From established premium players through to emerging eco artisans and fast-fashion labels, Drapers selects the key brands and latest products from right across the denim market.
Japan old and new: Mastercraft Union
While a clutch of American brands rule the womenswear side of the premium denim market, Mastercraft Union is a premium menswear label bringing Japan’s denim skills to the world, with current stockists including Harvey Nichols, Flannels and Matchesfashion.com.
Founded in 2013 by Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, what sets this brand apart is its blending of classic denim techniques with experimental washes and innovative processes to create something that is at once traditional and full heritage, but also modern and new.
All of the brand’s denim is handwoven in a family-run mill in Japan’s denim heartland, Okayama. Sewing and washing is completed, again by hand, in the Japanese mountains of Shimane, using unique processes such as hot spring water and volcanic pumice.
“The attraction on the shop floor is the visual nature of our jeans – truly vintage washes that look like the jeans have been worn down naturally from a raw state,” says Nick Stavrakakis, head of brand concept, distribution and marketing. “For spring, a new looser leg to be worn cropped, washes on Selvedge stretch and very strong vintage washes on blue and black jeans are key.” Mastercraft jeans wholesale from £145 to £180.
020 7613 5551
Premium perspective: Paige
Has the womenswear trend for premium jeans slowed down? Not if American label Paige Denim is anything to go by. Paige wholesales from £70 for classic denim to £110 for embellished options.
“We’ve had our best year yet, so there’s definitely still an appetite for luxury denim,” says the brand’s founder, Paige Adams Geller. “We’ve [actually] seen a willingness to spend more on special emotional pieces that make a statement, like our Dolly Embellished pearl jean.”
While Paige has perfected its bestselling stretch skinny fit, it stays at the top of the premium jean game (with more than 70 UK stockists) by continuing to introduce fresh fits and new technologies. The Milo Flare is spring 16’s new hero fit – a gentle flare that is cropped just above the ankle to show off shoes and sandals, while a new fabric, Transcend 2.0, updates the brand’s famous stretch technology by using performance fibre tech in a fashion format.
“Right now I am obsessed with our newest fabric, Transcend 2.0,” says Geller. “The innovative fabric technology that redefines the standards of softness, comfort and recovery, [the original Transcend fabric is] updated with increased stretch fibres for a more snug fit.”
020 7613 5551
Dialling up the 501: Levi’s
For many, Levi’s is the quintessential denim brand having launched back in 1853 and designed the original denim jean, the iconic 501.
Having seen the popularity of these vintage styles and classic looks rise, the heritage brand is smartly capitalising on this trend by updating its signature classics for a new breed of denim devotees that look as much to the past as the future.
For example, the new men’s and women’s 501 CT range is the latest upgrade to the brand’s original blue jean. Inspired by shoppers customising their own vintage Levi’s 501s from the classic boxy fit into a more modern, slimmer silhouette, the brand has launched the 501 CT as a tapered version with a closer fit from the knee to the ankle – appeal to shoppers by customising the iconic 501 shape so they don’t have to. Available for both men and women, the style comes in a slim, regular or relaxed version in a host of washes and colours. The collection retails from £75 to £100.
This appears alongside the new Lot 700 collection for women, inspired by the brand’s first-ever ladies’ jean, the 701, which launched in 1943. The new edit works that popular vintage look but tweaks the iconic shape, evolving it into a super-skinny (710), skinny (711), a higher-waisted high-rise skinny (721), slim (712), straight (714) and bootcut (715). And as the final update, the new Lot 700 series now features the brand’s latest stretch and recovery fabric, blending Levi’s heritage with modern tech innovations and retailing from £65 to £100.
00800 53847 501
Asian takeaways: Wåven
Having launched for autumn 14, London-based men’s and women’s brand Wåven has quickly carved a niche (and attracted more than 120 UK stockists) thanks to its short-order approach to affordable yet trend-focused youthful denim – new accounts can order in season and the brand’s latest fashion-forward product will be delivered within 48 hours.
“People are definitely looking for more than just a basic jean [nowadays], they want price, quality and fashion. We saw a gap in the market for a brand with contemporary premium aesthetic at this accessible price point,” explains Wåven founder Anika Islam. “We realised we needed to cater to a short, trend-driven time lead before our competitors could.”
For spring 16, the brand has focused on the trend for all thing Japanese. An Asian influence appears across key pieces such as the top-stitched, tie-front unisex kimono jacket, a women’s back-tie smock top and the launch of raw selvedge denim for men. Unfinished frayed hems and oversized shapes are also key, while a pale pink and crisp white are the main trend colours for both genders.
Wholesale prices range from £13 for denim shorts to £25 for loose denim jeans.
020 7739 7620
Unisex artisans: Story Manufacturing
There is a growing trend for beautifully crafted British denim brands, and new unisex label Story Manufacturing is one of the standouts of this movement.
The London brand launches its first full 19-piece collection for spring 16 – to be stocked at the likes of LN-CC and Other/shop in London, and Open as Usual in Brighton – and is full of vintage-inspired shapes and artisanal finishes. For example, all fabrics are gently dyed using natural plant dyes, such as a “drunken indigo” that includes whiskey to awaken the bacteria, while fabrics are largely handwoven to create a soft feel. Even buttons are made from natural corozo nuts or copper. Jeans wholesale for £100, while shirts start at £55 and jackets go up to £130.
“The brand is unisex simply because that is our approach to style. There’s such a bounty of amazing shapes out there – why limit their reach by labelling them,” says co-founder Katy Rutherford. “The processes we use encourage unique fabric character, interesting textures and a beautiful array of colours that are kind to both the makers and customers too.”