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Chicago Collective: One-Stop Shop for Men’s Denim

Housed on a single floor of the behemoth that is Chicago’s theMart from Feb. 6-8, the Fall/Winter 22-23 edition of the Chicago Collective painted a rosy picture for the men’s denim market optimistic about new fits and opportunities in adjacent categories. Brand reps described the men’s show as their consistently “best event” and others gloated about getting off the wait list.

German brand Closed made its second appearance at the show. Its European roots are evident in the fashion-forward fits for F/W 22-23, including a men’s flare jean and two loose fits with fuller legs: the X-Lent and X-Treme. Closed is also revisiting its ’90s archive with elevated workwear pieces like dark wash denim chore jackets and contrast stitching creating a utility look on jeans.

Brittany McLaughlin, Closed’s East Coast account manager, said 85 percent of the collection is “eco-friendly” and the company is working towards 100 percent in the next four years. Denim, however, has been a major source for savings, thanks in part to Closed partnership with Italy’s Candiani Denim. Under its “A Better Blue” program for denim, Closed has slashed water intake by half, reduced chemical usage by 65 percent, and has adopted alternative fibers like Tencel x Refibra and Coreva.

Outerknown’s F/W 22-23 collection is an example of how the brand is inching closer toward its goal of being fully circular by 2030. The Southern California label presented its first recycled cashmere hoodies and matching joggers. Recycled cotton, used largely in jeans, remains a challenge, a rep noted, though the brand is making strides in water conservation. Outerknown’s jeans are washed in a closed-loop process at Saitex that captures and recycles 98 percent of the water used.

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Key fits for the season are tapered and straight, but the brand is seeing growing interest in wider fits. Corduroy shirting, fleece vests and denim jackets with faux shearling collars rounded out the collection.

Texture and surreal prints were two notable themes in Scotch & Soda’s collection. The Dutch label applied space-theme graphics to tees; other pieces combined cosmic and nature-inspired prints. Denim head standouts like railroad-stripe shirting, a felted bomber jacket with nylon pocketing and a quilted jacket with bandana print patchwork balanced the statement pieces.

Pops of color (ochre and tan) and fancy textures like velvet finishes are some of the ways Citizens of Humanity is updating its core fits for fall. The brand is also introducing a looser fit called the Elijah, which has a 16.5-inch leg opening.

For Joe’s, the story is all about wider legs, heritage washes and details like knee slits and light distressing. Along with denim overshirts, the brand presented a heavy-duty denim jacket with front snap pockets and a tan corduroy collar. The workwear-inspired piece is reminiscent of the timeless jackets Carhartt-obsessed celebrities have been sporting in recent weeks.

The F/W 22-23 edition of the Chicago Collective painted a rosy picture for the men’s denim market optimistic about new fits and trends.
Joe’s Rivet

High-saturation washes and Japanese fabrics garment-dyed in earthy colors are trending up for Jacob Cohen. Unique details like one-of-a-kind back patches, high-shine hardware and made-to-order designs underscore denim’s shift from being a commodity item that consumers stepped away from during quarantine to a bona fide fashion item.

The F/W 22-23 edition of the Chicago Collective painted a rosy picture for the men’s denim market optimistic about new fits and trends.
Jacob Cohen Rivet

Hudson is in a state of transition for fall. Aubrey Heathcott, Hudson’s account executive for men’s, said the brand has “gone super streetwear,” taking the lead from where its department store business is moving to. The result is a collection dense with boxy jean jackets and straight, skinny and relaxed jeans emboldened with bleach, uneven wax coatings, overdyed washes and paint techniques. Camouflage cargo pants, jeans with zippered side pockets and moto jeans—available in three washes—are among the new collection’s notable items.

The F/W 22-23 edition of the Chicago Collective painted a rosy picture for the men’s denim market optimistic about new fits and trends.
Hudson Rivet

Footwear—or the desire to show it off—is also playing an important role. Hudson is introducing the Reese, a new drop-crotch jean with a 28-inch inseam that breaks just before the shoe. Meanwhile, skinny jeans are being offered in longer inseams so men can wear them intentionally stacked them above their sneakers.

AG is also seeing interest in jeans that cut off right above the sneaker. The brand’s new Pollack jean, a “501-type block” or “anti-fit” fits this aesthetic with a tapered wide-leg and rise that is long but not high. Liverpool is leaning into denim’s trend cycle as well with its first sneaker jean this fall. The cropped jean is available in 28-inch and 30-inch inseams.

Cali vibes

Established by the same owners of American Dye House, the Los Angeles-based dye and washhouse responsible for several L.A. brands’ signature looks, Cotton Citizen will launch its first official collection of men’s and women’s jeans in the fall.

Though the brand dabbled in denim in 2018 when it opened a popup shop in New York City, the debut men’s collection will focus on classic stretch and rigid constructions with a ’90s orange peel affect retailing for $345-$550, said Diego Dominguez, president of the Unison, a multifaced agency specializing in scaling emerging brands, and a rep for Cotton Citizen.

The jeans’ signature detail is its subtle back pockets, free of decorative arcuate. Instead, the pocket features a subtle indentation echoed on the jeans’ fifth pocket.

In that same spirit,  L.A.-made Daniel George presented its first collection spanning men’s silk, woven, hand-dyed jersey and denim. Retailing for $280-$555, the denim assortment caters to a consumer who appreciates finishing details and uses Japanese and Italian selvedge fabrics.

The F/W 22-23 edition of the Chicago Collective painted a rosy picture for the men’s denim market optimistic about new fits and trends.
Dylan George Rivet

L.A.’s denim scene has been good to Trinidad3, which launched in 2020 with a focus on streetwear-inspired styles and has since evolved into a men’s specialty denim label offering everything from Vidalia Mills-made selvedge jeans to 5-pocket athletic fit jeans made with Nisshinbo fabrics.

It’s achieved this growth, according to founder Trinidad Garcia III, by using the same L.A.-based partners and suppliers—from zippers to washhouses—throughout the journey. Garcia’s L.A. setup, he said, allowed him to move forward with production in 2020 and fill in market gaps left by other companies battered with disruptions to their production. It is the main reason he’s been able to dodge the current supply chain and delivery issues plaguing the industry.

At the center of the collection is a vintage-washed jacket and jeans made with Vidalia’s “Made in USA” selvedge produced on Draper X3 looms. Details like interior pockets, U.S. flag lining, and the absence of overlocking stitching give denim heads plenty to geek out over.

“The men’s specialty category values ‘Made in USA’ labels,” Garcia said.

The F/W 22-23 edition of the Chicago Collective painted a rosy picture for the men’s denim market optimistic about new fits and trends.
Trinidad3 Rivet

In addition to core jeans that resist fading and shrinking, for F/W 22-23 Trinidad3 is outfitting men with a colorful assortment of stretch PFD bottoms and a new line of stretch twill bottoms that have classic 5-pocket construction. The later also includes a camouflage fabric sourced from Mount Vernon Mills—a nod to Garcia’s military past and the brand’s efforts to support veterans.

The fall range also offers “Made in L.A.” solid and logo sweatshirts and tees and a range of stretch denim jackets. In March, Garcia said the brand will debut its first women’s jeans, including a version of its jean designed especially for amputees. The jeans feature zippers on each leg that allow wearers to adjust their prosthetic limb.

The brand, however, is coming full circle in 2022. Garcia is revisiting some of his earlier designs to tap into the streetwear category. Jeans with wider legs, tie-dye effects and red waistbands are on the horizon.

Never one to hold back on bold style, L.A.-based denim label Monfrère is translating its Hollywood aesthetic to ready-to-wear for the first time.

The brand, worn by John Legend, Young Thug and more, presented hoodies and tees with bleach dye effects, velvet touch jackets and coated cargo pants to pair back to its skinny, slim and slim straight jeans.

Lifestyle goals

Comfort—be it stretch or loungewear—hasn’t been eclipsed entirely by denim’s new trend cycle.

On the heels of launching jeans with Recover recycled cotton, DL1961 presented a range of hybrid track pant/chinos with drawstring waistbands. Alongside jeans made with its “performance denim” Transend fabric and new vintage washes, Paige featured non-denim cargo pants with zippered pockets and corduroy trousers. French label Serge Blanco touted jeans fully lined with check flannel and four-way stretch jeans to pair back to its range of quilted puffer jackets, shirting, knits and 14 wale corduroy bottoms.

Joe’s offered joggers, coated cargo pants and trouser pants with drawstring waists and front creases. The brand is also placing a strong emphasis on fabrics with an authentic heavyweight look but are lightweight and soft to the touch.

Brands, in general, are edging toward lifestyle collections.

Though Mavi is expanding its sustainable denim range with hemp blends, the brand is offering a wide range of casual French terry bottoms that blend the look of twill with the comfort of sweatpants and 5-pocket dress styles with a touch of stretch and novelty patterns like checks. Twill shackets in tan and green, and straight fit corduroy bottoms in blue and tan add color to the collection.

Though a seasonal favorite, corduroy appears to be a larger part of men’s collection for Fall/Winter 22-23 as denim brands attempt to diversify their assortments, add softness to their collections and capitalize on the cozy cabincore aesthetic.

Takayuki Noguchi, the brand director for Kato, said the label is seeing a lot of interest in its stretch corduroy jackets. The jackets are available in neutral shade like tan and black, but the standout in the collection was one with a bright blue abstract print. Scotch & Soda also opted for color for its elastic waist corduroy cargo pants in blue and red.

The F/W 22-23 edition of the Chicago Collective painted a rosy picture for the men’s denim market optimistic about new fits and trends.
Kato Rivet

Alongside its denim, AG presented performance pants with moisture-wicking qualities and wool-like trousers made with cotton-poly. The sartorial yet easy care products were developed with lessons learned from AG’s former golf range, a rep said. AG’s recently launched vegan leather line is likely to come back next fall, too.

Once known for authentic, heavy-duty jeans, Billy Reid is laser focused on traditional tailoring. Victor Lieberman, a sale rep for the brand, said sports coats and overcoats are retailers’ favorites for F/W 22-23. Denim button-down shirts, available in three washes, continue to be strong complementary, wardrobe-building pieces.

A highlight in Frame’s F/W 22-23 collection is a cashmere trio (hoodie, pull-over sweater, and shorts) that offers a luxe approach to loungewear.

The F/W 22-23 edition of the Chicago Collective painted a rosy picture for the men’s denim market optimistic about new fits and trends.
Frame Rivet

Frame ditched “denim” from its moniker a few years ago. Its women’s business—supported by growing footwear and accessories assortments—is now 50 percent denim and 50 percent lifestyle. Though it is growing, men’s has been slower, said Daniel Bender, Frame account executive, men’s. Jeans are the “bread and butter” of the men’s portion of the business, with lifestyle making up about 30 percent.

Biodegradable jeans will continue to be a driver in Frame’s F/W 22-23 collection. The interiors of the jeans feature a QR code that explains the biodegradable process and cut lines to show where the wearer should detach the zipper at the end of the garment’s life. The collection also offers the popular L’Homme slim jean in various autumnal colors, corduroy bottoms and a hybrid bomber jacket with a green nylon front and washed black denim back.

Doing more with less is top of mind. While Frame once worked with 20-30 different fabrics, Bender said the company is now producing 90 percent of its denim business with five fabrics, favoring fabrics that have fit and wash consistency.

Liverpool Jeans’ efforts to become a lifestyle brand are taking hold. Mark D’Angelo, vice president of sales, men’s, said the men’s segment has seen 25 percent growth year over year for the past two years.

During that time, Liverpool has introduced a popular knit program, travel suiting and other casual alternatives. Jeans, in general, continue to be the brand’s core. Now made with BCI cotton, Repreve and CiCLO fibers and finished with ozone and laser processes, most jeans offer an EIM score. Color is also important driver for both its 10-ounce twill trousers and jeans.

Momentum is building, thanks in part to the brand’s consistent fit. D’Angelo noted that a consumer who has a favorite Liverpool jean in a size 32 can confidently buy a jogger or chino in the same size. This fit assurance, coupled with programs like Liverpool’s “new store guarantee,” which gives retailers 60 days to test the brand in their stores, and retail referral program, have built trust between the brand and its partners.

“We’re giving [retailers] the other components and they’re embracing it,” D’Angelo said. “Retailers are coming back with an appetite.”