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Heritage Denim Brands Embrace the More Casual Normal

Having a globally recognized brand name with multi-generational appeal historically bodes well for apparel companies during times of crisis.

Heritage denim brands Guess and PVH Corp.-owned Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, however, are not resting on their laurels. Instead, the companies are taking steps to keep up with the demand for more casual fashion and wardrobe essentials.

In some ways, designer Calvin Klein was 20 years ahead of his time when he focused on essential pieces in the early ’90s, said Stefan Larsson, PVH Corp. president, during the company’s Q2 call on Wednesday.

“One thing Calvin kept coming back to [was] what’s the meaning of each product? What’s the intent behind each product? It’s never been more relevant today,” he said.

This philosophy will serve as the backbone for Calvin Klein’s communication to consumers, especially as they continue to shop with a purpose. “You will see it gradually coming out. You will see it in social media. You will see it in collaborations. You will see it in an increased focus on modern essentials,” Larsson said.

Guess, meanwhile, has maintained its relevance with consumers for more than 40 years by accepting change, CEO Carlos Alberini said during the company’s Q2 conference call.

The brand, he pointed out, continues to stay relevant by adapting its model time and time again.

“I believe that companies that adapt their business models to actively embrace new consumer preferences, placing the customer at the center of everything they do, will gain share and overcome this crisis faster,” he said. “We fully expect to be one of those companies.”

Though customers remain cautious, Alberini said the level of productivity at its reopened stores is a reflection of the strength of the brand and the effectiveness of the business decisions Guess has made over the past few months. By taking stock of its inventory since the pandemic broke, Guess is “rebalanced” and better aligned with current customer demand, he added.

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In particular, the company continues to see that product priorities have shifted towards more casual dressing. During Q2, Alberini said Guess saw a lot of “wear-now purchases” like shorts and T-shirts that are expected during the summer, as well as fashion denim more than basic denim.

“We expect this to evolve over time as people begin to go out again, but we believe that casual and comfortable clothes will remain a key priority for our customers,” Alberini said. “Based on this trend, we are investing in the development of a strong assortment of active apparel, outerwear, stretch, and sustainable denim and an extensive line of tops and dresses in multiple colors that capitalize on high-quality and comfortable knit fabrications.”

Moving into holiday, Alberini said Guess will focus on seasonless products and accessory lines with proven success like handbags and essential items like outerwear and denim, placing an emphasize on fabrications.