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Drapers Denim Report: buyers' current favourites and future predictions

Buyers discuss the state of play in today’s denim market and reveal their trend tips for autumn 17.

 

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Alice Duggan Head of buying, Debenhams

How has your denim business evolved over the last few years?
We’ve put in place a category buying team, supported by denim experts to make sure we have the best in class denim offer. We’re now offering compelling prices on some of the best fabric bases available in the market today.

How important is it for the business?
Denim is key to our offer. As a mix of our total business, it is roughly 10%.

How are you evolving your denim selection from one season to the next?
We continue to look for new fabric technologies and finishings to further enhance our offer. We’re loving the CoolMax/HeatMax technology that cools you down or warms you up as the fibres react to your body temperature. There is also loads going on with different denim finishings, raw hems, patchworking, seam details and rips, driven by directional brands such as Vetements. There is also lots of variety in shape. The high-waisted straight-leg “mom” jean, the wide-leg crop, and the kick crop.

What’s driving the denim market at the moment?
Skinny and slim-leg jeans drive the sales, but there is so much more variety now people are getting braver with their denim and having a lot more fun with it. We have had great success with embroidered jeans.

Have there been any major changes?
We have seen bootcut sales decline hugely.

Which brands are getting it right?
At the premium end of the market we love MIH and we’re keeping our eye on what Vetements will do next.

Which brands are you backing for autumn 17?
Levi’s, Nine by Savannah Miller and Red Herring Denim.

Retail prices for jeans at Debenhams range from £20 to £130

 

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Jessica Oldfield Junior buyer denim, River Island

How important is denim for the business?
Our denim zone in stores has created a go-to destination for shoppers and this has been integral for River Island as a brand and business. The denim department has grown significantly, and there is a greater focus on trend-led pieces. 

How are you evolving your denim selection from one season to the next?
We work with the most innovative suppliers and fabric mills and they are always pushing for the next new fabric, shape or detail. We are always challenging ourselves and reacting to the latest trends for our customer.

What’s driving the denim market at the moment?
The resurgence of the 1990s trend has definitely brought more focus on denim. From new shapes, customising, embellishment and new wash techniques have changed the basic five pocket blue jean into a statement piece itself. There is also the separates trend, where skirts and denim jackets are becoming an increasing staple in shoppers’ wardrobes.

Have there been any major changes?
Sourcing has become a challenge as conflict in our key production countries has resulted in less travel.

Which styles are doing well and what are customers buying into?
We are seeing more of an appetite for the true authentic looking five pocket jean, in addition to the super skinny. Our customer is also buying into new relaxed and looser fits.

What do you see happening in the market over the next 12 months?
We see it going from strength to strength as denim is being pushed by high end brands and is increasingly being shown on catwalk shows.

Retail prices for jeans at River Island range from £35 to £65 

 

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Anita Barr Group fashion director, Harvey Nichols

How has your denim business evolved over the last few years?
Denim has really evolved over the past few seasons, having been embraced by designers on the catwalks and it is becoming a lot more trend focused. Vetements has been a key player on the evolution of denim with its cropped lengths and shadow pockets. Stirrup jeans are also a key style to look out for autumn 17.

How important is it for the business?
It’s an incredibly important category for us. We expanded our denim destination two years ago because of growing demand from our customers.

How are you evolving your denim selection from one season to the next?
We are continually working with all of our brands to ensure we are hitting those key trends for the upcoming season, as well as repeating on bestselling styles and fits.

What’s driving the denim market at the moment?
The black skinny jean is still our strongest selling wash and fit as it’s universally flattering. Yet even the classic skinny jean is getting an update with brands reinventing the style with raw cropped hems, super stretch fabrications, coated finishes or sculpting technologies. We have also seen a huge revival of leather pants – customers are willing to invest in these styles.

Which styles are doing well and what are customers buying into?
Girlfriend jeans are on the rise and taking over from the boyfriend fit. They are a slimmer, more flattering version of the boyfriend cut.

Which brands are getting it right?
Our best performing labels for spring 17 are J Brand, Paige, Citizens of Humanity, Rag & Bone and Frame. They all showed amazing autumn 17 collections, and we already have waiting lists for some of the styles. 

Which brands are you backing for autumn 17?
We’re huge fans of Citizens of Humanity and Rag & Bone. Rag & Bone do amazing leather pants for a great price, and Citizens has become the unsung hero on our department for great-fitting denim in really cool washes.

What do you see happening in the market over the next 12 months?
I think we will see a trend towards a cleaner aesthetic, as seen on the runway for autumn 2017 – less focus on exaggerated distressing and deconstructed jeans. Many of the styles we have bought into for next season are the reinvention of the jean using luxe materials such as velvet or leather.

Retail prices for jeans at Harvey Nichols range from £100 to £1,753 

 

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Julie Ross Senior buyer denim, New Look

How important is denim for the business?
In recent years our denim department has evolved hugely and is a big profit driver for the business. We have also increased our market share in the UK and since our launch in China in 2014, we are experiencing brilliant reactions to our denim product over there too.

How are you evolving your denim selection from one season to the next?
Fit, variety of styles, and having those must-have denim pieces for the season is key. Last season our embroidered Au Revoir denim jacket was a sell-out success globally. On jeans, we are continuously improving the fit and each season we update our denim range with the newest washes and trends without compromising quality. Catwalk-inspired trends such as embroidery and embellishment are key to this season’s latest denim looks.

What’s driving the denim market at the moment?
We are starting to see a positive shift towards fabrics that are going back to the heritage of denim. Shoppers are buying into a wider variety of styles and washes now, too. Where once the skinny jean reigned supreme, styles such as the mom jean are now increasingly popular. New trend details such as rips and frayed hems are really key across all denim at the moment. In an average quarter we will have up to 180 denim options available to customers.

What do you see happening in the market over the next 12 months?
The main focus is ensuring we are continuously delivering newness and keeping our customers excited and engaged about their shopping experience with New Look.

Retail prices for jeans at New Look range from £17.99 to £39.99

 

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Sarah Lily Thompson Womenswear buyer - branded denim and casual, House of Fraser

How has your denim business evolved over the last few years?
Our denim business is continuously evolving. This season we launched new ready-to-wear brands Second Female and Suncoo to create a more rounded denim offer, as these brands give customers a chance to buy into a complete outfit solution. 

How important is it for the business?
It’s an important causalwear driver and remains a core part of our womenswear strategy. We focus on tailoring the edit and brand selection to our customers in each store across the country, creating a breadth and depth of choice.

How are you evolving your denim selection from one season to the next?
Customers are really savvy and help drive and focus our product selection. With a more demanding customer base, we are constantly having to look for the latest trends and technological advances in fabric to stay ahead of the competition.

What’s driving the denim market at the moment?
Customers are really looking for the best fit and product that has real longevity to it. Being exposed to widely available advice through social channels and blogs on the subtle differences in fit has really driven this as a topic.

Which styles are doing well and what are customers buying into?
The biggest trends this season are authentic denim and distressed hems. Levi’s is doing really well with the launch of its 501 skinny. Cropped flares have also been a big trend and the focus on the skinny jean has shifted into cropped and revealing hems.

Which brands are you backing for autumn 17?
For spring 17 we launched Frame denim and hope to grow this brand for the autumn season.

Retail prices for jeans at House of Fraser range from £19.99 to £350

 

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Jack Schneider Menswear buyer, Accent in Leeds

How has your denim business evolved over the last few years?
Our customers have shifted away from rigid selvedge denims and are increasingly asking for denims with a visual wash. They want jeans that offers comfort as well as style. We believe this is largely a result of the success of the Replay Hyperflex jean. We have invested in a range of denim that provides added stretch to fulfil the demands of the market. Customers are no longer happy with just a good wash – it needs to be the right fit at the right price (£110-£150) and comfortable.

How important is it for the business?
Denim has always been a core part of our business. Our denim wall is the centrepiece of our store and we are always the first point of call in Leeds for anyone wanting a pair of jeans.

How are you evolving your denim selection from one season to the next?
While we ensure we have our core styles that we know our customers loves, we also look for new, innovative washes and fabrics and special exclusive pieces. This keeps our selection fresh and offers our customers an extensive product range.

Have there been any major changes in the denim market?
We’ve seen more customers move towards a slimmer-fit jean, especially the older consumer.

Which styles are doing well and what are customers buying into?
Anything with a stretch is doing well for us. We’ve seen brands that offer a more traditional denim shift along with the demand and release softer, slimmer cuts. [cut]True Religion for example, introduced a super stretch skinny and our customers responded positively.[here]

Which brands are getting it right?
Scotch & Soda has had a few successful seasons with us recently and Replay continues to be our bestselling denim.

What do you see happening in the market over the next 12 months?
I think the trend of comfort, soft and slimmer denim is here to stay and will only go from strength to strength. The womenswear market saw a similar shift a few years ago and I believe there is scope for menswear to replicate this and the market to grow.

Retail prices for jeans at Accent range from £79.99 to £489

 

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Celia Cuthbert Head of buying, Asos

How has your denim business evolved over the last few years?
Until two years ago, denim predominantly focused around jeans but now there is so much more to it. We’re seeing great traction on denim dresses, tops, jumpsuits, coats as well as skirts, shorts and more traditional jackets.

How important is it for the business?
It is integral to our 20-somethings’ wardrobe and it drives a huge mix of sales for the business. On women’s jeans we offer 24 sizes across waist and leg lengths and for specialist departments Maternity, Curve, Petite and Tall, we offer 95 sizes across 15 waist sizes and seven leg lengths.

How are you evolving your denim selection from one season to the next?
We have a strong core business, but we are always evolving our fabrics, fits, design and pushing the direction. We always trial new leg shapes on denim to find the newest fits and trends. We’re not restrained by store space, so we can be brave with options.

What¹s driving the denim market at the moment?
For Asos, it’s all about trend. Denim is too often seen as a commodity product, but there’s so much more to it. The mini is looking strong for spring 17 in its original form but also with 1980s details and washes. We’re also punting the denim jacket as the new bomber.

Have there been any major changes?
Details are key to update our customers’ wardrobe. A new rip pattern or placement, a dishevelled hem, a shortened leg length – all have to be considered to drive newness and a reason to buy.

Which styles are doing well and what are customers buying into?
We have been seeing the skinny jean plateau in sales and the mom jean driving volume across all territories. Jackets are up an incredible 228% on last year.

Which brands are getting it right?
It’s great to see authentic denim brands like Levi’s, Lee and Wrangler going back to their heritage by reviving classic straight leg shapes. 

Which brands are you backing for autumn 17?
We are backing our authentic denim brands. Levi’s, Tommy Jeans and Wrangler have all presented really strong denim collections.

What do you see happening in the market over the next 12 months?
The trend is definitely swinging towards new shapes. The mom jean will continue to grow – it is a much more commercial shape than previously thought. We are also seeing the emergence of wider silhouettes in addition to raw and deconstructed denim. The 1980s are an incredible trend for denim, following the resurgence of larger shoulder constructions and shoulder pads as seen on the catwalk shows. This sits alongside smaller and nipped in waists and true acid washed and coloured denims. Sustainability and fabric innovation is a key focus too, something that we are really keen to experiment with and expand.

Retail prices for jeans at Asos range from £12.99 to £295

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