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From Sport to Science: Industry Leaders on the Future of Denim

Avery Dennison RBIS hosted a panel of denim industry heavyweights at the company’s Customer Design and Innovation Center in Downtown Los Angeles last month. Amy Leverton, the former denim director at WGSN and author of “Denim Dudes,” moderated a panel with Adriano Goldschmied, the founder and creative director of Goldsign; Miles Johnson, the creative director of Patagonia; David Hieatt, founder of Hiut Denim; and Marco Lucietti, the global marketing director at Isko Denim.

Lucietti said Isko believes their consumers are becoming easily bored by denim, so the company has begun concentrating on technology and finding textiles to fit all body types. To keep up with the current apparel market, he said manufacturers must invent new technologies and fabrics. Lucietti said that loyalty in denim now comes from fit: “From brand loyal to fit loyal, we believe this is the biggest revolution happening today in the market,” he said.

While some consider knit to be the answer to the industry’s decline, Lucietti said knit is definitely not denim. Denim has its roots in woven fabrics and athleisure has its foundation in knits, he explained. However, Lucietti said Isko foresees athleisure continuing as a very strong trend in the future, the customers who are buying Joe’s Jeans or Diesel are also buying Nike and Adidas. Lucietti said that, in the future, woven denim will need to be able to satisfy performance needs and knit will need to enter the denim market.

Goldschmied agreed that denim brands will have to move faster to compete with athleisure. He pronounced simply, “The consumer doesn’t love jeans anymore.” In order to successfully market denim, Goldschmied said brands will have to move at the new high speed of the market and be prepared to completely change denim.

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Goldschmied emphasized the need for innovation in design. He said, “It’s also very important to be creative in terms of design. Why do we have to make a jean with five pockets, why not make a jean with eight pockets or no pockets?” He added, “People need to have innovation, need to have new things, need to have a big emotion when we buy something.”

Patagonia isn’t experimenting with cutting-edge technology, instead they place sustainability at the forefront of their mission and at the same time ensure their jeans are comfortable and look good. Johnson said, “[Patagonia] will do a good basic-made product that’s made for people that want to do stuff: rock climb, live life, do the splits.”

He added, “It’s just keeping up with people and with what people want without having to necessarily think about going into science fiction.”

Despite all the discussion of change in the denim industry, Johnson pointed out that, in terms of branding, it is still important to maintain the idea of jeans. He said, “There is still an air of familiarity that people still want to have about their jeans. You want innovation, you want something new, you want something that nobody else has got, but you still want something that looks like a pair of good jeans.”