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The Lowdown on the Imminent Return of Low-Rise Jeans

Is women’s denim fashion jumping from one extreme to the next?

Fashion shopping app Lyst reported this week that searches for low-rise jeans jumped 91 percent in the past six months, with baggy and flared fits among the most popular styles.

The new data supports Lyst’s findings from April, when the company saw searches for the polarizing style begin to climb. Then, the most in-demand styles included BDG’s baggy low-rise wide-leg jeans, Rag & Bone’s slim boyfriend, and Citizens of Humanity’s racer low-rise skinny jeans. All three jeans have a rise of about 8.5 inches. In the case of Rag & Bone, the jean is currently sold out.

The searches are likely a sharp contrast to the types of jeans currently in consumers’ closets. High-rise jeans and mom jeans have dominated the women’s market for years, and while Gen Z’s interest in various roomy fits have affected denim brands and retailers’ fall merchandising strategies, high-rises have remained a constant.

Last fall Wrangler introduced the Heritage collection, a women’s line of six nostalgic styles all with high-rise fits. The brand amplified the collection this spring with a campaign featuring Georgia Jagger, the daughter of rock star Mick Jagger and model Jerry Hall. The “Goldie” high-rise skinny jean by Eloquii continues to be a favorite with its 14.5-inch rise, and Levi’s continues to bet on the “High and Loose,” a rise just over 13 inches, adding it to its Made & Crafted lineup.

But the power of Gen Z’s influence—and its favorite celebrities—shouldn’t be underestimated.

This week alone Rihanna dressed in low-rise slouchy jeans during a trip to Whole Foods and supermodel Bella Hadid posted Instagram photos of herself wearing low-rise Sami Miro jeans with a cutout bodysuit. And the patron saint of low-rise jeans, Miss Britney Jean Spears, has made a strong case for low-rise denim shorts in a recent series of skin-baring Instagram posts—though it’s notable that she never abandoned the early-aughts staple.

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There’s room for retailers to capitalize on Gen Z’s curiosity in the Y2K staple, however. While there’s no denying the impact Gen Z is having on the denim’s future, retail analytics firm Edited said the cohort’s vote for low-rise jeans may be premature. Though brands like PrettyLittleThing and &OtherStories introduced low-rise jeans to their assortments in Q2, the style accounted for a scant 1 percent of jeans arrivals, while high-rise jeans dominated at 86 percent.

“Waistlines aren’t budging,” Edited stated.

That may be good news for millennial consumers, who are already being nudged to ditch their skinnies.

There are other trends for the cohort to follow, however. Lyst reported a 67 percent increase in printed denim—a trend Marc Jacobs cosigned with his Heaven collection. The brand has a deep range of printed denim featuring artist Sara Rabin’s abstract purple and red face print.

Patchwork denim is also up 112 percent, right on time as a wave of ’70s-inspired fashion washes over fall collections.