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Designers Play It Safe with Commercial Denim Looks at NYFW

Denim has been an area of experimentation for fashion designers for several seasons, but the Fall/Winter 20-21 collections at New York Fashion Week saw designers revisit classic jeanswear.

With high-profile names opting out of New York Fashion Week—CFDA chairman Tom Ford ruffled feathers by presenting in Los Angeles, Tommy Hilfiger relocated his star-studded show to London and Ralph Lauren is planning a show in April—lesser-known labels had more runway to make an impression.

With his evening wear playing up the dramatics with sweeping capes and full skirts, Brandon Maxwell continued his rendition of modern day wear with a collection of dark denim.

A ’70s collar button-down denim shirt was matched with a pair of slim, creased denim trousers. A pair of relaxed-fit jeans was worn low on the hips, punctuated by distressing and deep cuffs. Simple dark rinse jeans were offered for men in straight and relaxed fits, too.

Indigo and off-white skinny jeans were worn tucked into classic riding boots, while others featured slashes and distress marks above the knee. The core denim style was part of Maxwell’s classic uniform of tweed blazers, cashmere sweaters and an assortment of winter-white separates.

With Ralph Lauren on hiatus, Michael Kors filled the void of fashion for the Upper East Side sophisticate. The collection skewed traditional and mature with a variety of capes, paisley-printed dresses, riding pants and double-breasted military-inspired wool coats.

Jeans with a dirty wash added a vintage look and feel to the collection. Notable fits were denim culottes with an even fringe hem and relaxed, straight-fit jeans that puddled over a chunky shoe. A white denim vest lined with faux white fur was among Kors’ wildest offerings.

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Denim balanced blazers, plaids and smart-looking coats in Veronica Beard’s collection, too. A simple zip-front denim jumpsuit with an undone hem treatment was cropped short to show off boots. Slim-fit flares were defined with by a darker seam. Quilting added a country vibe to a pieced denim jacket. Meanwhile, silver fringe added a country music star look to a classic double-denim outfit.

Zadig & Voltaire experimented with double denim. A women’s Western jean shirt was paired with two-tone double-waisted jeans. An oversized denim puffer coat contrasted the proportions of a slim denim skirt in the same wash. For men, the brand added twisted zipper details to slim blue jeans that coordinated with a range of Classic Blue knits and outerwear.

The downtown art scene in New York City in the late ’70s and early ’80s inspired Coach’s collection. While high-shine leather separates in primary colorways were the foundation for most of the men’s and women’s looks, items like denim overcoats added a youthful and nostalgic edge. The coats were paired with scarves decorated with Basquiat artwork and colorful knits.

Cuffs and hem details were a focal point for many designers.

In a F/W 20-21 collection called “Lost Elf,” Blancore showcased cropped wide-fit blue jeans with cut-and-paste hem details. The wavy lines and contrast stitching added a crafted look to a collection that included child-like items like a quilted denim skirt adorned with plush toys.

Loose-fit bleached jeans and blue jeans with bleached dipped hems added lightness to the season.

Held at the legendary New York City eatery Delmonico’s, Cinq à Sept presented a spirited collection of knits, tweed jackets and denim. Dark-wash, straight-leg jeans were punched up with a deep cuff with button details. The cuff was mimicked on a ’70s-style denim suit jacket, worn with matching high-waisted, wide-leg trousers.

R13 channeled the Wild West with a dark collection that mashed gritty denim with biker leather and cowboy accoutrements. Trucker jackets were spliced together with leather sleeves and cinched by double-buckle belts with Western-inspired hardware. Other jeans featured deep leather cuffs or leather chaps. Washed-down black jeans with a twisted waist were worn slouchy.

The denim pieces came together with a mix of bolero ties, oversized hats and rocker-inspired leopard print jackets, while combat boots and double-breasted outerwear pieces nodded to military traditions.

Though deconstructed denim and streetwear pieces were non-existent, some designers continued to use denim as a canvas for color and prints.

While Palm Angels presented a long Trucker jacket—with one half white denim and the other blue—the luxury streetwear label’s other items included a shearling-lined denim jacket and studded jeans. One of the brand’s most creative items was a pair of jeans decorated with different color belt loops.

In a Gen Z-appropriate collection, New York-based label Priscavera presented classic blue jeans with koi fish printed down the legs. The jeans were part of a collection that included slouchy pink suits and lingerie-inspired slip dresses.

And then there was Eckhaus Latta, which offered overdyed acid-wash jeans in pop colors like red and tangerine, and jeans embellished with all-over frays. Rather than standing out as fashion pieces, the jeans blended into a collection that played with textures like chunky corduroy, fine knits and mesh.