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Why Leggings Are Losing to Denim Amid Today’s Trends

Leggings are losing their luster to denim.

When visiting my daughter’s university recently, I didn’t see a single student wearing leggings or any garments containing lycra.

What was the fashion rage? Denim.

Denim was in full view in bottoms and tops and dresses. College students are declaring they will not wear their mothers’ leggings everywhere, everyday, anymore.

Trends this well-defined will redefine the market for years to come. It’s time to recognize that true activewear is finished leading—the trend has plateaued. However, those textile trends within activewear are very much alive. Mills must embrace and focus on innovation and speed with an eye on the denim world—which is leading again.

The perennial question for Lycra spandex textile and garment producers is again upon us: How to adjust, and what to create? Creative mills that embrace a collective approach to innovation in their textile development processes will adjust to those trends that ripple throughout the wider fashion world.

Three evolutions

What was once a trend of comfort-enhancing textiles has become an insistence on more structured style. Trendsetters see it—today’s consumers want performance, want easy-care enhancements and want comfort with more structured style.

Performance fabrics continue to matter. Fashion leaders have reimagined performance fabric components into street, lounge and intimate apparel. Designers and developers in both men’s and women’s wear are now seizing upon this technical evolution. Brands and innovative mills, in concert, are creating the next wave of low-Lycra content blends with cashmere, Tencel, Modal, cotton, wool, poly and nylon.

One fast-moving example: Some have identified and reimagined fine gauge, low-Lycra content, patterns and textures with technologies—stay-cool tech, easy care, anti-odor, stain resistance, soil release and wicking, to name a few. These are game changers in the tops market.

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A second, clear trend is the divestment in activewear from synthetic-rich yarns (polys and nylons) to cellulosic blended yarns (cotton feel/natural feel) with tech infused for easy care and comfort.

A third area of evolution is the clear move to a more tailored pant (not always denim, but anything made on the cutting edge—fine gauge, stretch, double-knits) away from the legging that dominated for many seasons. These tailored pants are made of tech-performance fibers/fabrics and have a sportier look than pants of old, easily dressed up or down.

Milling it over

Over the past few years, designers and developers have looked to textiles with increasing frequency to set themselves further apart from their competition, driving what can best be described as an “industrial revolution” in textile development and production. Now, participating mills must be able to produce both smaller and larger runs of more personalized, high performance textiles, and do so with speed and efficacy.

The challenge is how to incorporate evolutionary tech capabilities in our mills into comfortable, natural textiles for youth-driven fashion categories. Today’s key fashion attitude is expressed by an interaction of surprising and incredible design and technology combinations that are hybrids of street fashion and activewear—with “relaxed and free” as our collective mantra.

All players (yarn producers, dye and chemical producers, textile/findings/apparel manufacturers and designers, et. al.) must serve as muses to one another —working in concert to produce, and continue to drive, the market forward.

Jim Andriola is an international textile sales and marketing consultant with 25-plus years of global textile experience. A stretch fabric specialist, Jim’s unique focus on activewear and apparel technical fabrics enables his invaluable guidance and access to the textile and apparel manufacturing matrixfrom startups to well established brands and retailers alike.