
East Dane’s fashion director, Wayne Gross, shares a similar sentiment. “We continue to focus on our customer and how we can provide the best curated denim assortment for his needs,” says Gross. “We also endeavor to maintain a relatable, accessible point of view that values style and will guide him to discover the latest in denim trends, washes and styles that work for his lifestyle.”
Reece Crisp, menswear buying manager for online retailer Farfetch, adds that his business is focused on continuing to deliver what his consumer wants. “Biker denim jeans are one of our top-selling styles, as are distressed jeans and black skinny jeans,” he says. “Despite variety in our customers’ tastes, a common denominator is that the preferred shape is slim and skinny.” Crisp goes on to say that “Farfetch’s customer is influenced by the current trends in the denim market,” and that the company is “continually striving to find newness and to highlight more specialty denim brands.”
So what exactly are the newest trends that are driving the market forward into 2017? The answer depends on who you ask, as there seems to be no clear direction. “In the men’s denim market, there is currently a big push towards ‘back to basics’,” says Rebecca Brown, denim trend editor at trend forecasting agency Fashion Snoops. “Men are focused on the true, heritage-inspired fit, rather than colored variations or innovative finishes. While slim and straight-leg silhouettes continue to dominate, we can expect two new primary influences to elevate the men’s denim market for 2017. First, the influence of lounge suiting coupled with soft and slouchy interpretations will create a popular denim-luxe story. Second, the development of timeless tailoring updated with chambray suiting and utilitarian details will emphasize the bespoke appeal of personalized denim.”
For his part, Jennings notes, “There’s a strong shift towards lifestyle denim as well as an expansion of collections beyond the standard jean. Distressed denim continues into spring alongside fashion details like bleach-splattered effects as well as slim silhouettes. Indigo is the highlight color of the season, and we are seeing it in a variety of styles for spring. We couldn’t be more excited about the direction of denim for the season.”
But for Gross, the most exciting thing happening in denim currently are the vast range of washes now available as well as the influence of streetwear and the 1990s. “These new influences provide a new dynamism to the arena and steers the market away from the skinny styles of recent years,” he declares.
WHAT CONSUMERS WANT
Denim has always been the go-to in every man’s wardrobe, and now that style and comfort have become synonymous, the consumer doesn’t have to sacrifice one for the other. Well structured, time-honored denim pieces with a back-to-basics mentality are key in the decision making process for consumers.
Brown maintains that there are two groups of consumers driving this category. “For the everyday guy who wants the latest pair of trend-driven jeans, he’s buying at an entry-level price point,” she says. “Now that fast-fashion brands have begun to design and stock quality offerings (like selvedge denim), consumers are realizing that they don’t have to pay premium prices for premium denim.”
Both Jennings and Gross agree that fit and quality of construction are what their customers are looking for most. Brand loyalty still prevails for East Dane as well. “Our guys find jeans that work well for them, fit well and look great,” Gross says. “They aren’t driven by price; they’re more driven by their satisfaction with the product. Once they find that brand that works for them, they stick with that brand when returning to the site.”
THE BRANDED PERSPECTIVE
With an added focus on trend and washes, brands are out to deliver what these retailers need. “We are focused on authentic and vintage- inspired styling and design. So you will see a lot of deconstruction and repair,” says Hudson Jeans creative director Ben Taverniti. “Also, surplus and military is part of Hudson’s DNA and we evolve that each season with new fabrications and fits.”
Johnathan Crocker, VP of Global Communications at AG, insists that one can’t rely on new washes alone to succeed. “Being in one of the most competitive and cluttered categories of fashion, premium denim, we continue to challenge ourselves to tell our story in creative and compelling manners,” he says. “From model Daria Werbowy being the face of both the men’s and women’s collections last season and now with the launch of our indigo capsule collection for fall 2016 that features several unisex styles, we’re constantly looking to create a conversation and dialogue with our customers, editors and other fashion influencers.”
“We are always about innovation and we continue to push for it,” adds Nicola Formichetti, artistic director at Diesel. “At the beginning of 2017, we’ll be making a larger range of Jogg Jeans and we are also preparing the launch of a sports-infused fashion capsule collection around the idea of urban movement and lifestyle. I really think that denim is something that can be re-invented on a regular basis, but you need to change your mindset, try new things, and be brave!”