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Color and Nostalgic Details Top Cotton Incorporated’s Denim Forecast

Muted palettes paired with patterns and textures set the vibe for Fall/Winter 2021 and Spring/Summer 2022 denim collections, according to Cotton Incorporated. The not-for-profit organization recently introduced its denim trend forecast, revealing a shift toward classic garments with a twist for consumers seeking novel styles. Here’s a closer look into Cotton Inc.’s crystal ball.


The first color to come to mind about denim may be blue, but Cotton’s forecast maps out a broader spectrum of hues for F/W ’21-S/S ’22.

Neutral shades of white and unbleached cotton are an “indisputable favorite” for the upcoming seasons, it said.

While growing awareness about harsh chemicals and dyes has led to an uptick in natural ecru denim, the hue is gaining traction as a fashion color this fall. Global fashion search platform Lyst reported last week that winter white is among the fasting-rising colors this season. Searches for white coats grew 36 percent month-on-month, while searches for white boots increased 12 percent.

Demand for this neutral is poised to continue and will provide a warm contrast to the faded and jet blacks in Cotton Inc. forecast for men’s and women’s fashion.

Muted colors, nostalgia and elevated textures set the vibe for future denim collections, according to Cotton Incorporated.
Chanel Courtesy

And in another instance of sustainability influencing fashion, Cotton Inc. said desert-inspired hues akin to the colors achieved by natural dyes set the tone for the seasons’ earthy color palette. Pops of raspberry, khaki and golden tan are a nod to more traditional autumnal shades.

Pastels maintain their place in both men’s and women’s denim collections, albeit with a fall-ish makeover. Colors like lavender, peach and celery green are subdued compared to previous seasons, appearing whitened or slightly gray.

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Novelty colors like tomato red, goldenrod and dark purple, meanwhile, bring a jolt of youthful vibrance to the season and can be applied to workwear, rebellious punk-inspired fashion and other key Gen Z-centric stories for the season, Cotton Inc. added.

That’s not to say that tried-and-tried indigo shades do not have a place on the color card. Indigo shades include a raw dark blue, a greyish petrol blue, a bright mid-blue, as well as faded, and bleached-down blues, Cotton Inc. described. Notably, the indigo shades exude a sense of softness even on rigid constructions.


As always, fabrics are part of the equation. In regard to color, fabrics that use natural yarns in the warp and color yarns in the fill create subtle color effects on the face of cotton denim fabrics, Cotton Inc. described. The addition of pink yarns in the warp add “an air of sophistication” to 3×1 right hand twills. Denim fabrics that are enzyme washed, sprayed with pigment and laser etched also deliver this soft, worn-in look.

Fabrics with a frosted appearance echoes this intrigue in softness, including brushed constructions with Tricotine twill variation and garment dyed fabrics with a 3×1 left hand twill. Drapey fabrics and constructions with a mélange effect add to this sense of coziness. To give mélange a sustainable update, Cotton Inc. suggests blending virgin cotton with 41 percent recycled denim.

To contrast the neppy appearance of mélange, seek fabrics such as denim with clear or black laminates and coatings that give jeans a leather-like appearance.

Fabrics based on traditional crafts receive a fashion facelift, such as indigo Ikat yarns combined with multicolor yarn dyed on a plain weave base. Others, Cotton Inc. described, use modern technology like digital printing to mimic the artisanal look of such fabrics.

Stripes take on a bolder appearance. Some call for a combination of 3×1, 2×1 and 1×2 right hand twills to define stripes, while others play with color such as a 2×2 left hand twill with black and indigo stripes.

Flocked royal blue denim fabrics and flocked scrollwork on jeans add a regal velvet-like appearance to denim. Embroidery with both indigo and white yarns also add dimension to fabrics.

Heritage-inspired fabrics evolve in Cotton Inc.’s forecast. Chevron-patterned denim fabrics with flocking and cotton/wool blends offer winterized options. Sweater knits made with indigo yarn take on a natural faded appearance over time.

And bonded fabrications that combine lightweight indigo twill with a khaki open plain weave fabric offer an elevated way to wear pieced or patchwork denim. Expect to see garments that use a denim fabric on the front and an earthy-hued twill on the back for both comfort and unexpected cuff details.


Even in an apparel category as classic as denim, design is in the details. Cotton Inc.’s forecast includes a myriad of themes culled from past decades, subcultures and art.

Artisanal accents are more playful than bohemian compared to prior seasons with details like simple embroidery, colorful leather appliques (applied in a modern grid-like pattern) and linear tie-dye on deck. There’s also a return to femininity in Cotton Inc.’s forecast. Delicate lace adds a dainty element to 100 percent cotton women’s denim top, while traditional toile prints update ivory denim.

Muted colors, nostalgia and elevated textures set the vibe for future denim collections, according to Cotton Incorporated.
Koche WWD

Minimal looks for women focus on sculptural silhouettes and denim basics enhanced with seams that feature color-contrasting threads or three-dimensional constructions. Color and texture contrasting stripes are also used to elevate cotton workwear silhouettes. Workwear, in general, takes on a more colorful look, emboldened by Cotton Inc.’s forecast for tomato red and purple.

References to the ’80s and ’90s continue to land on denim’s radar. Cotton Inc. interprets the decades with color-blocked garments that combine indigo with hand-dyed denim in pop colors and small details like combining overdyed denim in multiple colorways on the pockets of jeans.

Rainbow space-dyed yarns are a “playful alternative” to pinstripe jeans, Cotton Inc. stated. Multi-color rhinestones add a nostalgic touch to jean skirts, while silver studs pack an unexpected edge on girlish garments like a puff-sleeve jean shirt.

Grunge takes on a lighter vibe as well. Pastel colors emerge in men’s jeans in a tie-dye-inspired motif, Cotton Inc. described. And in a nod to the subculture’s use of flannel, denim jackets feature a washed-down plaid print.