What happens when drop culture becomes mainstream and “near vintage” becomes the new vintage? Eclectic styling, the rise of niche brands and a whole lot of Instagram-ready looks, according to Amy Leverton and Sam Trotman of Denim Dudes.
The duo presented Fall/Winter 2020-2021 trend directions at Kingpins Amsterdam Wednesday, revealing the next phase of denim themes geared toward millennial and Gen Z consumers. After several seasons of seeing denim influenced by sport- and active-inspired streetwear, the denim experts forecast a return to smart dressing and pared down looks that emphasize individuality over clout.
Here, they share their four themes for Fall/Winter 2020-2021.
The “ultimate high-low” fashion story, Leverton says Business Casual is a reflection of how the luxury market is reinventing itself through sustainability, accessible designs, and by blending denim with sophisticated tailoring. Whereas previous seasons saw a flood of sneakers on the catwalk, Trotman pointed out a shift toward smart looks, but not in the traditional sense. Soft tailored blazers, casual two-piece suits, tailored checks and clean utility pieces are key.
“It takes streetwear out of the youth demographic,” Trotman said. “It becomes more appealing to a broader market.”
Beige, neutrals and vegetable hues offer an effortless palette for tonal dressing, while pops of mint green, mid cast indigo, red cast indigo and icy blue speak to the minimalist consumer.
For women, the focus is on empowering career fashion reminiscent of the clean styling Phoebe Philo coined during her tenure at Celine. Exaggerated volume, cinched waists and upscale pocket details refines the look, while asymmetrical jeans and power shoulders are a modern interpretation of ’80s power suiting. These bolder silhouettes, Trotman said, are driven by Instagram culture. “People want to share something that is different,” he said.
Tailored outerwear, like mac trench coats, are remade as hybrids with leather and denim pieces. Designers play with the scale of checks and plaids, while woolen textures add a cozy hand to jeans and denim suiting.
Precious materials and trims with pearl-like finishes add something special to the otherwise classic garments.
Workwear is the uniform for youth culture, Leverton said. In American Realism, Gen Z takes a new angle to blue collar apparel by mixing it with references from ’80s and ’90s skate brands, protective gear from the outdoor market and nostalgic items their fathers wore a decade ago.
This ironic look, Leverton said, stems from “youth in power.” A generation that grew up in political unrest, the rise of terrorism, an immigrant crisis and Donald Trump, she said, yearns to reclaim Americana, correct the mistakes Boomers made and even improve what they wore.
The trend story is based on “Boomer basics” like boxy silhouettes, denim bomber jackets, duck canvas and protective cocoon-like layering. “It has a ‘you against the world’ vibe,” Trotman said.
Recent vintage, or denim items that Leverton describes as having a worn-in look without destruction or extreme staining, is important. Traditional workwear colors like Carhartt tan are popped with ’80s violet and jade green. Bright yellow, red and blue with white top-stitching also lives here.
Utility details like mesh and cargo pocketing come straight from the Navy supply store. Oversized bottoms in classic stonewashes come from the skate world. Dad-inspired fleece jackets are updated with kitschy or geeky prints and camouflage—both realtree and mossy oak—is achieved digitally. Paint splatter and bleach effects are also digital prints. Remixed stars and stripes are a nod to the trend’s overall fetishism of Americana.
Trims take on a functional purpose with items like reflective tape trending. High visibility orange also comes through as lining for jean jackets. Branding is also a strong element, especially for American heritage labels like Levi’s and Gap.
“Climate change is starting to affect the apparel market in a big way,” Leverton said. Polar Performance, a trend story driven by extreme weather, fabric technology and “near nostalgia,” speaks to this movement.
Here, denim that supports muscle wellness, provides thermal insulation or protects against the wind, plus color is put to the test. The trend also captures Gen Z and millennials’ love for ’80s and early 2000s fashion. Prada’s millennium silver gray nylon accessories and Princess Diana’s ski wear are among the sources of inspiration. “Ski doesn’t have to be totally practical,” Leverton said.
Base layers—enhanced with body con seaming—have a second skin look and can be achieved through knit indigo. Denim is fused with wintery cable knits. Indigo fur offers a cruelty-free alternative and extreme texture. Utility continues to be important with D-rings, zips, top-stitching and oversized cargo pockets.
A cool color palette of icy blue, retro purple, muted whites and flat grays set the tone. Bleached out, barely blue denim is achieved through sustainable lasers. Tie-dye mimics the arctic landscape and cracked ice. Fabrics have a NASA-level shine and are as functional as they are stylish.
Superfan represents what happens when street culture becomes pop culture. Now that drops and collaborations are the norm, trendsetters want something more personal and bespoke.
The key to pulling off this trend story, Leverton said, is to look at archives the way Gen Z views them. “Gen Z is getting into obscure archives,” she said, adding that there’s a growing backlash to drops. “Supreme isn’t enough for them.
Gen Z is also in the business of collecting future collector’s items. The demographic doesn’t desire a designer label—they want a specific garment from a collection from five years ago. Sites like Grailed and The RealReal are supplying consumers with these items, Trotman said, underscoring the acceptance of curated second hand retail.
Superfan takes into account these shifts in streetwear with denim that is embellished with airbrushed images, personalized details and limited edition labels. Items that feel like “merch” and might mark a moment in time feel extra special.
An eccentric color palette of dark browns and “punchy brights” like classic green and orchid is “optimized for Instagram” and allows for individuality. Eclectic layers—be it colors, textures, brand or genres of clothing—is the “ultimate flex,” Trotman said. There’s also a bohemian element with paisley, global quilting and a mash-up of patterns.