As American as apple pie and semi-automatic weapons, denim has been somewhat side-lined, in fashion terms, over the past couple of years. In the style doldrums, denim was once the unassailable casual-wear category. 'Skinny', 'Spray On', 'Muscle Fit' or 'Ballet Fit', (I just made the last one up) are firmly out and the fugly Dad/Mum jean is a confusing ‘fashion’ concept to the average punter. Denim doesn’t quite know where it is right now.
Left - A timeless American denim image
So, it is timely that Levi Strauss & Co. launched their public offering onto the New York Stock Exchange, last week. They must know something we don’t.
The 166-year-old company first went public in 1971, but has been private for the last 34 years. The trading price of over $22 per share was well above projections and means the brand has a gross value of $8.7 billion. Before the sale, a figure of $17 per share was estimated.
“I’d say the fact the stock opened so much above the price we listed at suggests a certain amount of confidence in the company, confidence in the business results and confidence in the sustainability of our business,” Chip Bergh, chief executive, told the Financial Times.
Levi’s is the American denim original, and, like all original brands, it has considerable value. It also has huge potential. On its annual revenues of $5.6 billion, in 2018, a year-on-year growth of 14%, just 3% of it came from China. Even in a denim downturn, Levi’s made a profit of $542 million in 2018, (Adjusted EBIT). When the denim market does start to power away again, Levi’s is in one of the strongest positions to reap the benefits, being priced well below designer brands, but above the fast-fashion players.
For the rest of the denim market, it has been a struggle. Over the last 10 years, global jeans sales have climbed at a 3.5% compounded annual growth rate, slower than the entire apparel category, according to the analyst company, Bernstein. Leggings and tracksuits have replaced jeans in people’s wardrobe. Traditional denim just isn’t cool ATM.
In London, department store, Harvey Nichols, announced, last year, that its “Denim Room” would sell other non-denim products such as shirts and more casual clothing items. Once the cow-cash of the department store, the denim room is on the wane, like the category itself.
Last year, the huge American VF (Vanity Fair) Corp. was looking to sell their huge Wrangler and Lee jeanswear brands. They had previously sold premium jeans brand Seven For All Mankind in 2016. But, with no takers, VF Corp. is to spin off its jeanswear business, which includes Wrangler, Lee and Rock & Republic, into a new public company called Kontoor Brands in the first half of 2019. Kontoor Brands will remain in North Carolina, while VF will move the sports apparel and footwear businesses, including The North Face, Timberland and Vans, to its new corporate headquarters to Denver, Colorado.
Right - With skinny jeans gone, the denim industry needs a new trend/style to get consumers excited again. Not sure this style will fill denim manufacturers with much excitement for selling for those extra metres of fabric...
North Carolina was once the heartland of American denim production. Cone Mills White Oak Plant, the last selvedge denim mill in the United States, closed permanently on December 31, 2017. After 112 years in business, International Textile Group, Cone’s parent company, cited the reason as, “Changes in market demand have significantly reduced order volume at the facility as customers have transitioned more of their fabric sourcing outside the U.S.” The switch to cheaper, foreign made denim made this American denim factory unviable. It probably didn’t help that denim’s share of the apparel market and sales were declining. At one point, it was the largest mill in the world and is noteworthy for the “Golden Handshake” deal struck with Levi Strauss & Co. in 1915 to be the exclusive manufacturer of the XX denim used in the brand’s 501 jeans.
It’s not just American jeans brands that are struggling. This month, Diesel USA Inc., the American arm of the Italian Diesel brand filed for bankruptcy in Delaware. They blamed plummeting sales, a botched turnaround, pricey leases and unwavering landlords plus several instances of cyber fraud and theft. The Chapter 11 petition estimates up to $100 million in assets and as much as $50 million in debt. Diesel USA has 380 employees and 28 retail stores. It doesn’t plan to close, it wants a clean sheet in order to open new stores and refit some old ones. “Prior management began employing a real estate strategy that involved substantial investments in its retail stores,” Chief Restructuring Officer Mark Samson said in a court declaration. In an effort to put stores in “premium” locations, it entered into pricey leases, for example, its flagship on Madison Avenue in New York, just as its sales “dropped precipitously,” he said.
Left - US Jeans Sales are starting to see an uptick
On a positive note, it appears that the denim slide has bottomed out and sales are seeing a slight uptick. According to Euromonitor International, American jeans sales, saw a year-on-year 2.2% growth to over $16.5 billion in 2018.
Denim needs Americans and the rest of the world to fall back in love with their jeans. It also needs a style that resonates with consumers and gives them a reason to buy a new pair. Fashion will play its part by offering new styles and ways to incorporate this most American of fabrics. It’s just a case of seeing which options resonate most with consumers. Denim's return is not a case of if, it’s when.
The two main Berlin men’s trade shows, relevant to the UK market, SEEK and Premium, had a switch up for the AW19 season. SEEK, the younger, more streetwear and sportswear focused show pushed its separate area for skate fashion, Bright, into the main show space. What this did was make the show feel more outerwear heavy and technical and showed a definite turning away from branded sportswear for AW19.
Premium on the other hand made the correct decision to reorder their show spaces: mixing the brands and giving the feeling of discovery rather than uniform looking halls. Premium is, just that, more premium, targeting an older demographic with the deeper pockets to buy more expensive clothes and finishes.
Left - Inside the main hall at Premium, Berlin
Here are the big AW19 trends coming out from Berlin and the labels worth making a note of:
Post Sportswear Preppy
The sportswear juggernaut was bound to slow at some point and we’re seeing the beginnings of it for AW19. The overall feeling was of less branding and colour and the idea that sportswear to segue-waying itself into new areas. Retro sportswear is going out the door and morphing into either more technical or preppy product. A perfect example of this is Champion doing branded rugby shirts. It’s still sportswear, but it’s moving back into the preppy area of menswear. This will be how preppy returns to fashion.
Left - Lacoste 80s college jacket
Right - Champion showing the segue way from sports into preppy with rugby shirts
The Recycled Renaissance of Denim
Always eco-conscious and sustainably minded, the German shows have always been home to brands trying to change the system and limit fashion’s impact. Denim, one of the world’s most destructive fabrics in terms of pesticides, water and dyeing, needs a way back into fashion.
Two Dutch brands, Butcher of Blue and Mud Jeans are pioneering reusing and recycling denim. Butcher of Blue reworks vintage and Mud Jeans asks for its old jeans to be returned to be completely taken back to the raw fibre and remade. They also offer a leasing service - €7.50 a month, €29 sign up - for those who don’t want to own. Around 40% of the new jeans are from old jean fibres.
HNST, a new German jeans brand, claims to include 56% of reused denim fibres in its new jeans with the rest being Tencel. People donate their old jeans and electrolytes are used to fix the indigo to the fabric and make the dye soluble. Expect more of this from the bigger denim brands.
Left - HNST denim recycling old jeans into new
Corduroy has been making inroads back into menswear over the last few winters. Biscuit and forest green are the main colours, here, as it spreads from coats and trousers into accessories and footwear. Related to the remerging preppy trend, corduroy offers a fresh collegiate take in warm team colours.
Clockwise from left - Superga, Kangol, Far Afield, Averse
For those men wanting colour and pattern, tartan is the fabric of the AW19 season. First seen on the catwalks of London, tartan is a masculine way of putting interest safely into a any man’s wardrobe. Portuguese brand, Averse, had classic Black Watch, and Schneiders offered something more appropriate for those Rupert The Bear wannabes.
From Left - Schneiders, Averse
Long-Line Arctic Parkas
This is a trend that needs another winter to build, but get in early. Expect many more of these for AW20. In a saturated coat market and the oversized trend blowing up - pardon the pun - the arctic parka is getting longer and more cocoon like.
The American, but Italian run and owned, Refridgwear, has done a collection with a German designer, (they wouldn’t name just yet), where the bottom foot of the jacket can be simply added and taken away. All for around €500. There were a few more brands, such as Woolrich, doing similar long-line styles at Pitti Uomo.
Left - Refridgwear collab with a yet unnamed German designer, the bottom section is detachable
A father a son team, Tom & Adam, from Riga in Latvia, feature wearing their own product on the website and in imagery. Made in Latvia, designed in Paris, this new underwear and swimwear brand is trying to get us off our cheap addiction and slipping into something with more quality.
Trunks - €35, Swimshorts - €150
A Design Collective
A new British casual shoe brand offering value in the luxury, minimal cup-sole market. Made from Italian leather in Portugal, the people behind A Design Collective currently do private label and are now launching with the Common Projects customer in mind with this £130 sports shoe. Launches July.
Barcelona based, Brava Fabrics, manages to tread that fine line between fun and immature. Their Spanish made fabrics feature yellow submarines, llamas - the new unicorn? - and the ever nostalgic cassette tapes. The fun side of hipster.
This type of padded outdoor slipper could be the new slider. New British brand, Coma Toes, certainly hopes that’s true with their collection of padded sports slip-ons. I’ve seen something similar from The North Face before, but there’s always room for a new, well-priced and casual footwear trend. Watch this space...
Offering great value and made in London outerwear, Wax London is a husband and wife design team. They aim to bring the manufacturing of traditional British outerwear back to the UK. These are complimented with staple essentials of jerseys, knits and shirts crafted in Portugal and Italy.
Salzburg based, Schneiders, is a quality outerwear producer with traditional alpine shaped and loden type fabrics. In the upper price points, the product is made in Romania, but from premium fabric and fur finishes. For the modern Cecil Beatons.
Thei-Sprint began in 1935 with Heinz Theisen, a man who dedicated his life to professional cycling. Born in the textile district of Moenchengladbach, after World War II he began making his own equipment, jerseys and gear.
In 1965 he returned to his roots and began designing cycling equipment again. With his own knitting machines, he made jerseys and beanies for local teams together with his wife in their basement. The “Thei-Sprint“ brand was born.
By 1985 Theisen had joined the renowned Telekom and Coast cycling teams as a mechanic. His final triumph came in the 1988 Seoul Olympics where Theisen won gold as a chief mechanic with the West German track cycling team. He is famous for his red beanie which they continue to make proudly in Germany.
The seeds of denim’s comeback are being sown. Thanks to Raf Simons’ Calvin Klein and his new uptight form of denim, we have a new way to see and wear it.
Left - Wrangler AW18
Bin those skinny jeans and buy yourself a denim shirt with contrasting front pockets, a roll neck and a denim jacket. This is 1970s cowboy in mid-winter.
Right - Calvin Klein AW18
The new AW18 campaign from Wrangler perfectly illustrates this. Brokeback at the top of the mountain, you could say, this all-American, retro look is all about layering relaxed shapes. Denim or corduroy jackets over jeans, check shirts and lightweight roll necks give this cowboy a romantic and wild edge. Think more North Carolina than North Acton.
Just don’t look like it’s your first time at the rodeo!
Left - Calvin Klein SS18
Below - Wrangler AW18
Get more inspiration in the video below. The video reminds me of the 1980s cult in Netflix's Wild Wild Country - here
Denim is having a bit of downtime while it decides where it wants to go after skinny. But, just because denim maybe having a rest, it doesn’t mean leather is.
I saw this a few months ago and at first glance, it’s a classic blue denim shirt, but, on touching and closer inspection, it’s printed leather. Admittedly, that bumps the price up massively - it’s quite an investment - but who else do you know who will be wearing a leather denim shirt?
This is the ultimate in luxury casual.
Left & Below - Tod’s - Leather Shirt - £2650
With the Russian World Cup coming, or should that be looming?! We're going to get all nostalgic for Panini stickers and short-short football kits. Retro sportswear shows no sign of slowing down in fashion circles and anything branded, or with brand's old logos, is as popular as ever.
Credits - Loafers - Base London, Jeans - Raey, Top - Vintage
Ryan Haynes, Menswear Luxury Buyer, Coggles
“‘All about a clean and simple aesthetic with a slight element of layering. Stick to fresh, primary colours and you can’t go wrong. A wardrobe staple in a classic denim wash which is very versatile.”
Left - Acne Studios - North Slim Jeans Mid Blue - £210
“Really current and cool brand. Sweatshirts are great for layering at this time of year and colour blocking is key.”
Left - Ami - Sweatshirt - £175
“Everyone needs a floral shirt in their wardrobe. Bold, but can be worn both smartly with a blazer or casually for a festival.’
Below -McQ Alexander McQueen - Billy Foral Shirt – £250
“A tan, suede jacket is essential in every man’s wardrobe. Fitting in with the western influence, it is on trend but also timeless in itself.”
Left - Officine Générale - Suede Liam Jacket - £870
“Classics, but the marble sole adds an contemporary and unique twist.”
Below - Axel Arigato - Clean 90 Sneaker - £160
All the pieces are SS18 and exclusive to the newly launched flagship store; Coggles, 52 London Road, Alderley Edge, Cheshire, SK9 7EF
Jeans are in flux. Okay, that is a bit dramatic, but upstaged by the style and comfort of tracksuit bottoms and the fact that many jeans styles have become way too tight and skinny, it’s time for a new direction.
The ‘Dad Jean’ is deliberately ill-fitting and unflattering and looks surprising fresh. Liberating and, so-bad-they’re-good type of thing, you need the most ill-fitting shape, in the worst wash you can find. You can thank me later!
Okay, these may take a while to get used to, but, ask yourself, how long did it take until you committed to your first pair of skinny jeans?
Think Kurt Cobain.
Left & Far Left - Topman - Blue Cropped Wide Leg Fit Jeans - £40
Weekday - Drift Loose Cropped Jeans Lagoon Blue Wash - £40 from ASOS
River Island - Light Blue Wash Cody Loose Fit Raw Edge Jeans - £45
Who knew Obama was the king of the dad jean?!
TheChicGeek headed north to experience the renaissance of our great industrial centres. The first stop was the heart of the UK, Birmingham.
Arriving at the new and shiny - quite literally - Birmingham New Street station, TheChicGeek headed to the comfort of the new AC Hotel at the Mailbox development adjacent to the canal.
With more canals than Venice, Birmingham’s Mailbox is a mix of industrial heritage and modern architecture with a recently refurbished Harvey Nichols, shops and restaurants.
TheChicGeek went sporty in his OOTD with a fitted biker jacket in soft suede and new, relaxed dark denim jeans with an athleisure drawstring. Finished off with bright white plimsolls, Birmingham was the perfect eclectic backdrop for TheChicGeek.
Credits - Brown Suede Biker Jacket - ASOS - Flamingo Shirt - River Island, Drawstring Jeans - Replay, Trainers - Muji, Spectacles - Salvatore Ferragamo, Watch - Mondaine
With thanks to AC Hotels Birmingham Mailbox #ACHotels
See Salford Quays
Paris is always the most serious of fashion capitals. Never one for irony or a sense of humour, when Paris does something, it does it with a serious face. That aside, thanks to a few international designers, a few glimmers of fun poked through.
Call of the Wild
Safari, wild beasts, dodos?! Which animal would play you in the fashion Jungle Book?
Left - Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Walter van Beirendonck, Louis Vuitton
No need to shrug those shoulders as your neck disappeared seasons ago.
Putting the gay into 'Gay Paris', Joseph has nothing on this technicolour.
Left - Paul Smith, Lanvin, Balmain, Thom Browne
A new way to do prints. Thinking natural dyes and historical influences.
Left - Dries van Noten
Big Trouser Bulge
Pack everything in.
Left - Givenchy
There is something about this wash which is so wrong yet so right at the same time. Think Dynasty/Dallas denim.
Left - Balmain
If life gives you lemons, then wear yellow?!
From Left - Paul Smith, Hermes
From Left - Off White, Haider Ackermann
Those tails are wagging for this new cropped evening style.
Left - Balmain
(See more from Milan - here)
If you’ve been taking notes from the latest men’s collection from Gucci, Cruise ’17 to be precise, you’ll have seen that they’ve looked to Britain and our anarchic past and created classically punked denim.
Both - Gucci Cruise '17
I’ve been tempted to bleach some jeans for a while now, ever since a splash back, while cleaning, left an interesting finish.
Below - An original skinhead
Take a pair of jeans that have been languishing at the back of the wardrobe. Look for something slim or tapered. Make it a pair you were going to chuck out, so you’ve got nothing to lose if you don’t like the finish.
Left - Test the bleach on a pair of unwanted jeans so you get an idea of the finish
Don’t use your favourite pair of jeans. Look for a pair where you like the fit, but not the wash or colour.
Left - Stuff the legs with newspaper to control the bleach to one side of the jeans
I’ve gone for an old pair of Lee 101s which have braces attached which only adds to the skinhead look. Im taking the braces off before I start as I don’t want these splattered with bleach.
Get some standard household bleach. You can wear gloves if you prefer.
Lie the jeans out flat in the bath tub or shower tray or do outside. Stuff the legs with newspaper to control the bleach to one side.
Left - Mohicans are optional!
Pretend you're Jackson Pollock and liberally drip the bleach over the jeans.
Left - Use standard household bleach
Let the jeans dry, best left overnight, then do the same on the other side.
Right - The bleach will look a bit green, but don't worry, it's working its punk magic!
Use a bucket to rinse or throw into the washing machine.
If you want a stronger contrast you can use the bleach directly. For something more subtle you can dilute the bleach with water and apply with a sponge.
The longer you leave on the bleach the whiter/lighter it will become.
Left - Hang the jeans on the washing line to dry
It will look a bit sludgy green as though it has been attacked by Slimmer from Ghostbusters. Don’t PANIC. It gets worse before it gets better.
Left - When you've done both sides put them on a cold rinse in the washing machine
Below - Skinhead Geek! You can opt classic skinhead with a Brutus shirt or, maybe, a Fred Perry polo shirt and Dr Martens or you can take inspiration from the Gucci show above
Left - TheChicGeek practising what he preaches and making WWD's street style pictures during LCM