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Denim Mills Consider Scaling Back Size of Collections

The coronavirus pandemic is causing fashion to prioritize quality over quantity in every sense of the phrase. For fabric developers, this means they must be hyper-selective in the designs they present to buyers.

In a presentation at the Kingpins24 online event, Kingpins founder Andrew Olah talked to Diamond Denim’s Maurizio Baldi, High Solutions’ Hamit Yenici and Superblue’s Bart van de Woestyne about the ways denim fabric design is shifting as a result of COVID-19.

All of the designers—whom Olah referred to as the “Karl Lagerfelds of denim”—agreed that with many fabric presentations moving to digital means, they must get creative with how they describe their new collections. And many agreed that it requires significantly reducing their collections.

“If you have three or four really strong concepts in a collection, it’s much more important than having more fabrics,” said Yenici, who recommended adapting the collection to represent different demographics. He suggested mills show certain fabrics as they appeal to different genders and age groups.

For context, Kingpins typically sees an array of 4,800 fabrics, with 60 denim mills each presenting around 80 pieces in their collections. Baldi noted that those numbers are highly unnecessary.

“We have around 60-70 fabrics in a collection, and we only show 30-40 to the customer. We don’t have time to show more fabrics,” he said, adding that he typically only focuses on 10-15.

And because customers can no longer rely on touching fabrics and scanning the room for materials and innovations that interest them, mills must use other methods of communicating their unique properties. According to Yenici, this is where marketing comes in.

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When it comes to keeping customers’ attention online, “good story telling is much more important than having them touch the fabric,” he said.

This forces mills to focus on a minimal collection that has a massive impact—and the quality over quantity approach is one that the fashion industry as a whole has been contemplating since the beginning of the pandemic. In Vogue’s Global Conversations series, many designers discussed the concept of slowing down and producing more mindfully for the sake of the environment, the consumer and the designer. By placing more of an emphasis on sustainability and purpose, fashion can become a force for good, they argued.

And that may be why all three panelists pointed to vintage denim as the sector’s most exciting trend. Despite all of the latest innovations in design, it’s often history that inspires the future.

“For all of us, we’ve been in this business for about 25-30 years,” said van de Woestyne. “We like to look at the archives and all of the beautiful clothes from the past.”