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Prepare Accordingly

March 15, 2016

Catherine Salfino

Okay, so remember a little bit ago when the death knell was rung for denim? When athleisure was going to run it out of town on a rail? Well, something must have happened on the way to the morgue because like a phoenix rising from the ashes, denim is back — especially among the trend-driven Millennial set.[quote]

The Doneger Group’s Roseanne Morrison, women’s fashion director, says denim is seeing a rebound.

“Active is good but denim is back in full force — across all age categories, but definitely the Millennial group,” she asserts. “Women are buying chambray shirts, vests, skirts, and jeans. It’s a style thing. And the Millennial consumer doesn’t know dressy. She hasn’t really worn suits. So denim is totally appropriate for work. Three days a week they wear active, two days it’s casual. Many work at home or in tech and the whole mentality is very different. Denim suits them — it’s appealing. If I’m in a store and it’s quiet, denim is the busiest department.”

Although denim sales had decreased overall last year, Millennials increased their denim spend by 2 percent, according to a survey by The NPD Group. The firm says Millennials account for 28 percent of all jeans sales. And while NPD’s research showed overall denim sales saw a 5 percent decrease, sales among Millennials increased 2 percent. Additionally, sales among older Millennials rose 13 percent. Considering this, the largest living generation is 92 million strong, the stage is being set for denim’s resurgence.

Looking ahead, more than 3 in 4 (76%) Millennials say jeans are their first pick for casual wear, and 86 percent believe “jeans are part of their future,” according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ Survey. Further, 72 percent plan to buy denim over the next few months, and 33 percent says they will “probably buy several items” in that time.



Cassidy Fischer, founder and CEO of Circle Seven Five, a Dallas-based social experience platform for Millennial women, says the reason for denim’s comeback is two-pronged.

“The more authentic denim is coming back now — like the Levi’s original style of jeans; not the stretch,” she says. “It’s considered real denim and anyone in the know — like those in the fashion industry — are wearing real jeans. It’s a pride thing. So that’s catching on. Also, people are starting to get into having capsule wardrobes and investment pieces. So buying a really good pair of denim is part of that. They’ll go to H&M for tops and other things to rotate in the wardrobe, but invest in a really great pair of jeans.”

Among Millennial shoppers, almost 6 of 10 (59%) say “looking good” is a major concern when purchasing denim, significantly higher than Gen Xers (48 percent) or Boomers (35 percent), who are more concerned with “being practical.”

At the 7 For All Mankind SoHo location in Manhattan, young people are coming in to grab bootcuts and flares, according to one of the store’s team members. Customers still pick up skinnies, but they diversify the look with the higher waist styles. The store is also offering “super flares” that are working their way up in popularity.

Morrison says the newness has helped drive the denim business.

“Denim was in a rut,” she says. “The skinny was boring, we needed some life and now we’re seeing some interesting things. Marques’Almeida started it off when it showed angled denim, frayed edges, pieces that were kind of raw. That changed people’s perception of denim. So now we’re seeing the destructed, the patchwork and applied patches, along with the new silhouettes.”

Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of Millennials say they’re most likely to buy classic or regular fit jeans, followed by skinny/super skinny (22 percent), relaxed fit (18 percent), boot cut (18 percent), and slim fit (12 percent), according to the Monitor™ statistics.

As for where they would wear their denim, the Monitor™ research shows 86 percent of Millennials would wear it to go shopping, followed by dinner out (76 percent), school (48 percent), go dancing (39 percent), work (28 percent), and religious services (27 percent).

Fischer says Millennials are leaning toward denim because they’re seeing they can dress it up or down.

“It’s the cool girl look,” Fischer states. “You can wear a really good pair of jeans with a great dress top, or you can dress it down with a white tee and a duster.”

Fully 85 percent of Millennials agree they prefer to go places where they can wear jeans, which is significantly higher than Boomers (79 percent) or the younger Gen Z shoppers (also 79 percent), according to the Monitor™.

Denim is also strong among the male consumer, as exemplified in a New York Times piece that featured jeans from Gucci, Prada, 7 For All Mankind, AG, Alex Mullins, and other high-end designer labels. But there is a lot of denim coming from craft and indie brands like Tate + Yoko, Grindhouse Denim, and 611, all of whom could be found among the men’s wear market week shows, including Project, Agenda, and Liberty New York.

Morrison says going forward there will be sustained interest in the denim category.

“We’re seeing newness from British brands like Aries and Bethnals, there’s sustainable denim and a lot of direction from contemporary people,” Morrison says. “That can only enhance the business.”