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Drapers Denim Report: Wrangler on getting the best from bespoke

Janelle Hanna

Wrangler has taken a tailored approach to denim to offer women the best-fitting jean, no matter their size.

Janelle Hanna

Janelle Hanna

Wrangler women’s bottoms design consultant

“Everyone wants to talk to me about denim and the first thing they mention is fit,” says Janelle Hanna, Wrangler’s women’s bottoms design consultant, who took this insight as a starting point for a new blueprint for jeans production at the brand.

“Women are obsessed by fit and they’re fed up of jeans that end up in a charity shop after two months because of shrinking, bagging and twisting. They’ve started using words like recovery, which, as a denim designer, you never used to hear shoppers say before. I always want to make the best jean possible and it’s really exciting that consumers seem to be asking for that.”

Sporting ankle-skimming distressed boyfriend jeans, a soft grey jumper and white trainers, Hanna is visibly every inch a denim obsessive, as she runs her hands along a display of jeans hanging neatly on the wall of the brand’s east London showroom. And has the design pedigree to prove it. Following roles as denim and casualwear designer at Marks & Spencer to denim and knitwear designer at Fat Face, she moved to Wrangler in 2010 as senior denim designer. As such, she was perfectly positioned to head its Body Bespoke team, which was formed two years ago and is dedicated to developing a new flattering fit for women.

There are no gimmicky features, just a great personalised cut for each size

Whereas standard practice is to fit on a 28 inch model and then grade by formula to the smaller and larger sizes, the idea behind Body Bespoke is to give equal attention to all sizes.

“Body Bespoke was inspired by a project carried out with researchers at the University of California, who were looking to define the optimum back pocket shape for jeans,” Hanna explains. ”We discovered that the most flattering shape for a size 28 [inch waist] is not the same as for a size 31, which led us to challenge whether the uniform approach to grading is giving the same fit quality for every size.” 

With help from her head of development and her pattern maker, Hanna embarked on transforming her sketches into patterns that would offer the best possible shaping for every woman. They looked first at the prototype jeans on 3D avatar simulations, making tweaks before fitting the samples on real models across a variety of sizes. Next Hanna looked at each size individually, making subtle changes to the pocket sizing, shaping and angles to ensure the design was as sharp as possible.

Body Bespoke denim

Body Bespoke denim

Wrangler’s development team also tested fabrics from mills across Europe and Asia, analysing the effect differing degrees of stretch had on the fit. Taking all of these elements into account, the Body Bespoke process took more than 25 fittings, compared with three for a typical jean.

“It was a very long process, but it felt really good to be taking time and doing something in depth,” Hanna reflects. “There are no gimmicky features, just a great personalised cut for each size.”

A European exclusive, the collection features 14 washes from rich black to marble stonewash, six in a high-waisted slim style and eight in high-waisted skinny, in sizes 25 to 34 (wholesale £25-£34, retail £62-£85). Hanna believes the Body Bespoke process could well be extended to other cuts for future seasons. Launching into stores on May 26, the collection has been well received by buyers – House of Fraser and Arnotts are both introducing the range for autumn 16.

Compared with other sectors, there is so much technical innovation in denim

“Our female customers are extremely savvy and are always looking for new technologies, so we think they’re going to love Body Bespoke for its flattering fit,” says House of Fraser director of buying (womenswear brands) Claudia Battistel. “They’ve always been concerned with fit, although I believe [recently] they’ve been more exposed to advice on how to improve your jean fit through technological advances and recommendations from bloggers and style guides. The focus has shifted away from the skinny jeans towards alternative fits such as the bootcut. We’re looking forward to introducing Wrangler into our denim edit alongside our bestselling brands, Levi’s, Armani Jeans and J Brand.”

Arnotts buyer for contemporary womenswear Lisa Stanley believes Body Bespoke will complement women’s desire to find the perfect pair of jeans: “The range tailors all the key design features on a jean – from the pockets and seaming details – to each size. Each pocket is placed and cut accordingly to the size of the jean, giving the wearer a much better fit and overall look.

“As jeans are such a wardrobe ‘workhorse’ customers are always looking for that great fit. I think women are using denim as part of their key looks and there are so many silhouettes to choose from now from a 1970s-style flare to a tailored, clean-wash straight-leg or a cropped bootleg jean.”

Autumn 16 collection

Autumn 16 collection

Hanna typically designs 15 denim styles a season for the women’s collection in 30 different washes, from spray-on skinnies to knitted jeggings and patchwork boyfriend jeans. Wrangler will have three drops for autumn 16: the first focused on the 1970s revival, the second on indigo craft and Ikat detailing, and the third featuring a glamorous black palette ready for Christmas. All three will include Body Bespoke jeans. Hero pieces given the bespoke treatment include Wrangler’s original 1970s flare with authentic tobacco-coloured stitching and square front patch pockets, a boxy denim jacket with a shearling collar and navy corduroy patches, and jeans embroidered with a peony design stitched in indigo thread.

The team believe the trend-driven UK consumer will instantly understand the Body Bespoke concept, having been an early adopter of adventurous new washes, fits and silhouettes such as the boyfriend or high-waisted jean, which took another five years to catch on in the rest of Europe.

“I’m excited to see slim fits and straight fits having a revival, as well as the wider fits,” says Hanna, looking around the showroom. “There’s so much to play with, which is creating more vibrancy in fashion. Compared with other sectors, there is so much technical innovation in denim. It’s a very exciting time to be in the industry.”

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