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The Trend Stories That Shaped Denim in 2020

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The year 2020 has frequently been depicted in films and books as a futuristic era of fashion, a time when uniforms like silver jumpsuits would be the norm. Tie-dye sweatsuits, however, was more like it.

In a year that forced the fashion industry to press pause and reevaluate the seasonality and the relevancy of their collections, quarantined consumers became the trendsetters. Clothes that addressed their immediate needs as well as their emotions during an unprecedented time became the trends that would ultimately shape fashion in 2020.

Here’s a look back.


Brands revisited old styles and consumers ate it up

Leading fashion brands and retailers retreated to their archives, which served as a safety net for design, so to speak, during an unpredictable time. This return to heritage styles was the latest extension of the ongoing nostalgic trend.

Leather and denim became the durable combo that tastemakers could not get enough of

Denim and leather share a unique quality in that they both can add an instant cool-factor to almost any look. They also resonate with the subversive, rebels without a cause, and in general, with individuals who question authority. Perhaps reading the tea leaves for 2020, it is for these reasons designers chose to feature both throughout their collections and why mainstream fashion labels got into the mix.

In a prescient move, fall runway shows shone a spotlight on craft and comfort

Before loungewear dominated 2020 fashion conversations, designers revealed their visions for denim with Fall/Winter 20-21 collections filled with artisanl details, bohemian regalia and touches of fantasy. Though at the time of their debut, qualities like upcycled patchwork, loose fits and hybrid designs were perceived as passing trends, they are elements that may now resonate even more strongly with the pandemic consumer.

In a year that forced the fashion industry to press pause, quarantined consumers (and their hobbies) became the fashion trendsetters.

E. Tautz

Musicians made fashion magic in their music videos

Music videos during the pandemic, it turns out, satiated consumers’ thirst for celebrity-driven fashion trends and aspirational designs. With no red carpet to watch and most fashion magazines pivoting coverage to current events, music videos became a source for fantasy and a peek into what fashion may have looked like in 2020 if most of the world wasn’t lazing in loungewear.

Quarantined consumers reacquainted themselves with sewing machines

A culmination of factors—from fashion embracing upcycling techniques and the mending and crafting movement born during quarantine, to consumers overall shift to classic and nostalgic styling—sparked a newfound interest in patchwork denim in 2020.

Back-to-basic style became cool again

While peacocking on social media in maximalist labels like Gucci had a time and place pre-coronavirus, consumers overwhelmingly shifted back to neutral foundational pieces, especially in men’s wear.

Everyone became a tie-dye artisan during quarantine

The tie-dye trend showed no end in 2020. While the trend took off when consumers began to search for joyful loungewear pieces like hoodies and sweatpants, and it quickly evolved into socks, hair scrunchies, children’s wear and more.

Rivet rounded up some of the best-selling tie-dye sweat sets that are guaranteed to put you in a cheery mood during quarantine.

Madewell hoodie

Gen Z embraced their inner Martha Stewart with gusto

Every year brings a youth-centric subculture that mystifies elders. In 2020, it was cottagecore, an aesthetic based around an idealized life on a farm, and the impetus behind trends like house dresses, gingham, denim overalls and cardigans

Consumers wanted to dress like Mike

“The Last Dance,” the ESPN miniseries documenting the career of NBA great Michael Jordan drove fashion brands, retailers and consumers to emulate the legend’s loose fits. Jordan’s taste for ’90s-style baggy shorts, wide-leg trousers and polo shirts became a blueprint for at-home men’s fashion.

Designers expressed a sense of optimism through color

A natural mood enhancer and soother, color was a major part of a designer’s storytelling arsenal for Spring/Summer ’21 collections. The collections offered an even splay of color, including calming and practical neutrals, soft pastels and invigorating jolts of saturated hues.

The best seat in the house during fashion week was the couch

With many fashion week regulars staying closer to home, designers retrofitted their presentations for a broader digital audience. Through video, Instagram live and social media posts, designers offered fashion lovers a virtual respite from the coronavirus and U.S. election news that has consumed their feeds in recent months.

Denim became part of designers’ post-pandemic playbook

After months of living in sweats, the jeans presented at S/S ’21 fashion weeks felt creative and special with bold patchwork and color; ultramodern as unconventional silhouettes; and classic and time-worn—investment pieces on track to be future vintage finds that endure as seasons wax and wane.

The hottest accessory was an “I voted” sticker

Fashion brands took a nonpartisan approach to encouraging voter registration and voter turnout by rolling out election-themed merchandise like Ts, masks and pins.

From political statements to consumers' desire to hit the roads, Rivet outlines 20 trends to watch for the remainder of 2020.

Levi’s

Prints and patterns said a lot about the current state of the world

If a picture can say a thousand words, a print can certainly describe a mood. At the start of the pandemic, trend forecasters examined how the desire for nostalgia, calmness and introspective thoughts would translate into motifs for fashion and home.

Consumers are still waiting for an occasion to wear fashion’s so-called return to tailoring

In early 2020, after years of streetwear looks dominating collections, fashion watchers discussed the long-awaited return of polished men’s wear. The trend, however, never fully took off as workplaces shuttered and loungewear became the new normal.

And the fashion world is still anticipating the “Roaring Twenties”

Prior to the pandemic, consumers were searching for fringe, metallics and other flapper era fashion. Trend watchers, however, expect to see the act of dressing up rebound when the world reopens.

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