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Spanx Sees Growth Opportunities in Denim

Rivet’s 2021 winter issue has dropped! This in-depth issue examines the steps the global denim industry is taking to minimize its impact on the environment, from implementing zero waste production and design processes to establishing greenhouse gas emissions goals aligned with the Paris Agreement.

Denim will be a key category in Spanx’s expansion following Blackstone’s ownership in the now $1.2 billion shapewear empire.

In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawkbox,” Spanx founder Sarah Blakely, who retains a “significant” equity stake and will become the company’s executive chairwoman in the deal, said female consumers for years have asked for Spanx’s technology to revolutionize everyday clothes.

“What I’m excited about [for] the brand, is that the magic we created inside Spanx and how we kind of defined a category and revolutionized it, we’re now doing in apparel and active,” she said, dressed in Spanx flare jeans. “I get excited about how I can make things better and there’s a lot left to make better for women.”

Prior to the private equity firm’s majority stake, Spanx had been weighing its options, and even mulled putting itself up for sale, with Goldman Sachs’ investment banking arm on the case since June.

And while Spanx made a name for itself in silhouette-smoothing shapewear worn by Katy Perry, Rebel Wilson, Khloe Kardashian, and Karlie Kloss, it has since branched out into products like shaping denim and a full array of lifestyle apparel from loungewear, leggings, bras and underwear to skirts, “arm tights” and maternity wear. A selection of “ultra-compression” sculpting tees and tanks, shape-enhancing boxer briefs and socks is also available for men.

The opportunities to expand deeper into these categories caught the attention of Blackstone, which has been investing in female-led businesses, including online dating app Bumble, Reese Witherspoon’s mission-driven media company Hello Sunshine, telecommunications firm Hotwire Communications and geolocation compliance technology firm GeoComply.

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“What we saw in Spanx is just an incredible brand,” Ann Chung, Blackstone’s global head of its consumer division, said in the interview. “It’s a staple in many women’s closets. It’s a brand that resonated emotionally with the consumer.”

With jeans being a staple for work and play, replicating that connection in denim is a strategic move for the brand. Spanx’s current denim assortment include pull-on jeans in regular, petite and tall inseams and waist sizes XS-3X. Each size fits two numerical sizes. The jeans boast shaping waistbands that prevent “muffin top” and a “Gut Check” shaping panel that targets the midsection.

What the assortment lacks is the wide variety of fits trending in the women’s denim category. The collection offers just flare and an ankle skinny in various washes.

Growing its denim category now, however, comes at an opportune time as consumers are updating their wardrobes with new fits and sizes. A May NPD Group report found that nearly 40 percent of women surveyed said they are wearing a different size compared to the year prior. While 15 percent said they are a size smaller, 25 percent report now wearing a larger size.

The jeanswear market is also warming up to one-size-fits-many concepts. Newly certified B Corp brand Good American introduced Always Fit jeans with 100 percent stretchability, meaning they can accommodate a range of three to four sizes without sacrificing fit. Frame, Zara and NYDJ offer similar concepts. Brands tout the high-stretch jeans as wardrobe solutions for pandemic weight fluctuations, as well as a way for retailers to reduce online returns.