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Athleisure and Embellishment Make the Grade for Back-to-School Denim

Denim is a traditional back-to-school purchase, but each season brings with it new trends in children’s denim influenced by both fashion and the ever-changing needs of consumers.

According to a back-to-school survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics, families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend $696.70 on average for the 2019 back-to-school season. And they’re favoring brick-and-mortar businesses like department stores and discount retailers that frequently run promotions and discounts over online retailers.

Roughly three in 10 shoppers say back-to-school-related coupons or in-store promotions will motivate them to shop at a specific retailer, NRF reported.

“It’s clear that many families are factoring in price when shopping,” said Phil Rist, Prosper executive vice president of strategy.

And factors like shifting school calendars and climate patterns are leaving their mark on the type of back-to-school denim parents are purchasing.

In Florida and Texas, where the school year began in mid-August, students hit the books in 90-degree heat and high humidity, meaning back-to-school style no longer equates to fall fashion. Millennial-age parents may have memories of wearing autumnal corduroy and long jeans on their first day of school, but their children, Generation Alpha, will likely remember wearing shorts, tees and sandals.

It’s the main reason why Macy’s is giving lightweight fabrications and jean shorts a longer shelf life into September. “We are seeing denim shorts becoming more important as it is still warm across the country and kids are extending their summer wardrobe staples into the first months back to school,” Durand Guion, Macy’s Fashion Office vice president told Rivet.

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Still, the season is an opportunity for retailers to press the reset button. “A new school year is a blank slate and the perfect chance to showcase the latest fashion this fall,” Guion said.

And denim continues to be a key category for the 2019 back-to-school season. “Back to school marks a new season with new ways of dressing and creating your own individual style,” said Aaina Jain, founder of the boutique children’s denim label, Blu & Blue. “The season is a busy time for us to bring the most innovative trends in denim to kids.”

In its back-to-school campaign, “All Brand New,” Macy’s boasts a mix of athleisure items from Champion, high-rise Levi’s jeans and ’90s-era lug sole shoes by Steve Madden. “At Macy’s we love the combination of denim and athleisure worn together,” Guion said. “We are excited about the evolution of denim this season as it relates to newness in fits, washes and fabric innovations.”

Fabrics are one way DL1961 Kids sets itself apart on the sales floor. Constructed from the same premium fabrics and innovative technology as its adult divisions, Ryan Lombard, DL1961 marketing manager, says “the kid’s line puts fit and function at the forefront of every collection.”

DL’s eco-friendly, soft stretch knit denim does especially well in the jacket category for kids, where a soft hand feel is paramount. “It doesn’t feel rigid or stiff,” Lombard said about the fabric, which is executed in traditional Trucker silhouettes and hybrid versions with jersey sleeves and a hood.

DL1961 jacket
DL1961 Courtesy

For Blu & Blue, bombers are the jacket style of choice for fall. “They’re trendy and easy to throw on any dress or jeans to create a statement look,” Jain said. “Our bomber jackets are embellished with unique embroidery: think graphic and painterly techniques. Cool badges on the jackets add up to the look as well.”

The brand has also incorporated embellished denim jackets into its mixed. “Embellished denim jeans and jackets make a huge fashion statement for back-to-school,” she added. “Our Peru Denim jacket and matching skirt set is inspired by the Peruvian culture, lined with wool and embroidered llama patch work, it makes this style so unique from anything else on the market.”

Along with jean jackets being a “must-have” for back-to-school, Guion said novelty treatments, embellishments and colored denim are key for the girls’ category. Macy’s is covering all the bases with items like Levi’s 710 bubblegum pink super skinny jeans, Calvin Klein jeans with bold logos and Epic Threads’ Trucker jacket with patchwork stars.

DL1961 fits this bill with animal prints, camouflage and star motifs throughout its girls’ line. “Embellishments and patchwork embroidered detailing promise to be a popular trend this fall,” Lombard added. “Embellished jeans and denim jackets will help kids make a fashion statement for back to school. Think graphic prints, floral embroidery and more abstract patterns.”

For boys, joggers have been doing “exceptionally well” due to athleisure being more prevalent, Lombard added. “Tan khaki is always great for back to school as it meets dress code,” he said. “Also, our dark blue denim sells really well for us in all styles.”

At Macy’s, Guion said joggers are among the silhouettes to watch in boys’ denim, as well as super skinny fits, which he reported are seeing renewed interest. “Ripped and repaired treatments are still a big trend for boys,” he added.