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Politics and Social Media Will Shape 2019 Denim Trends

When it comes to denim trends, the power is with the people, in more ways than one.

Mitchell Kass, owner and creative director of Trend Council, a New York City-based trend forecasting firm, says denim trends for 2019 will be shaped by consumers and the environment around them.

While the connection between denim and politics ebbs and flows through history, Kass expects the relationship to pick up steam in the coming year as the next U.S. presidential election nears and younger generations continue to find their voice.

“There’s a whole generation that is getting into demonstrating and gaining a voice about what’s happening around the world,” Kass said.

Millennials and Gen Z will likely follow in the footsteps of young generations from the ’60s and ’70s, which took bold actions to fight racism and injustice, fought for women’s rights and protested the Vietnam War. Their fashion will follow, too.

The flare and crop flare are gaining traction in the women’s market, according to Kass, while men’s is moving toward straight cuts with an exaggerated cuff. Bolder historic references, he added, come through in washes, like acid, enzyme and tie-dye.

“We’re shifting out of a raw denim moment into something more Woodstock-ish that looks handmade and one-of-a-kind,” he said. It’s an artisanal direction, Kass added, which many large companies are challenged by, particularly those that manufacturer on a large (and cheap) scale.

“When you look at what’s trending on Instagram, you’re seeing people are taking pride in whatever they wear doesn’t look mass produced,” he said. “That’s the big takeaway.”

Fashion has become more democratic, thanks in part to social media channels like Instagram that allow images of ordinary people to scroll side by side stylized photos of celebrities, models and fashion bloggers.

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“The blogger is fading away,” Kass said. “It’s not just about that one celebrity or personality. It’s about all the Instagram users, and that’s where designers need to start following.”

While it doesn’t hurt a trend to get the seal of approval from personalities like the Hadids, Kardashians or Jenners, Kass says trends begin to get more interesting when millennials and Gen Z put their own spin on the look. “It’s more global than just emulating a style,” he said.

Tracking trends on social media also leads to more creation. “The masses are the inspiration,” Kass said. “Following how everyday people dress helps makes fashion more accessible and opens up creativity.”

And social media will be the tool that helps keep luxury streetwear on the map in 2019 and beyond—if luxury brands are sharp, Kass said.

“I think there [is] always a customer base for luxury brands, but I think brands have to be smart about how they understand the next generation—their groupies—and anticipate what they want,” he said.

Granted, it takes a bold move to shift and bring the brand to somewhere else. “You can only do that with a designer that has a new vision and that’s hard for brands,” Kass said. “But once sales begin to slip, they will start to research next steps,” he said.