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Brands are Making a Hard Sell for Soft Denim

Soft sells—or it at least makes a compelling story for denim brands to share in store and online.

Brand names like Gap, DL 1961 and Madewell are highlighting the soft hand feel and touch of their pre-fall collections in their latest consumer marketing efforts.

“Brands are seeking soft denim with fiber blends, yarn spinning and various finishing effects,” Tricia Carey, director of global business development for denim at Lenzing, confirmed. “Some brands are producing authentic denim looks with softness built in.”

Madewell recently introduced the 9-inch High-Rise Skinny Jeans: Tencel Edition. Touted as “the softest jeans ever” in its consumer email marketing, the new stretch denim from Orta is a 44 percent cotton and 42 percent Tencel lyocell blend with a touch of polyester and elastane.

madewell jeans
Madewell jeans with Tercel madewell

Last week Banana Republic promoted a new collection of women’s casual tops with Tencel. And DL 1961 just launched its jeans made with Refibra, an upcycled fiber made from cotton scraps collected post garment production and wood pulp from trees in responsibly managed forests.

The women’s jeans—a mid-rise ankle-length skinny available in three washes—contain 60.5% Refibra Lyocell and have a “soft-structured feel.”

DL 1961 jeans made with Refibra DL

“Consumers visiting retail stores can feel the difference Tencel fibers provide by touching or trying on denim. As brands sell more online they have to bring denim to life by describing the aesthetics,” Carey said. “Softness is an element of comfort which consumers are seeking in their denim purchases, which is an inherent property of Tencel fibers.”

And the appeal of a soft hand feel doesn’t end with women. “Softness previously was associated only with womenswear, but not anymore,” Carey noted.

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The Gap expanded its Soft Wear collection made with super-soft, premium denim. The collection was introduced as a small men’s program last season and has since expanded to include men’s and women’s Trucker jackets and jeans.

Described by the brand as “ridiculously soft fabric,” the jeans are part of Gap’s water-saving Washwell program that uses 20 percent less water than traditional washes. The majority of the collection is made with a Tencel blend using zero cotton.

Use of Tencel fibers for men’s denim ticks up each season. Ralph Lauren, Gap, G-Star, Mavi, J Brand, Lucky, DL1961, Hudson and Tommy Bahama are among the brands incorporating the fiber into their men’s lines this fall. And the trend is expected to continue.

“Men’s lifestyle wardrobes have evolved, including multifunctional and comfortable apparel,” Carey said.