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The high street's denim bestsellers

Asos denim index

Drapers speaks to some of the UK’s biggest high street and online retailers to reveal the consumer trends, key pieces and new directions driving denim sales.


Lynne Walker, director of buying, menswear, Primark

Prinmark denim menswear (1)


What is your bestselling denim item?

The black ripped skinny jean is our bestselling denim item across all markets. We offer this style in a variety of colours and washes, including a bright blue and lavender grey, but black is the most popular. Even as the trend in denim moves towards cleaner washes and the silhouette becomes more relaxed, we don’t see this grungy menswear staple going anywhere soon.

Do you think customers will ever move away from skinny fits?

The skinny jean is still the most popular fit but we are seeing a move towards slim and relaxed fits. Jeans are worn cropped or rolled up more and more, and the newer silhouettes are very popular, especially when paired with chunky dad trainers or brogues.

How has denim been performing?

We are very pleased with the performance of denim, especially across skinny and slim fits. In addition to the classic dark and rinse washes, customers are enjoying the new greencast [a vivid green], grey and vintage washes too.

The denim trucker jacket has also proved very popular. It’s a versatile piece, and can be layered under outerwear or simply worn oversized.

Double denim continues to be a hit, particularly when worn in contrasting washes or colours.

What do you predict will be popular for spring 19?

There is definitely a growing trend for 1990s-inspired vintage or original fit denim. The season’s look is very vintage inspired. The hallmark of this trend is the slim and tapered fit, waistlines are slightly higher, and the denim is pared back with minimal detailing. Key washes are 1990s stonewash and dark rinse wash.

What is key for denim looking to autumn 19?

Cleaner rinse washes and raw denim will be key for the coming season – denim shades that work well with “normcore” staples and the dad trend.


Nick Eley, head of menswear design, Asos

Asos 1365374 bl1 model 1


What is driving denim purchases with your customers?

Digital influencers, celebrities and catwalks are a big source of style inspiration for our Asos guy, including designer brands such as Vetements, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent and Versace for more trend-led pieces. However, we have a really varied customer profile within the twentysomethings, ranging from a price-sensitive guy, who goes for our entry-price-point basic skinny jean, to a very trend-led customer, who will pay the exit price of £40 for a snakeskin-printed jean.

What is your bestselling denim item?

The £25 black skinny jean is still, by far, our bestselling denim piece – it is still a wardrobe staple and this reflects in the sales it takes each week, and still with significant growth. We have recently upgraded the fabric. They now have more stretch for comfort and 20% recycled cotton, while the remainder is BCI (Better Cotton Initiative), in line with our Fashion With Integrity values, giving that staple item even more of a unique selling point.

Do you think customers will ever move away from skinny fit?

The skinnier fits are still the most popular and take 60% of all the sales in denim, which includes extreme super-skinny, super-skinny, skinny and spray on. It’s clear our customer isn’t quite ready to move away from it.

How has denim been performing recently?

Denim has had a great autumn 18 season, and we have seen some great success in our fashion segment such as animal prints, new washes such as greencast, which is an intense green shade, zip detailing, and cut-and-sew panelling.

On top of that we have seen great new reactions within new fits that we have launched, such as the high-waist jean, which captures that 1990s look, the carrot-fit jean, which we’ve seen great success in European territories, as well as denim dungarees and a wider-legged shape.

What do you predict will be popular for spring 19?

Brave coloured jeans, including yellows, pinks and greens, acid washes, and acid-wash over-dyed styles and printed jeans. There will also be lots of grey washes and classic fits on rigid bases for an authentic look. We are expanding our high-waisted offering, and open-knee ripped jeans are making a comeback.

What is key for denim looking forward to autumn 19?

We’re backing fake leather jeans.



Paula Bonham-Carter, head of buying, Marks & Spencer

What is driving denim purchases with your customers?

We are flying on denim at the moment. We have the biggest denim market share on the high street. Over the last 52 weeks we have sold 5.2 million pairs of jeans, which is equivalent to 10 pairs of jeans every minute. They are flying out.

The denim-focused campaign with Holly Willoughby [below] has really built momentum as well, and it has been well received by new and old customers. We’ve absolutely attracted new customers off the back of it.

The range is also pretty broad. We have one of the widest sizing ranges on the high street. All denim is available in sizes 6 to 24, and within every single size there are three leg lengths, which really makes us stand out. In some of our petite and curve denim ranges, sizes go from 6 to 32, and all our denim is BCI (Better Cotton Initiative), which adds to the appeal.

Marks and spencer (5)

What is your bestselling denim item?

In terms of numbers, two or three months ago, our most popular style was the £15 skinny denim jegging in black and indigo, but since we launched the new “best ever fit” campaign, which is slightly more expensive at £19.50, these three new styles are starting to take the number one position. We have a skinny called Ivy, a slim called Lily and a straight fit called Sienna, each available in four washes and in a new super-soft fabric.

We have also named our denim for the first time, because we have found it helps with repeat purchases, particularly online when you can just search for the fit by name.

In terms of the quickest sell-through, we are also selling lots of our new denim dress and boiler suit.

Do you think customers will ever move away from skinny fits?

We have a lot of debates on skinny. Sixty per cent of sales are skinny and it is still growing, so it isn’t going anywhere. But we are seeing movement into the slim leg, which is a little more relaxed. It’s moving, but in terms of numbers, the skinny will always be the winner.

What do you predict will be popular for spring 19?

For spring 19, authenticity is our biggest message, in a more vintage vibe: vintage fabrics, a more washed-out look, more abrasions, more rip-and-repair details, as well as more relaxed fits, straighter fits and ankle grazers.

What we try to do is take our bestsellers and then apply new trend processes to something we know the customer loves. That is how we find the winners: taking the known sellers but giving our customer something new and different.

We’re already seeing lots of sales in white and ecru, as well as lighter, more washed-out colours. The trend for a natural look, and head-to-toe tonal dressing, is doing really well.

Denim shorts are getting stronger, and the longer short is coming through. We now have denim shorts in three leg lengths: short short, boyfriend and the new Bermuda, as well as dresses, boiler suits and denim mini-skirts.

What is key for denim looking forward to autumn 19?

The sustainability message is prevalent. Yes, we already use BCI cotton, but there will be more to add to that that I can’t discuss yet.

We will be offering a broader breadth across the wash profiles, focusing on new blue-blacks and grey tints.

On fits, we think it will just become more relaxed, as the ankle grazer and the relaxed look is getting stronger. There is also lots of talk about wider leg, but that is a bit trickier with our customer.

Something building for us as well is slimming, sculpting and shaping denim, and how to really enhance the fit and the customer’s silhouette. through to denim tech and fit.


Helen Martin, senior designer, ladies denim, River Island

River island mom jeans

River Island

What is driving denim purchases with your customers?

Newness in shapes and variety of wash seem to be driving purchases. Our customer is excited by our new fits, including our new Kaia jean, which is a high-waist skinny fit, competitively priced at £35.

What is your bestselling denim item?

Our Molly black mid-rise jegging (£36) is our bestseller. It is a style staple for our customer, who can dress it up or down.

Do you think customers will ever move away from skinny fits?

Our super-skinny styles are still our signature fits: the ones our customer knows and keeps coming back for season after season, so I can’t see her not wanting this any time soon. However, we are having a great reaction to our non-super-skinny fashion styles such as our mom jeans, our straight legs and paper-bag waists, which are all looser fits. We are seeing great growth within this area.

How has denim been performing generally?

Our two new high-rise super-skinny styles, Kaia (£35) and Hailey (£40-£50), have been doing well. Kaia is a high-waisted disco jean without pockets that pulls you in, while Hailey is our high-rise jean in high-stretch open-weave authentic looking fabrications, which comes in options of zip fly and exposed button fly for a flattering silhouette. It’s also our entry-price jean. Our non-skinny shapes, such as the mom, straight and paper-bag in authentic washes and treatments, are also successful, while denim separates such as skirts, dresses and jumpsuits are also doing well for the business.

What do you predict will be popular for spring 19?

Utility is evolving into such a popular trend, so our denim items with utility styling will be key, from cargo skirts to jeans and jumpsuits in authentic washes and a mix of colours.

I hold high hopes for our non-super skinny fits to continue to grow, especially the straight and the tapered paper-bag styles.

What is key for denim looking forward to autumn 19?

Authentic fabrics and washing techniques are still really important going into autumn 19 for all our denim styles, but in contrast we are really excited looking at non-denim fabrications, especially [new] coatings in our jean styles.


Janine Smith, head of buying, Boohoo

What is driving denim purchases with your customers?

Of course, jeans will always be a driving category, but over the last few months we are getting a new lease of life into the category. Sales of new trend shapes such as boiler suits, romper-style playsuits and dresses are all gaining momentum. We are seeing lots of smock dressing and off-the-shoulder styling coming through, and are planning a big range for summer in all colours to sit within our denim trends.

Also, any success that we see in the main clothing departments of the business, we translate quickly into denim to land a fresh denim package weeks later.

We have also seen some great success in the bum-enhancing jean following celebrity and social media trends. The first package we landed sold out immediately, so we are building on this for fast turnaround and will include the bum enhancer in all our best washes and colours, and make it a staple of our range. 

What is your bestselling denim item?

The skinny jean is not going away. It’s a wardrobe staple but we will continue to update with new colours, fabrics, trims and improvements constantly. The black power stretch high rise skinny jean is our bestseller. We initially put a small range down on this new stretch fabric and it sold out within days, so we built this power-stretch range. It is now the cash-driving jean in the department, priced at £25.

Do you think customers will ever move away from skinny fits?

They continue to lead the way within the jeans category. Continually evolving this shape with a choice of rises, leg lengths and fabrications is key to its success. Throughout the year we see trends in shapes peak – for instance, mom jeans sales spike in summer months around festival season, and boyfriend jeans pick up at the beginning of the year, when the consumers are buying more casual athleisure products. There are also styles we continually trial each season and don’t get any bite from our customers – the flare is one of these items.

Boohoo denim (1) cmyk


How has denim been performing?

Skinny continues to be the cash driver, followed by mom jeans, which is a high-waist rigid-fit tapered leg, as well as skirts, dresses and jackets with borg trims. Whereas once upon a time we would have seen these shapes historically drop off after the summer months, we continued to see strong sales performance through the winter months.

What do you predict will be popular for spring 19?

Washes continue to be big, and we are starting to see a step change into acid washes and tie dyes, but it is the white, ecrus and tonal colours that are driving the newness.

What is key for denim looking forward to autumn 19?

Head-to-toe dressing, and teaming your denim mini-skirt with an oversized trucker jacket in all washes and colours. We also feel that the boiler suit will continue into autumn 19, and we will move this on with new colours, fabrics and washes.


Claire Asher, head of buying and design, Nasty Gal

What is driving denim purchases with your customers?

For us this is a mix of trend and price. Jeans are the leader within our denim category. However, there are micro-trends on offer within the Nasty Gal denim apparel, such as shorts, boiler suits and outerwear, which are key driving areas across the denim collection. We’re seeing a use of the fabric in a greater variety of items, and really seeing denim as a key fabric rather than simply as jeans.

At Nasty Gal we also offer the vintage denim collection, in which each piece is designed in house by the Nasty Gal design team, and no two pieces are exactly the same.

What is your bestselling denim item?

When it comes to what sells, the mom jean is the clear winner for us. I think this works as the Nasty Gal has a sense of nostalgia, and loves that old-school vintage vibe.

A denim boiler suit is also always well received by our girl, thanks to the ease and flattering silhouettes we offer on this block.

Is the skinny jean still popular?

For Nasty Gal, the skinny jean is still popular and is a staple piece that we will continue to run, offering new wash levels for our girl. 

How has denim been performing generally?

Denim has been a growth category for us over the last year. Mom jeans, denim cut-offs and boiler suits are all key, along with the emergence of white and ecru gaining momentum. However, the vintage wash is the colour for the Nasty Gal [customer].

We backed the boiler suit, and introducing new colours in this proved successful for autumn 18. Adding vintage white on to some of our staple blocks is already proving popular with our customer.

What is key for denim looking forward?

Autumn 19 denim is looking high waisted and clean. Details such as contrast stitching, hardware and lace-up elements, continue to be key, along with the emergence of tonal colours, wide legs and crops.

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