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Drapers Denim Report: Sculpting jeans for the ultimate fit

Denim brands are fighting back against the rising popularity of athleisure with contouring and sculpting jeans

shaping denim resized

Shaping jeans from DL1961

Shaping jeans from DL1961

Contouring is no longer just a make-up trend – it has moved into denim. Shaping jeans, which promise to sculpt customers’ bodies with little or no effort on their part, are an increasingly important part of high street retailers’ denim offer. Classic denim brands are also inreasingly offering figure-flattering styles. Levi’s caused a stir earlier this year with the release of its “Wedgie” jeans, designed to hug hips and thighs and marketed by the brand as “the cheekiest jeans in your closet”.

The ongoing influence of athleisure, combined with the emergence of more innovative denim blends, is behind the surge in the number of retailers offering sculpting denim, says Dio Kurazawa, denim director at trend forecaster WGSN.

“Denim brands are in fear of losing consumers to what we could call ‘the Lululemon look’. Brands are focusing on an active look and consumers aren’t saying no.”

He continues: “When we look at the denim market right now, we have to discuss the fabric blends. We’re seeing lots of Tencel blends with linen, wool blends with hemp and Egyptian cotton, which makes the fabric very soft and supple, but still looks like denim rather than jeggings.”

Shoppers are expecting more from their jeans. They want to look stylish but also expect comfort

Julie Donnelly, group buying director, Simply Be

Plus-size retailer Simply Be has reinvented its shaping denim offer for 2016 with improved fabrics, combining the multi-directional stretch denim and tummy control panels used in previous styles to create its Shape & Sculpt range, which went on sale in July.

Group buying director Julie Donnelly says she expects the trend for sculpting denim to continue: “As technology progresses, more technically advanced denim is becoming readily available on the high street. Shoppers are expecting more from their jeans. They want to look stylish but also expect comfort, and that is dictating the market.”

Vanessa Spence, womenswear design director at Asos, says that, although denim trends are changing, sculpting jeans continue to appeal to consumers still looking for the perfect skinny jean: “While trend-wise leg shapes are moving more towards relaxed styles, straight legs and baggy silhouettes, skinny styles are still popular. The Asos Sculpt Me jean is for the customer looking for the ultimate skinny jean.”

Alongside new blends of denim, brands are also rethinking how jeans should fit and paying closer attention to the fine details to give customers a sculpted look.

You don’t need to be a certain size or shape to see the benefits of these qualities

Sarah Ahmed, creative director of premium denim brand DL1961

“Everything from the pocket placement to how we tighten and lift the jean at different points in the butt or waist is designed to sculpt the body,” says Sarah Ahmed, creative director of premium denim brand DL1961. “You don’t need to be a certain size or shape to see the benefits of these qualities and that’s why the formula has been such a success.”

Recovery position

Denim that promises to sculpt the wearer’s body might so far have been concentrated in womenswear, but brands are also looking at denim that can retain shape for men. American denim brand Wrangler launched its Extra Stretch range for autumn 16. It is designed to be stretched as customers move and then spring back into shape without baggy knees or waistbands.

extra stretch product shot

Extra Stretch

Wrangler Extra Stretch

“High-stretch, high-elasticity fabric tend to have a springy, rubbery effect that is often used in super-skinny jeans at the cheaper end of the market,” says Sean Gormley, creative director at Wrangler for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “We wanted a more robust fabric with an unexpected high elasticity.”

With customers expecting more than ever from their jeans, it looks like sculpting is here to stay. 


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