While recent earnings reports from giants like American Eagle and Levi’s paint a positive picture about denim sales rebounding after more than a year of being pulverized by loungewear, other brands are experiencing a different story.
“People went from zero to 100 when it comes to how they dress,” said Melissa Richmond, the East Coast senior account executive for the Mobile Showroom, which represents Edwin, Paige and more. “They went from wearing leggings to dresses and jeans have been left in the middle.”
Sales for jeans, however, are in a better place today compared to six months ago, she added.
Matt Garcia, an account represented for Scotch & Soda, the Dutch denim brand that recently benefited from refreshed branding, said he sees buzz for denim isolated to specific brands. Purple Brand, for instance, is garnering a cult following for its streetwear-meet-denim-head jeans.
Denim, however, was present last weekend at both Liberty Fairs and Project in Miami. The first-time shows were home to an assortment of immediates for fall, holiday and some Spring/Summer 2022 collections.
At Liberty, Scotch & Soda presented its S/S ’22 men’s range filled with “high summer optimism.” With linen and cotton blends and ’90s bubble prints, the collection touched on pandemic trends such as comfort and nostalgia without being designed for at-home wear. Recycled polyester swimwear and organic cotton jean shorts spoke to the brand’s efforts to become more sustainable, and the return of vacation fashion. Meanwhile, coordinating tops and shorts offered effortless looks for the weekends.
The majority of Scotch & Soda’s denim range was kept clean with items like versatile shackets and Western shirting. Looser fits were prominent, as well as jeans with subtle distressing and patchwork with pops of colorful stitchwork. One pair of jeans was embellished with a tonal palm tree appliqué on the back leg.
“Made in USA” Edwin was full of summer vibes with items like the women’s Cai short, available as a 4-inch cutoff and a 7-inch updated Bermuda with side slits. The Isla short, a pleated short with back flap pockets, took on several personalities. With a fuss-free clean wash, the shorts veered into office wear- territory. In a black acid wash, it smacked of the ’80s.
The decade, in general, was the inspiration for several of Edwin’s best looks, including a duo of straight fit 100 percent cotton jeans with pink and white acid-wash effect and a belted jean jacket accentuated with an authentic orange-peel effect.
Aussie brand Thrills, which got its unique start as a motorcycle customization brand a decade ago, has been growing its footprint in the U.S. for the last three years. Filled with recycled and organic fabrics and ’90s-era prints and colorways, the streetwear brand’s S/S ’22 collection may be the pièce de resistance that secures its spot in Gen Z closets.
Checkerboard sustainable swimwear for women and leopard print terry tops and bottoms for men bring the fun factor. But jeans, which makes up about 25 percent of its business, are blowing up, according to a brand representative. A pair of aubergine-hued carpenter jeans was a nostalgic standout for women, while tamer styles like bleached straight-fit jeans rounded out the line for men.
Sets and new shapes were high on the list of priorities of WeSC, the Stockholm skate lifestyle brand. Christian Veen, the brand’s sales manager, said WeSC is reacting to the market-wide shift from skinny to roomier silhouettes. The most popular fit is currently a straight leg, though WeSC just introduced a wide-leg jean with a 22-inch leg opening for S/S ’22. The collection is emboldened by psychedelic-inspired themes like purple acid wash, tie-dye, groovy phrases and a sunset-inspired palm print across jeans and denim jackets.
Fuller legs and coated denim were the main themes of 7 for All Mankind’s fall and holiday collections for women. Straight relaxed fits with a touch of stretch and full-length wide-leg jeans with a chopped hem delivered the vintage aesthetic that consumers crave, while “breathable and stretchy” coated styles emulated the luxe look of leather. Coated options spanned spice, black and chocolate brown slim fits, to a cream jogger style.
Coated jeans were also present in 7 for All Mankind’s men’s range, as well as washable coated knits. Brushed flannel shirts, cashmere cardigans and moleskin fabrics with a velvet-like feel were part of the tactile story.
While parts of the collection stayed true to denim’s roots—pearlized buttons accentuate a Western button-down shirt and a slim jean with a 36-inch inseam is designed to stack above a boot—others focused on the technical aspect of fabrics. The brand introduced its first comfort stretch jean jacket, the Luxe Performance Trucker, to the core line, as well as the tapered Slimmy for men with athletic builds. Meanwhile, the water repellent, wrinkle-resistant fabrics used in the Tech Series of 5-pocket bottoms offers men easy commuting and travel options.
Jacob Cohën carried on its tradition for premium jeans with Kintsugi, a men’s capsule collection made with Japanese fabrics. The laser-etched recycled cotton jeans and indigo-dyed linen shirts, which retail from $600-$1,200, are elevated options for any admirer of craft and tradition. The brand’s core line of stretch denim, meanwhile, offers everyday versatility.
Raw denim pieces made with 100 percent linen brought a minimalist utilitarian vibe to the Parasuco-related outerwear brand SP. Compared to the edgier, rock look of its sister brand, SP’s men’s range included work shirts and wider bottoms for men and cropped jackets and jeans punctuated with cargo pockets for women.
Paige presented the next iteration of its men’s Icon collection, which it introduced in December 2020. Based on L.A.’s rock ‘n’ roll culture, the capsule collection is an opportunity for the brand to show edgier interpretations of ready-to-wear items, Richmond said. A sleek satin zip-up jacket is one of the most popular pieces. The Lennox, a slim fit, and Federal, a slim straight, remain Paige’s best-selling jeans for men, she added.
There was no shortage of maximalist stage-worthy pieces from Rock Revival. The brand stayed true to its signature looks—decorated and distressed jeans—with styles embellished with neon paint, multi-color stitch work, towel bleaching and overdyeing. Katie Wieneck, the brand’s representative from RBC Showroom, said the brand is also leaning into demand for jeans that match back to T-shirts and comfortable fabrications like neoprene and fleece for tops and joggers.
Los Angeles-based men’s wear brand Dead Than Cool maintained its creative spirit with lightweight stretch denim in slim and skinny fits, as well as a new style that fits slim through the thigh and bells out at the bottom. Paint splatters, bleach splashes, heavy distressing and bold branding were complimented by the brand’s signature silk shirts.
The shows were also home to several forays in the denim category.
Women’s brand Claud bowed its first-ever collection at Liberty. Designed in New York and produced in Italy, the premium denim brand centered on light and mid-weight jeans with low-hanging front pockets designed with city life in mind. The collection, in which items retail for $298, includes Gen Z-oriented fits like high-rise bootcut jeans and long wide-leg jeans with vintage indigo, faded black and ecru washes. As of now, founder and creative director Claudia Di Capua said skinny jeans are not in cards.
Out of L.A., Blair Kershaw brought his new co-ed denim line called Harri Penny (named after his hometown of Harrisburg, Pa.) to Liberty. The “pandemic-born” brand got its start when Kershaw, who previously worked in ready-to-wear, taught himself how to sew denim via “YouTube university” during lockdown. The result is a range of contemporary, yet timeless denim garments intended to have an heirloom look and feel. Quarter-zip shirts, vests and double-front jeans combine with retro color-blocking and floral prints. Workwear elements like clips for wallet chains can be found throughout.
Mural artist Chris Pyrate, whose clients span Nike, Adidas and Yeezy to Wu-Tang and Lupe Fiasco, brought his apparel and accessories line, Chris Pyrate and Friends, to Project for the first time. Currently a direct-to-consumer label, Pyrate has ambitions to get into retailers with an appreciation for wearable art. Items like heavyweight hoodies, nylon pants, puffer jackets and workwear jackets feature chain-stitched artwork pulled from his murals.
The latest collection centers on a range of 100 percent cotton denim jackets and jeans with a “Catch Karma” theme. Each jean features a faux leather back patch and a removable bandana tied to a belt loop.