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Drapers Denim Report: retailers' bestselling denim trends

Buyers discuss the state of play in today’s denim market and reveal their trend tips for spring 16.

A long-established staple for many retailers’ seasonal buy, denim is enjoying a resurgence in 2015, thanks to its dominance on the spring 16 catwalks of high-end designers such as Victoria Beckham, Marc Jacobs and 3.1 Phillip Lim.

Super-stretch technology is driving the market, as the comfortable and easy-to-wear skinny jean remains the style of choice for most shoppers. However, the 1970s wave has heralded the return of the flare, culottes and patchwork styles.

Drapers speaks to industry insiders about their take on market trends and buying preferences.

Martin Schneider owner of Leeds premium independent Accent

Martin Schneider owner of Leeds premium independent Accent

Martin Schneider, owner of Leeds premium independent Accent

How important is denim for the business?

Denim has always been a huge part of our business since the 1980s. We do a lot of classic and more trend-led jeans and we do it well – we have customers who come back year after year as they know they will leave happy. We have a dozen pure denim brands, such as Replay, Denham and Nudie and some have up to 15 different styles and washes. It is our biggest category and makes up around 25% of our sales both online and in-store.

What are your bestselling styles or brands?

Replay is our best-performing brand and we’ve worked with them since we opened 31 years ago. They have the right washes and fits for our customers, who tend to be men and women aged 25 to 50. Their Anbass Hyperflex jean at £145 is our bestseller – we have sold more than 1,000 pairs since Christmas. It is slim fit and super-stretchy, so very comfortable.

What is driving the denim market?

For us it’s all about stretch and comfort. Women’s jeans have been ahead of men’s on this for years but menswear is catching up. The new stretch fabrics give comfort and look great. All the brands are doing them now.

Vanessa Spence, womenswear design director at Asos

Vanessa Spence, womenswear design director at Asos

Vanessa Spence, womenswear design director at Asos

 

How has the business’s denim focus evolved?

Asos is known for its dresses but has been really focusing on its denim offer over the last couple of years and it is becoming a key focus for us. [She declined to indicate what percentage of sales denim now comprises].

What are your bestselling styles?

It’s still all about the skinny jean for the Asos shopper both on own-buy and branded. Flares will come through eventually, but it will be a slow burner as we’ve all been wearing skinny jeans for the last 15 years. The 1970s trend is still strong for autumn 15 and through to spring, so we will see the flare popping up in different guises, like the cropped length or culottes-style flare. They are easier to wear, as you can combine them with an ankle boot and you don’t have to worry about the length.

Which trends are working well?

A smarter take on denim is key for Asos this season. It’s about more than just jeans. It’s button-up A-line skirts, denim jumpsuits, tailored blazers – a much cleaner look overall.

Which brands are selling well?

We have 40 denim brands. Scandinavian brands do really well for us. Bestsellers include Cheap Monday, Dr Denim and MIH.

What is driving the denim market?

New fabric technology is really driving the market with high-stretch jeans a must-have for our shoppers. It’s also exciting that designers are using denim on the catwalk again. For the last four or five seasons you wouldn’t have seen denim in the big shows but the high-end designers like Victoria Beckham are using denim again and, of course, all retailers take inspiration from that, so it will filter down next season.

Marques Almeida at Harvey Nichols Blue Frayed denim dress

Marques Almeida at Harvey Nichols Blue Frayed denim dress

Ali Chisholm, womenswear buyer at Harvey Nichols

 

How important is denim for the business?

The denim business has been growing season after season. We expanded our denim business by 30% with the unveiling of the Denim Gallery in 2014, which covers 1,000 sq ft on the third floor at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge, collating all the brands into one designated area. There is also a Jeans Therapy Service, where shoppers can get independent advice on what fit and brand suits them best. 

What are your bestselling denim brands?

We have a number of successful brands across our stores, but most significantly we have seen Paige Denim overtake J Brand this spring to become the best performer regionally. However, relative newcomer, LA-based Frame Denim is our brand to watch. We have doubled our spend and pushed the brand out to the regional doors. Frame Denim has a strong fashion thread running through its collections and their core styles, such as the skinny ripped Le Color Bandage [£190], are bestsellers.

What trends or styles are working well?

The trend that has surprised us is flares – the Harvey Nichols customer is very loyal to their skinny jeans, so to see this really take off shows how the denim category is moving on. The wide-leg jean is also very popular and, given that the 1970s trend is carrying through into spring next year, customers are embracing these styles. For the fashion focused, the patchwork trend is coming through as a micro-trend demonstrated by US brand Discount Universe and we are seeing the Levi’s 501 shape having a comeback.

How do you see it changing over the next year or two?

We will see a move away from traditional denim styles, with brands experimenting with finishes such as frayed hems. Culottes will be a big silhouette from Paige and Frame through to big international brands. Waistbands will be raised from low to mid-rise, which is already becoming more favourable. Embellishment is key for spring 16 with embroidered and appliqué styles coming from Marc Jacobs, 3.1 Phillip Lim and Victoria Beckham.

Denim Studio at Selfridges

Denim Studio at Selfridges

Sarah Cartwright, denim buyer at Selfridges

How has the business’s denim focus evolved?

Denim has evolved hugely over the last few seasons, both in terms of fabrication and shape, influenced by catwalk brands such as Chloé, Christopher Kane and Victoria Beckham.

It has become more trend driven as customers experiment with new fits, such as flares, jumpsuits and overalls, and now want to create a complete lifestyle look with brands such as MIH and Frame). We have adapted to this change over the last six months and now integrate full clothing collections within all key brands in the Denim Studio.

Which are your bestselling denim brands?

J Brand, Paige, MIH and Frame

Which trends are working well?

For us it’s 1970s-style denim, military, frayed denim, velvet and patchwork denim.

How many denim brands do you stock?

There are 35 denim labels in the Denim Studio including Levi’s, Lee, J Brand, Hudson and Paige.

What is driving the denim market?

Flares, high-rise skinnies and new fabrications such as serious black from J Brand, which features fade-resistant technology.

How do you see it changing over the next year or two?

The 1970s trend has massively influenced denim this season, so I think this will continue into the first part of next year. It will be less about the skinny jean and more of a focus on new shapes like flares, cropped and culottes.

Donna Ida Thornton

Donna Ida Thornton

Donna Ida Thornton, owner of two Donna Ida boutiques

 

How important is denim for the business?

Denim is crucial to Donna Ida and accounts for 50% of our buy. The rest is made up of tops, jackets and accessories to complement the denim range.

What are your bestselling denim styles?

Our bestselling style is the IDA Jeanie – a high-rise cigarette that comes in classic shades. Skinnies like the high-rise IDA Ivy Skinny and IDA Rizzo High Top Ankle Skinny are also popular among consumers. Fashionistas are looking to 1970s-inspired cropped styles and cool flares from Paige.

How many denim brands do you stock?

In total 10, spanning IDA, J Brand, Frame Denim, R13, James Jeans, Goldsign, Current/Elliott, Re/Done, Paige and Mother Denim.

What is driving the market?

Two things are driving the denim market, fashion and necessity. Fashion trends are constantly evolving and creating new dynamic shapes, modern washes and cool ways to wear. Denim is also a staple item – we wear it every day, so consumers are always on the hunt for a good pair of classic jeans that fit perfectly and will last for years to come.

River Island autumn 15

River Island autumn 15

Susan Higgins, senior denim buyer at River Island

 

How has the business’s denim focus evolved?

We really began to focus on our denim around four seasons ago when we started to see innovative super-stretch fabric technology. Our key focus has remained: to give the customer the best-performing fabric, with great fit and on-trend washes. Our prices slightly increased over the last four seasons [high-waisted Molly jeggings, for example, went from £30 to £40] to reflect this new premium offer. The price range is now £35 to £60 on both men’s and women’s, and over time, thanks to the success of the range, denim has now become our core offer.

How important is denim for the business?

Denim drives 10% of our womenswear business. Denim destinations in store are a real focal point for the brand.

What are your bestselling denim styles?

Currently super-skinnies are hugely popular but we are also having good reaction to denim separates.

Which trends are working well?

High-waisted jeans will continue to grow into spring 16.

What is driving the market?

Superskinny jeans are still the main driver but we have clocked the new straighter styles selling for autumn 15.

How do you see it changing over the next year or two?

The trend for sportswear has started to have an influence on some of the denim fabrics so we are expecting a demand for stretchier and more comfortable fabrics.

Jack and Jones store

Jack and Jones store

Richard Sugden, UK sales manager at Jack & Jones

 

At Jack & Jones denim is our DNA, the foundation of our brand and is the corner stone of everything we do. Knitted and super-stretch fabrics have performed well so far this autumn and we expect this to continue into spring. Trend-wise cropped, knee-cut and biker styles will still be relevant for spring 16.The future of denim is all about sustainability and innovation with respect for tradition.

New Look autumn 15

New Look autumn 15

Steven Andrews, head of design for denim, wovens, brands and core buying at New Look

How important is denim for the business?

Within the UK denim market New Look is ranked number one for value and number two for volume by retail consultancy Kantar. We have focused our denim range over the last couple of years to deliver to our customer a consistency across fit and fabric quality, and streamlined styling. We are now offering a breadth of leg lengths to increase customer loyalty. We are also working to deliver clarity of our offer through marketing and refreshing our collection in terms of new shapes and washes.

Which are your bestselling denim styles?

Our bestselling lines include the skinny and higher rises, with each silhouette complementing a variety of shape profiles. Black, charcoal and grey washes are working well through autumn, as well as indigos in rip-and-repair and vintage washes. Denim skirts, dresses and tops are working well as the trend for denim separates continues to grow.

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