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The denim trends driving sales

primark spring 20 6

Buyers from top high street and online retailers share their most popular denim styles and emerging trends.

Jeans are a wardrobe’s hardest-working pieces, and a key category for retailers. The Drapers’ Covid-19 coronavirus survey found that as customers stay at home, jeans and denim were now among a retailer’s best-performing products. 

The skinny jean has reigned supreme for several seasons, and remains a crucial buy, but the 1990s influence is evident in the popularity of the high-waisted, tapered “mom” silhouette, as customers experiment with new relaxed and fashion-forward shapes.

Sustainability is also at the forefront of shoppers’ and retailers’ minds, with major brands focusing on more eco-conscious ways of producing their denim offer - from sustainably sourcing cotton to water-saving washing methods. And denim is showing its versatility with the rising popularity in other parts of the nation’s wardrobes, including dresses, jackets and even accessories.

Drapers speaks to top high street retailers on the denim that does it all.

Jamie Fraser, womenswear merchandising lead, Marks & Spencer

m&s spring 20 magic jean

Marks & Spencer spring 20 Magic Jeans

What is influencing your customers’ denim purchases?

Marks & Spencer denim is a multimillion-pound operation that serves one in 10 denim shoppers in the UK and growing. It is central to M&S’s transformation.

Denim is a staple in all of our wardrobes, and we know if we get the product right it hits a sweet spot – as perfectly fitting jeans are worn and loved by people of all ages.

Several factors influence customers purchasing decisions but fit, style and value are the three key focuses for us.

On style, I’m really proud that over the past year we’ve introduced some great new modern fits – such as the Harper – a cigarette-cut jean, as well as boyfriend, mom and culottes for summer.

Sustainability is also increasingly a customer consideration, so it’s great that the new jeans we launched this spring use less water in the washing process than conventional jeans.

What is your bestselling denim item?

Our bestselling denim product is our £15 jegging, which has been a strong performer for a number of years. The popular core colours are black and indigo mix.

In terms of traditional jeans, last year we launched our £19.50 Ivy skinny jean which is now our bestseller: more than 300,000 were purchased over the Christmas period alone (October to December).

How has denim been performing?


Marks & Spencer spring 20 Ivy Jeans

Denim has been a big focus for us over the last year, and customer response to the changes in denim has been strong. 300,000 new customers shopped the M&S’s womenswear denim offer over the Christmas period, and the number of transactions that included two or more pairs of jeans rose from 15% to 19%.

In February, we launched our denim campaign to spotlight the progress and strength of our denim business. Although we sell 15 jeans a minute we’re ranked just fourth out of the top 21 retailers when consumers are asked to name a brand for denim. In terms of emerging styles we launched a wide leg/crop cut in spring 20 which has been popular.

What do you think will be popular for spring 20?

As part of our spring denim campaign we’ve launched our Magic Jeans in womenswear – high-waisted skinnies that feature tummy-flattering technology, bi-stretch denim for superior comfort and a gap-proof waist band. For us, that will be a key jean product this season.

What do you think will be key for autumn 20?

More relaxed fits, authentic denim washes and kick flares will be key, as will coated jeans and faux leather.



Steven Andrews, head of womenswear design, Asos

asos spring 20 2

Asos Effortless Kick Flare jeans 

What is influencing your customers’ denim purchases?

Fit always comes first, and with our Asos Design jeans, we have recently based our spring 20 campaign around eight fits that will suit every customer. 

The denim team started by pulling out their favourite vintage jeans – the go-to styles that we all have in our wardrobe, and looked at the fit, fabric, wash and comfort that made them loved.

We looked at making sure the fit and washes were the exact must-haves to suit our customer, and offered these in all our ranges and fits.

What is your bestselling denim item?

Mom jeans continue to be our bestselling shape, and we have brand new washes dropping for spring 20. Including authentic red caste mid blues, to super bleached and neutrals as well as colour-pop brights.

Is there a particular style that you know will perform well, and has this changed in recent seasons?

We’ve seen a huge rise in sales of our “effortless kick flare” and “slim straight” shapes, as we see a continuation of the trend away from super-skinnies.

How has denim been performing?

asos spring 20

Asos Slim Mom jeans 

Denim is performing phenomenally well backed with our recent Asos design campaign, which led to a 65% increase in sales.

The campaign focused on the eight jean fits, and styling was clean and sleek. Key styles are the “slim mom,” “hourglass,” “effortless kick flare” and “slim straight”

Denim dresses, tops, oversize shirts and co-ords are also selling.

What do you think will be popular for spring 20?

Sustainability is at the forefront of our customer’s mind, and at Asos we continue to use recycled materials, BCI [Better Cotton Initiative] cotton and new washing innovation that supports reduction in waste and lessens our carbon footprint.

What do you think will be key for autumn 20?

We are looking at authentics in different castes/tints as colour families such as browns and greys grow in importance, supporting our key blocks to offer our customers a wider variance of wash levels on their favourite shapes.

Lucy Willans, senior jeans buyer, Topshop

topshop spring

Left Topshop Relaxed Flare jeans; right Tapered Mom jeans

What is influencing your customers’ denim purchases?

We’ve seen a resurgence of noughties and 1990s denim across social media – primarily Instagram – and we have extended our offering into eight new styles across multiple washes for the season.

What is your bestselling denim item?

Jamie [high-waisted, skinny fit jean] is Topshop’s bestselling jean, closely followed by Joni [super-high rise, spray-on skinny fit jean] We’re pleased to be offering Joni in dress and jumpsuit options in addition to the popular jean style.

Is there a particular style of jean that you know will perform well, and has this changed in recent seasons?

We are noticing an increase in demand for new leg shapes. Despite skinny jeans remaining a popular choice for our customers, the demand for looser shapes such as Straight, Dad, Relaxed Flare and Oversized Mom are gaining momentum.

What do you think will be key for autumn 20?

Autumn 20 at Topshop will see an extended range of looser leg shapes in addition to updates on our skinnier styles. Expect coated denim and vinyl, along with a bright colours and embellishment.

topshop spring 20 2

Left to right: Topshop Jamie, Joni, Mom Tapered, Straight Leg jeans

Tom Thurlow, senior buyer – denim, River Island 

river island spring 20

River Island Sid skinny jeans

What is influencing your customers’ denim purchases?

Our customers have become more emotive about their denim purchases. They’re looking for something more interesting, so for us it’s important that we land campaigns that really connect and highlight the quality and breadth of our denim with customers, inspiring them to shopwith us.

What is your bestselling denim item?

Black jeans. They’re an essential for every guy’s wardrobe. We do really well with our classic skinny style, Sid. Skinnies are now a staple and a core fit in our denim range. All ages and types of guys wear them. It’s funny to think people were once nervous of a skinny jean with stretch.

How has denim been performing?

Denim sales have remained steady for us as a business. We have pretty loyal denim consumers, so we’re always looking to continue to make improvements to the range to ensure there’s still that feel of newness for our core denim shopper, as well as for new customers who perhaps want to branch out from their usual denim brands.

What do you think will be popular for spring 20?

It sounds obvious, but lighter washes. In the spring months, our typical denim guy starts to look for jean styles away from classic black and dark indigo washes that naturally fit a winter palette. He wants fresh denim shades to kick-start the new season.

What do you think will be key for autumn 20?

We’ll see a switch back to classic black denim across fits, and more interest in shades of grey.

Grey will be stronger than recent years and become a staple in terms of washes.

I also think our consumers are looking for more of a hybrid denim which can be worn both casually or smart. We’ve had great feedback on our Dylan straight-leg fit, which is a real classic, and straight-fit denim that can be dressed casually with trainers or paired with boots for a smarter take.  

Georgina Basher, junior buyer on denim, Tu at Sainsbury’s

Tu Sainsbury's spring 20

Tu Sainsbury’s kickflare jean

What is influencing your customers’ denim purchases?

Price and quality are important to our customers, as well as ensuring we have a wide variety of fits and authentic washes available for purchase.

What is your bestselling denim item?

Our black high-waisted jeans, which cost £16.

Is there a style of jean that you know will perform well, and has this changed in recent seasons?

We’re very much starting to see the trend in denim skew towards alternative fits and fashion washes, which is really refreshing, as the skinny jean has prevailed as the frontrunner on shape for the past few seasons.

While the skinny is still our bestselling fit, we are starting to see our customers opting for slim fits, mom jeans, vintage straight and wider-leg silhouettes.

How has denim been performing?

Where we’ve seen customers favouring a slightly more eased-out fit, we’ve seen great success on our new slim-leg jeans. Similarly, our Girlfriend jean has really built momentum over the past few seasons and is now a much bigger part of our total denim offering.

We’ve already seen strong sales on newly launched lines such as the slim wide leg, one of the newest trend shapes in the market, and our denim jogger. It was the most popular style online across total clothing within its first week of launch. As a result, we have more of this style dropping later this season in a variety of new washes.

Acid-washed styles are also proving extremely popular with our customers, with the washed/aged look a continuously growing trend within the market.

What do you think will be popular for spring 20?

Where customers have been favouring slim fits in a move away from skinny, we anticipate mom jeans, vintage straights and wider-leg silhouettes to be popular this season.

What do you think will be key for autumn 20?

For autumn/winter the “barrel leg” is coming through as one of the key shapes on denim. We will be introducing this style into our ranges for the first time in easy fashion washes. The flare is also a key style going into autumn 20.


Paul Brett, menswear buyer and Barbara Leonard, womenswear head of buying, both Primark

primark spring 20

Primark Mom jeans

What is driving denim purchases with your customers?

More than ever our customers are looking to buy products made with more environmentally friendly materials, so the use of sustainable cotton and organic cotton in our denim has been a big hit. Keep an eye out in stores for our Primark Cares label in menswear and womenswear.

Since 2019, all denim made with sustainable cotton is identified with Primark Cares labels printed on grey card, which are made from recycled paper. Primark’s Sustainable Cotton Programme aims to train 160,000 farmers across China, India and Pakistan in how to produce cotton using more environmentally friendly methods.

What is your bestselling denim item?

In womenswear our bestselling item is a high-rise skinny jean – a classic in all of our regions.

This season we’ve seen customer demand for authentic denim washes increase. The customer is looking for vintage-style washes that range from light blue to washed black.

In menswear the classic black denim skinny jean is our bestselling denim item, but we are definitely seeing a move towards loose and relaxed fits.

Is there a particular style of jean that you know will perform well, and has this changed in recent seasons?

While skinnies are still key in womenswear, we have seen a shift into mom jeans and straight leg shapes. Customers are favouring a more 1990s vintage look that can take them from day to night.

In menswear there is an increase in demand for a more vintage or 1990s look to denim with open-end fabric constructions [manufacturing method reducing creasing and pilling] becoming popular again. This, combined with great authentic washes, feels really new.

How has denim been performing?

primark spring 20 5

Primark skinny-fit jeans

In menswear denim, performance continues to be strong in Primark, especially where we have introduced new improved qualities and fits.

In addition to the classic dark and rinse washes, customers are loving our new lighter green and grey casts.

The borg-lined jacket has also become a staple among our customers, and is also selling well in new greys and ecru.

What do you think will be popular for spring 20?

Spring 20 will see the return of the 1990s jean in womenswear. Key shapes will be the flare, dad jean and the wide leg – paired with a denim shirt or jacket for the ultimate double denim look.

In menswear relaxed and loose fits in 100% cotton open-end weaves [reducing creasing and pilling] are gaining ground, combined with busted knees, and rip and repair – all key for the “soft grunge” style that is key for spring 20 menswear.

What do you think will be key for autumn 20?

The catwalk-inspired 1970s flare is key for autumn 20 in womenswear – worn in deep indigo washes and pared back with a pussy-bow blouse and blazer to give our customer the ultimate 1970s look.

In menswear as streetwear cleans up we will see an increase in the popularity of raw denim and rinse washes. While the current trend for cargo and utility styling will continue to be translated into the denim menswear collection at Primark.

Lorraine Martin, head of buying, Boohoo

boohoo spring 20 lowres2

Boohoo wide-leg jeans 

What is influencing your customers’ denim purchases?

Scrolling through Instagram gives customers inspiration to try looks they haven’t before, whether it be head-to-toe denim or wearing denim in a less traditional way.

We are also pleased to offer an extensive range of denim from petite size 4 to plus size 28.

Our maternity denim performs well, as does our tall range. We offer a fully inclusive range of dresses, jumpsuits, shorts and skirts in denim, spanning a total of 34 different sizing variants.

We have launched our denim fit guide so customers can see the styles that would be most suited to their body shape, which has helped sales and increased customer confidence in buying denim online.

What is your bestselling denim item?

In terms of volume it’s the skinny jean, but we have seen some really fantastic reactions to jackets and dresses within the last 12 months, which has allowed us to expand our offer to meet customer demand.

Is there a particular style of jean that you know will perform well, and has this changed in recent seasons?

Skinny has always been our bestselling shape but within the last 12 months we have seen the mom jean grow. We will continue to expand this offer in all colours, washes and levels of distressing.

We have also introduced different fabrics for improved fit and our super-four-way stretch range is proving extremely popular.

How has denim been performing?

boohoo spring 20 lowres

Boohoo Plus high-rise jegging

It is gaining momentum every season, and we are investing in all departments within the denim category to offer the customer both basics and fashion shapes in this key fabric.

Fashion shapes are generally received very well by our customers and sell through both the winter and summer season. We have also introduced denim into our accessories and footwear ranges, denim backpacks, denim corsets, which have all seen good reactions.

What do you think will be popular for spring/summer 20?

Tonal denim and new leg shapes. It generally takes the Boohoo customer a little longer to buy into fashion trends, so we are expecting wide legs and straight legs to be popular this year.

Girls are now wearing denim for nights out with corsets and puff-sleeved tops, so we should continue to see this trend going into autumn 20.

You will see lots of newness start to drop for the festival season, including fringe and tasselling, tie dye and the trend for celestial, horoscope themes.

What do you think will be key for autumn 20?

Sustainable denim, and offering this in both basics and fashion lines. Customers are becoming a lot more conscious of how their products are sourced, and we want to grow this offer to make it easy for customers to make an informed choice.




warehouse spring 4

Warehouse skinny jean

Chinma Croft-Njku, senior denim buyer, Warehouse

What is driving denim purchases with your customers?

Denim separates, especially dresses, have become a staple within the Warehouse customer’s wardrobe. Whether in clean utility detailing with turn-back tab-detail sleeves, and belted waists, or the more voluminous tiered styles, denim dresses have helped the denim department at Warehouse to become more diverse than ever.

Denim is not just limited to traditional rigid jeans and western shirts – there is so much going on.

What is your bestselling denim item?

At the moment it’s a belted midi-dress. The clean modern nod to utility makes this smart enough to wear to work but casual enough to hang out in at the weekend.

Is there a particular style of jean that you know will perform well, and has this changed in recent seasons?

It’s funny, as it feels as if the skinny is going full circle. It dominated for so long, and then the mom jean, slim cuts and more authentic, rigid fits became the trend.

However, with the re-emergence of the legging, oversized collars, the power blazer and voluminous sleeve proportions in tops, as well chunky boots, the skinny feels more relevant than ever. 

How has denim been performing?

warehouse spring 20

Warehouse spring 20 

Jeans have been on a downward trajectory but very much offset by over-performance on skirts and as previously mentioned dresses. However, it definitely feels like we are coming out of a lull and into a denim jeans moment. We are just about to re-launch our core jeans offer, all made from sustainably sourced high-performance cotton denim. We have a high-waist skinny, slim-cut and wide-leg jean in a variety of washes.

What do you think will be popular for spring 20?

Dresses will continue to dominate at Warehouse, we have such a great offer and variety of smart casual, summer and beach wear cover up options. However, the boiler suit is one to watch – we have it in a lightweight indigo denim as well as coloured cotton options.

What do you think will be key for autumn 20?

I think the 1990s trend for minimal, clean silhouettes is only going to continue, so the black skinny will be an essential wardrobe staple. The flare/boot-cut 1990s shape, worn with a chunky boot, will also be key.

warehouse spring 20 3

Warehouse spring 20


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