As the world begins to heal from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fashion industry is looking for ways to start fresh. And denim may be the category that sets the tone for the rest of the industry.
During a Kingpins24 panel, Boyish Jeans creative director Jordan Nodarse and Lennaert Nijgh, founder of Benzak Denim Developers discussed the unique properties that make denim the focal point in fashion’s shift to slower production.
“Denim is a seasonless product in general,” Nodarse said. “Most people have a pair of jeans they wear every day, all day long, every day of the year.”
Denim was originally used in workwear garments due to its durability and longevity—qualities that are gaining importance to consumers who are adjusting their buying habits in favor of high quality, responsibly produced products.
A commitment to responsibly production is the foundation of Boyish. Nodarse and his team aim to reduce virgin content with every new collection by supplementing fabrics with circular fibers such as Refibra. This, he noted, can actually produce a product that’s even more durable than one made of virgin content alone. “[Sustainable products] could be even better than regular products,” he said.
Nijgh’s denim brand Benzak also produces in a responsible way, sourcing small quantities of high-quality fabric from mills in Portugal and Japan to create premium selvedge jeans for men.
For Benzak, less is more. Nijgh noted that many of his bestselling garments are from 2013, and he remains committed to keeping those styles in future collections. Fabrics change from time to time, but customers otherwise have “their fits that they just want to keep buying,” he said.
Small brands, he added, may be even better equipped to adapt to a seasonless model. Nijgh will experiment with fabrics and reuse them as frequently as possible. “As a small brand, you want to be unique but you don’t have the buying power to make exclusive fabrics all the time,” he said.
Selling seasonless, however, requires a new mindset. Nijgh compares it to how Benzak relies on retailers that can communicate the value of raw denim to consumers who are unfamiliar with the breaking-in process. The brand recently encountered this hurdle when it introduced selvedge denim for women.
“We need a certain set of retailers that can translate our vision of being willing to break in a pair of jeans and go through that whole process,” he said. “It’s very interesting to explain the same story to women.”
Nodarse also sees value in reusing fabrics and educating consumers accordingly. While the brand’s styles slightly change according to the season, the fabric often doesn’t. His team will sometimes take dark denim that’s not selling well and wash it down to a lighter color.
“We’ll do shorter dresses and shorts and for spring and summer, but we also know that those same materials and the same washes still carry into the full pant version, or a longer dress or a jumpsuit,” he said. “You almost need to guide your consumers, which isn’t something that’s easy to do, but if you do get them to understand the brand, they will know how to shop it in a seasonless format.”