Life after jeans: Are denim’s days numbered?


Lately we’ve been discussing how brands like 7 for All Mankind and Rock & Republic are expanding beyond denim. According to the following article, the reason for the expansion is because the days of designer denim are numbered.

U.S. jean sales are virtually flat. Between November 2005 and November 2006, Americans bought $15.7 billion worth, according to the NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research company. But in 2007, denim lovers spent just over $15.8 billion, a slight .6% increase.

What to Wear When You Don’t Wear Jeans

What does that mean for the companies who built their brands on distressed pockets and stone washes, often charging hundreds per pair? Robert Cordero, style editor at, a bimonthly online newsletter on emerging fashion trends, says because of the lower demand for denim, labels like True Religion, Rag & Bone and Seven For All Mankind are getting creative with their collections.

“Several years ago, consumers could not get enough of premium jeans,” he says. “Today, however, the market isn’t as strong. Denim labels are expanding beyond their bread-and-butter products to include other categories such as dresses, accessories, knits and jackets.”

Those alternatives provide the same comfortable, casual look as denim but with a fresher, timelier feel, says Allison Berlin, founder of New York City-based personal shopping service Style Made Simple.

This winter, she says, it’s OK for guys to have a little more fun with their bottom half than standard denim allows.

For casual days, cargo pants are back.

“This time, the cargo pant is dressed up,” she says. “It’s not like your worn-out pair from Old Navy.”

Denim seller Rag & Bone, who expanded its line in 2006 to include men’s and women’s ready-to-wear clothing and accessories, showed a dark mushroom-colored pair on the Spring 2008 runway. Unlike mass-market styles, these pants are made with super fine twill and cut trim for a sleeker look.

Dressier occasions call for proper trousers but they don’t have to be too proper. Anything-but-understated pant styles in chalk stripes, tweeds and checks will make looking cool a little more fun than a straight leg, flat wash jean could.

Designer Tim Hamilton’s baggy trousers easily combine comfort and style with a button fly, watch pocket and side pocket, as well as adjustable straps at the waist. These look good paired with deck shoes, Converse sneakers or for a more conservative take, lace-up dress shoes.

For women, the hands-down replacement for denim is the dress.

“Part of the appeal is that a dress is an instant outfit,” says Berlin. “It’s easier to slip on in the morning,” says Berlin.

She suggests pairing a simple shift with opaque tights and flat boots for a day-to-evening look. Designer denim brand Seven For All Mankind, which has branched out into skirts, slacks and yes, dresses, makes a 100% cotton, dove-gray dress with a loose, forgiving silhouette that’s perfect for running weekend errands. It can also be dressed up over a turtleneck and tights for work. There are even discreet pockets on the hips in which to store your keys and wallet, just like your favorite pair of jeans. (DenimBlog Editor’s Note: Do we like this dress, pictured above? I’ll keep my jeans, thanks very much, if this shapeless thing is the alternative.)

Still stuck on denim? Not to worry. “It’ll always be around,” says Berlin. “Right now, there’s just something else more interesting to wear.”

Can anything really flatter the booty as well as a nice fitting pair of denim in a gorgeous wash? We don’t think so.

Is denim ever going to go out of style?

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  1. I don’t know that it will EVER go out of style… but there is only so much designer denim that people can have… the funny part is most of the world is denim’d out… yet areas like where i am from are just catching on… so there may be a short boost in sales but it’ll flat line again because there are only so many styles and pairs that people are going to want.

  2. We’ve been seeing less and less denim for men, but it always be a weekend wardrobe staple, but we could go back to 10 years ago when a lot of nicer clubs had “no denim” as part of their dress code.

  3. as something of a denim and fashion expert (I have interviewed over 100 denim lines, am an expert denim fitter and am a fashion editor), denim isn’t going to go out of style– however the market is in transition because of
    1) that a lot of brands are suitable for a huge group of women out there that are size 12 .. or those with specific body types that make them hard to fit.
    2) the price points of 200 dollars make it very hard to maintain- particularly in those top tier brands and they are suffering from lower sales. Thus the option for them is either change up their cut/styles completely or expand the range of their *brand* into new segments. They opted for the latter and don’t have to depend on denim to make the bottom line.
    3) the market is showing more feminine silhouette trends like skirts and dresses because they fit more women easily.. but if you look at the niche or boutique brand denims and those who watch their trends carefully and launch different tweaks to styles, those are the brands that are doing well. They keep their inventory low, they spread across the country into different outlets and don’t keep too much stock in stores.
    brands to watch out for
    Level 99 and Level for men
    Freedom of Choice
    Denim of Virtue
    Thirteen Denim

    Less emphasis on the bigger brands except those that work well on women (*rather than teen/college age body types0
    David Kahn
    Paige Premium who has expanded into larger sizes and maternity
    Christopher Blue
    Red Engine
    WHY? because they are a bit more body friendly and less body conscious with a higher rise and fit that works for more bodies.

    Those who are going too trendy aren’t going to last long in the market.
    Seven, Citizens, True Religion are spreading out because they aren’t selling as well
    Joe’s on the other hand is doing significantly better because their fits are consistently on the mark from size to size, style to style PLUS they don’t do anything overly trendy or in a lot of inventory. However Joe’s has been changing strategy and not sure how well that’s going to work for them because when you change strategy, it better be with the best team.
    Others who need to watch for the fall-out
    Frankie B, AG jeans, Antik, Chip & Pepper, Earnest Sewn,

    Other things that will carry more weight:
    eco-friendly washes,
    some color but don’t count on that trend lasting
    dark colors will be great, less destruction, a touch more on embellishment and brands that allow customization

    sorry for the long reply

  4. Thanks Stevie! We’d love for you to guest write for us sometime! I agree, I love Joe’s and find them to be highly underrated. We’ll try to dig up some more dirt on some of the other brands you mentioned!

  5. Good Day !
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    MR Magazine NYC interview on Eric Glennie
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    Eric Glennie

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