Drapers speaks to some of the UK’s biggest high street names to find out the latest trends and innovations that are shaping the denim of the future.
Mo Riach, head of design
This season is all about new fits. We’ve got such a rich history of well-loved shapes – including the Baxter, the Jamie and Joni – so it’s always really exciting to develop new fits for our customers. We’ve already launched the “Wide” and the “New Boyfriend” [a mid-rise, straight leg in rigid denim] for spring 18.
We are finding our customers want more variety in terms of fit. There’s definitely still a place for the skinny jean, but it’s no longer enough to have just one silhouette in your wardrobe.
We recently introduced half-sizes in denim. We’d heard that some people felt that they were in between sizes, so to offer them the perfect fit, we decided to try out half-sizes. The initial reaction has been positive.
Customers are really buying into the sports trend at the moment, so our side-stripe denim pieces are selling really well. To cope with the high demand in this area, we are offering side-stripes across a range of different shapes and in multiple colourways and prints, including embellished and leopard print options.
We work closely with the world’s best denim mills to offer our customers innovative fabrics. For example, we’re working hard at the moment to improve the way the jeans spring back into shape after they’ve been worn.
Rachel Morgans, buying director, Topman
We’re working on a number of vintage indigo styles and are experimenting with greyed-off casts [shades] to create the most authentic look and feel. We’re also really excited about the fabrics we’ve developed for our high stretch Spray-On fits. Innovative engineering means we can offer a super slim fit, while still maintaining the look of a jean rather than a jegging.
Skinny jeans have long been the best-selling fit at Topman, but recently we’ve seen a real shift and a new customer is emerging that favours a looser fit. They are really feeling the 1990s, so this season our classic 1990s grey washes have been extremely popular across all our fits.
Street style is always a huge inspiration for us as a design team, and it’s something that our customers identify with. We also see the Topman customer looking to all elements of popular culture for inspiration, from music through to art and sport.
Nick Eley, Asos head of design, and Vanessa Spence, Asos design director
This season we are producing more recycled and sustainable yarns. For spring 18, the majority of our range uses sustainable cottons: recycled, Better Cotton Initiative, or cotton made in Africa. We are always looking to increase this by switching our denim to sustainable or eco-friendly yarns.
Trend-wise, for womenswear we’re really excited about authentic dark, raw, and untreated indigo denim across jeans and denim dressing. Expect to see those rich raw blues in a super cool straight leg, a contemporary wide leg, a spray-on skinny fit and a three-piece tailored indigo look. We have also seen some fantastic reactions on retro straight-leg fits and balloon shapes.
Our customer still loves our hero styles such as the Asos Design Ridley skinny jean and our Asos Design Farleigh slim mom jean, but we are seeing more and more sales coming through from wider-leg silhouettes and straight legs.
In menswear we are pushing our fit portfolio. For too long now the focus has been on skinny silhouettes and we are playing with volumes and proportions to offer a wider range. Rigid denims are also becoming a larger part of the range.
The extreme skinny fits are still popular and we are also seeing more traction on our anti-fit drop crotch shape. Our Skater fit is also picking up and side stripes are also doing well – the whole sportswear hybrid look is so huge at the moment.
We are seeing a lot of denim workwear for menswear and womenswear. Everything from reproductions of classic styles to more contemporary interpretations playing with colour and pocket proportions and placements.
The past few seasons have produced a lot of extreme rips and washing, which we are seeing drop off a little for a cleaner denim with minimal abrasions and washing. Shape-wise we are seeing a lot more demand for straight, relaxed, wide and tapered leg shapes.
Joel Clark, junior menswear buyer
We’re focusing on mixing denim with 1990s detailing – incorporating sportswear taping details, cargo references and popper hems into our range for a retro nostalgic feel. We’re also looking to expand our keys fits and introduce a loose skater fit so that we really capture the grunge 1990s element.
We had a great reaction to the denim in our premium range, so we are excited to push the boundaries on this. We really want to explore heavy embroidery, stud embellishment and party denim, while looking at coated, waxed or technical fabrics for the base.
Our customer loves a core jean with a fashion twist: ripped knees, distressing and hem details have all been big for us this past year. Let-down hems with wash effects and a ripped knee was the winning combination for autumn 17 – it’s a really commercial way for our customer to trial fashion without it being too scary.
Heavily distressed denim, all-over rips and open rips have still been a really positive trend for us, too, and we’ve seen this carry forward really well into festival season.
Our customer has really bought into printed denim: graffiti prints, paint splatters and hem prints have sold well, tying back to the customised denim trend and 1990s grunge.
We’re seeing a shift to fashion styles and statement pieces. Customers are willing to invest more in something that has a more thoughtful approach to design and quality. We can sell a core black jean day in, day out, but the customer is really looking for styles that stand out from the rest of the market.
There’s also been a huge shift towards eco and vintage dressing – buying better rather than bigger. I don’t think it will be too long before our customer starts to buy into this. At the minute I don’t think it’s completely on his radar, and fashionability is more important than sustainability, but it will be interesting to see recycling or upcycling plays a part in how we move forward with denim.
House of Fraser menswear
Helen Rocke, assistant buyer for HoF’s new men’s denim brand, Criminal
Slim fits have always been a best seller for HoF, but we have looked into other key shapes in the industry to offer choice to the Criminal customer.
There has been an influx of volume on the catwalks, and we are also seeing this in denim – with the emergence of the classic 1950s fit. Our straight fit has all the elements of this, and the distinctive turn up and slightly roomier fit provide comfort and flexibility. That said, the skinny fit is not going away. The skinny fit from Criminal is not typically tight, but offers a jean that is tapered from the thigh down to the ankle for a more contemporary look.
James Malysz, head of buying and merchandising
We are getting some really great reactions to our trials across colours, shapes and additional detailing – from sports stripes to increasingly distressed details. We also have some new co-ords and colours coming through for summer that are really fresh.
There is always going to be a core offer of everyday denim at entry prices, but we are seeing no price resistance for key pieces in denim. [Denim] is a staple but is increasingly becoming a day-to-night product, meaning it’s got to be really versatile. People are willing to spend money on such products.
To set ourselves apart in the market, we have to ensure we have a wide offer with something for everyone. We take wider trends and apply them quickly to all areas, including denim. As a young, growing brand this is what’s allowed us to get an edge.
River Island menswear
Nick Tahir, head of menswear buying
Our focus with denim is always on quality, fit and wash. We have seen great success on the skinny silhouettes through to the spray-on. We have introduced standard and tapered fits for spring, along with 1990s wash levels, including stone wash, blue rinse and white denim.
Shapes are becoming looser and more cropped. We are still getting strong customer reactions to skinny fits and distressed denim; however, shopping habits are beginning to lean more and more towards these looser fits, in 1990s mid and light washes.
Historically, the River Island menswear consumer has been very loyal and knows what he wants. For a long time, this was all about those skinny and super skinny fits. Our new standard and tapered fits are building momentum though, along with cleaner wash techniques.
As online and mobile shopping becomes more prevalent, men are becoming increasingly savvy to what’s available in denim, so we need to continue to offer the best quality in the mid-priced market to compete with our high street peers.
River Island womenswear
Helen Martin, senior designer for ladies denim
We’ve had great success on our denim separate styles [such as denim jackets and skirts] which is continuing to build momentum. Additionally, we are launching a new premium capsule range this spring, where we are looking at new fashion fits for jeans in premium Italian and Turkish fabrics.
Our Molly jegging is our customer’s favourite go to-jean, thanks to its great fit, quality of fabric and competitive price. However, recently our customer has been loving the embellishment and fashion details we’ve added to our core blocks. In January we launched a range of non-super skinny fits, but the River Island girl still loves and trusts our super skinny styles and doesn’t seem to be moving away from this fit any time soon.
Our customers want constant newness, whether it be details added to our best-selling styles or new casts and washing techniques. She is constantly looking for the next big thing, with the personality unique to River Island, rather than just a five-pocket jean with a lovely wash.
To set ourselves apart, our denim range has a boutique, broad appeal to it. We always ensure we have the best fabric quality, attention to detail, high execution of product and considered branding. We are on the pulse of all the latest trends to fulfil the customer’s appetite for newness.
Rebecca Clarke, head of design
Fit is always at the forefront when we are developing the denim range. Diversity is the name of the game, and we aim to have the perfect jean for every body shape - we cater from size four to 26 through our petite, plus-size, and main collections. We are constantly innovating and have more than 14 shapes in fabrics ranging from authentic vintage fabrics to super-soft stretch bases.
Waist details are here to stay into spring 19. Washes in our staple shapes are also getting exciting for the new season, and we scour the globe to find the best authentic vintage washes, which we develop direct with the laundry.
Our ”Vintage Mom”’ style has reigned queen season in, season out. It is a high-waisted, relaxed fitting denim, which we offer in a range of washes, and is being worn as an alternative to the skinny jean.
Our consumers are becoming more adventurous within their classic denim choices. It’s not just about the skinny jean anymore and she is looking for variation in everyday shapes. We are seeing a shift towards our straight leg shapes in both rigid and comfort stretch bases.