If 2019 fashion had one common theme, it would be sustainability. The movement set the tone for everything from farming techniques to consumer behavior, and generated a number of trends in the process. By designing with the environment in mind, denim took on an entirely new look and feel.
Here, executives in the denim industry share what the rise in sustainability means for the denim industry, and the buzzwords to watch in 2020.
As consumers realize their role in sustainability, their behavior changes. The younger generations in particular are becoming more minimal, and they’re taking the time to research brands that share the same ethos. In 2020, the industry is likely to double down on educational and transparency efforts to further propel it in the right direction.
“Generation Z has become increasingly more concerned with the state of our environment,” said Danie Williams-Rivera, digital marketing manager for Lands’ End. “Consumers are starting to ask more questions about how their clothes are made and from where. The more educated the consumer becomes, the more important sustainable and ethical practices will become.”
And the education won’t only be directed at consumers. Tencel’s blog Carved in Blue recently launched a content series called “SDG Decoded” to educate the industry on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As more industry leaders become knowledgeable of the goals, sustainability advocates believe the use of water-saving and chemical-free processes will increase. Tricia Carey, Lenzing’s director of global business development for denim, said the use of laser and ozone technologies will likely continue to increase in 2020.
“Getting out my crystal ball for 2020, I believe it is all based on people and the planet,” Carey said. “Reduction in water, chemicals and energy will be the mission of supply chains and brands.”
Fueled by circularity efforts including Ellen MacArthur’s “Jeans Redesign Guidelines,” the push for upcycled denim was huge in 2019—and experts say it will be even bigger in 2020. Trend consultant Marie-Michele Larivee explained that this will show up in creative forms. Two-toned denim, where different swatches of fabric are patched together to create one garment, are already appearing on the runway as a result of upcycling.
Carey confirmed the emphasis on upcycling and recycling by sharing Lenzing’s plans for 2020, which consist of a new Tencel x Refibra Lyocell made with post-consumer waste, and more creative collaborations to push recycling even further.
With nostalgic trends from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s growing in popularity, consumers are increasingly reaching for vintage pieces from consignment shops and re-sale sites. Experts agreed that these trends would carry on throughout 2020.
Some of the trends from past decades—including workwear and utilitarian pieces—resonate especially well considering the current state of the world.
“The utilitarian look, which includes a multitude of pockets, zippers and straps, shows consumers are ready for anything,” Larivee said, noting that climate change is making this trend even more relevant. “They need to be prepared for any type of storm.”
Colored denim is also expected to be popular in 2020, thanks to numerous innovations in sustainable dyes. Specifically, experts are watching uneven hues, as they “give the leisure of not being rejected by quality control for a product that is not a perfectly flat color,” Larivee explained.
Linda DeFranco, director of fashion marketing, trend forecasting, Cotton Incorporated, predicts more nuanced coloring applications as a result of new printing and washing techniques will be a popular trend. As a result, monochromatic looks from head to toe in varying shades of indigo and classic blue (a.k.a. Pantone’s color of the year) will be especially prevalent.