With denim buyers from around the world converging on Pitti Uomo in Florence this month and the Berlin trade shows in July, we ask what’s driving the future of the market.
Jason Denham founder and chief executive, Denham
The UK denim market is getting more diverse every day. Premium brands are pushing the quality of denim up and vertical retailers are focused on price, whereas mid-priced jeans aren’t selling. This is good for the market as it highlights the quality and developments made by brands. It also supports the disposable fast-fashion market. For spring 15, we are focusing on premium Italian denim.
In past seasons we looked at Japanese and US-made denim, which reflected the heritage trend. The advance in technology by Italian denim weavers and laundries is more modern, with technical performance stories. We’re now looking for heritage combined with technical performance.
Bread & Butter Berlin is very important for us, as it is the number one international denim fair. We will show alongside all the key denim brands such as Levi’s, Edwin, Nudie Jeans and all the Japanese brands in the LOCK area, which is attracting international buyers from Japan, Korea and Australia as well as other Asian countries. We also get to meet the best UK and German buyers.
This season we will also open a permanent Denham store, our first in Germany, at The Blue Yard in Mitte during Berlin Fashion Week.
Toni Craig womenswear buying director, Shop Direct
Denim has returned to true blues this year, with labels looking to more artisan looks and washes. Leg shapes are more relaxed, with skinnies and boyfriend jeans being dressed up and down.
As we move into autumn, details such as whiskers, rips and repairs, fading and slashed knees will continue to be big trends.
High-waisted and mom jeans [high-waisted, slightly tapered styles] will be the new shapes to look for. The trends we’ll be following are relaxed, ripped and repaired, embellished and embroidered, and vintage washed. We’ve bought into lighter bleached blue and icy grey washes.
Milan Ramanandi manager of Lizard Menswear, which has two stores in surrey
Slim fits are the dominant trends now, but people are also looking for interesting washes in lighter colours for the summer.
The best brands at the moment are Edwin and Nudie Jeans, as customers are always looking for good quality fabrics. Our price range is between £100 and £140, although we have recently noticed some of the more expensive brands we carry - such as Hugo Boss and Armani - are not selling very well. We won’t go to the Berlin trade shows because we don’t feel they are relevant any more.
Kevin Rogers senior buyer for menswear, House of Fraser
Denim continues to be an extremely important category for us. In recent years we’ve seen an ever-growing and diverse array of brands, which has significantly increased the number of options available.
Five-pocket denim continues to be a strong performer, with entry-price and premium denim trading equally well. Customers are
still willing to spend on authentic washes and industrial finishes.
Our buying teams will be visiting New York this year to get a global grasp on trend and brand direction for the season ahead. The Copenhagen shows will give a European perspective, and we’ll be at Jacket Required in the UK, which is one of the most important shows in the calendar.
Donna Ida Thornton owner of womenswear retailer Donna Ida in London and denim brand Ida
The denim market is being driven by two main elements - fit and fabrication.
Ida is the key brand for me and I’m investing in luxurious fabrics that will give a soft, comfortable feel with maximum hold. Denim has returned to basic shades of blue, black and grey with the focus on the perfect fit and new techniques for creating details - for example, we’re looking at laser-cut distressed jeans for spring 15.
J Brand consistently delivers hit after hit, and its new Stocking Jean sold out straight away. Frame Denim has impressed this year with its perfect-fit skinny Le Skinny de Jeanne and boyfriend jean Le Garcon. R13 is a fantastic new US brand that focuses on authentic denim in masculine shapes but with a feminine twist. I’m looking for distressing, even more boyfriend jeans, improved fit and denim with excellent recovery to help it spring back into shape.
I visit trade shows each season for inspiration from premium labels, including Tranoï and Who’s Next in Paris, Coterie in New York and Scoop in London.
Ben Alexander menswear buyer for denim, Debenhams
Customers aren’t willing to part with their cash unless the fabric, cut and wash are carefully considered and the cost/value equation stacks up. On the high street, the key price point of between £35 and £45 is very competitive, which is why we use top-quality fabrics comparable with brands selling at £80 or more to differentiate ourselves.
Vintage denim continues to inspire trends, with authentic heavyweight fabrics in finishes ranging from raw to distressed. Influences from the 1980s and 1990s are re-emerging with flat stone washes, and bleached denim is returning on straight and tapered fits.
Lee Davidson UK denim sales manager, Jack & Jones
One of the factors driving the current denim resurgence is the shift away from the chinos trend. For spring 15 we are launching a range of engineered/anti-fit styles in various washes, from raw denim through to aggressively treated garments. Power stretch fabrics in slim and skinny fittings will continue to be on trend. We will also continue with some fantastic new washes in our five-pocket fittings - slim/taper and comfort/taper - which we launched for autumn 14.
We will not be attending the Berlin trade shows, and instead are holding an online event where customers can view and buy express collections for all the [Jack & Jones owner] Bestseller brands through our extranet service.
Rhys Davies European sales director, Evisu
For spring 15, we are continuing with slimmer silhouettes and introducing a new true skinny fit in stretch and non-stretch selvedge options.
The major development has been in increasing the wash options across all fits, as we see this as a key trend. Because of demand, we have introduced a non-selvedge package within our collection as an introductory price point offer for retailers. We will be showing at Seek in Berlin, primarily for the mainland European distribution channels. The fragmentation of the shows [in Berlin] has affected footfall and it is now competing with a resurgent Pitti Uomo in Florence as the new go-to show.
Nick Keyte head of menswear buying, John Lewis
Customers are always looking for that wardrobe staple that can take them from the office to the evening - denim seems to fit the bill because of its versatility.
The dark denim shirt dress is appropriate in most companies and the high-waist, boyfriend styles that have been popular this summer are comfort and style in one. We have seen a healthy growth in [sales of] designer denim as customers appreciate the quality and authenticity, and are happy to invest in classic pieces.
Jonas Bach sales director for Europe, G-STAR
New this season is our Raw for the Oceans collection. We’ve joined forces with [sustainable materials producer] Bionic Yarn to make a collection with recycled materials from the oceans, and we will integrate the material into existing product lines, too. We are about innovation, and by integrating Bionic’s technique we’re taking the next step in creating denim for the future.
We will be at Pitti Uomo as it fits the brand DNA and has a strong international focus. We’ll go to Liberty in Las Vegas this summer for the North American and emerging markets, and we are now looking at opportunities in Asia as well. Bread & Butter Berlin has been an excellent platform for us, but we aren’t attending this year.
Ben Banks director of agency Fourmarketing and head of UK sales at Adriano Goldschmied (AG)
Buyers are looking for authenticity and fair price points under £200, especially outside London. We have some denim retailing at between £189 and £198 that is performing well. We will be at Premium in Berlin, as it helps us gauge the mood of the market.
We always see some buyers and it’s good to have some soft discussion before the showroom selling begins.
Chloe Lonsdale founder and creative director, MiH Jeans
Denim buyers are looking for great blue washes again. Beautiful wear and ageing such as holes and patches are exciting if done well. For silhouettes, looser and slouchier legs are key, and the flare is definitely on the rise. In terms of what’s driving the denim market, boyfriend shapes are being incorporated into everyone’s wardrobes. Denim in non-jeans pieces such as dresses, shirts and skirts is also generating momentum.
Pasquale Orza Chief executive of women’s denim brand JQ Jeans
There have been more cloth developments in the past three years than for the last 20, and most have been in stretch and comfort stretch technology. The other strong influence is washing and print technologies. There has been a period of no-denim jeans taken up by jersey leggings, but this cheap trend from the 1980s is being slowly replaced by real denim leggings and lightweight, super-stretch denim.
Andy knight owner of menswear store the forum in swindon
Price is a very relevant factor driving the market. Our customers are looking for a nice, clean denim and slim fit, but it’s not really about crazy washes anymore. Among the brands we sell, Edwin is certainly a strong performer. Our prices for denim range between £80 and £120. We won’t go to Bread & Butter. Europe definitely needs a major trade show, and for now we feel that we know everything we need to know about what’s out there.
Panos Sofianos creative director of spanish denim textile mill Tejidos Royo
Through our subsidiary Green Valley we are selling a lot of organic and sustainable denim fabrics. We think this side of the business is the future for us - it has a big focus on small volume, bespoke products and fabrics, and sustainable techniques.
We’re selling this to US brands like 7 For All Mankind and AG. European brands like G-Star and Diesel are ordering these products, too. The price points for them are higher, but the production is much more sophisticated. Going green used to be a marketing gimmick, but brands are getting more serious now.
Jo Davies owner of womenswear boutique Black White Denim in Wilmslow, Cheshire
Our top sellers are J Brand and Paige; everyone is into the distressed style they sell. But for the adventurous, it is Rag & Bone and Victoria Beckham. I look for new brands all year round, but Scoop in London and the Copenhagen shows give you inspiration on new styles or brands you can sell that haven’t reached the UK yet.
Kashif Qazi owner of menswear retailer Utter Nutter in Romford, Essex
Denim is always on trend, but especially right now. The price points that command volume are between £110 and £125. Fit is the most important, with all the shapes having to be tapered - whether it’s skinny or loose, the guys want to see a skinny denim on their calf that sits just on top of their shoes. There is also demand for washes in dusty blues with less obvious distressing.