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Honored Contributor
Posts: 54,451
Registered: ‎03-29-2012

R.I.P. denim? Why yoga pants might be to blame...

America, with its glamorous image of cowboys and rock stars, gave jeans to the world, but now denim is suffering from the blues.

Domestic sales of jeans dropped 6 percent last year, worrying some manufacturers and prompting VF Corp, the maker of Wrangler and Lee brand jeans to set up a think-tank to come up with other ways of using the distinctive and hard-wearing dyed blue cotton twill.

Thirty years ago, actress Brooke Shields famously said nothing came between her and her Calvin Klein jeans. Nowadays, young women can't seem to get far enough away from denim and even guys are forsaking the pants that became the uniform of several post-war generations.

Even Levi Strauss & Co, a name synonymous with jeans, is struggling, with second-quarter revenue dropping 2 percent from last year and net profit falling a whopping 76 percent because of falling sales in the U.S. It also cut 800 jobs -- 20 percent of its non-retail and non-factory positions -- as part of a plan to save up to $200 million a year.

"A 6-percent drop may not seem like much, but it's rare for denim to take such a dramatic drop. It's a commodity business, we buy it and replenish it all the time."

A growing trend in casual wear is all about comfort, and denim is struggling to find its place. Retail and fashion experts alike are not afraid to admit the new look, coined "athleisure," is all the rage from teens turning to leggings instead of jeans and moms sporting their yoga-wear everywhere and all day long.

"There isn't an 'it' item for back-to-school like we had two years ago," said Dana Telsey, CEO and chief research officer at Telsey Advisory Group. "What there are, there are certainly dusters and dresses, there's these crop tops that seem to be working and anything with the athletic bent. Athletic and activewear are certainly the new everyday wear and that's happening no matter what age people are."

So is denim suffering a slow death or is it just a victim of fickle fashion trends? Only time will tell. Jean sales are down 6 percent year-over-year, according to NPD Group and retailers have taken notice.

"A 6-percent drop may not seem like much, but it's rare for denim to take such a dramatic drop. It's a commodity business, we buy it and replenish it all the time," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of The NPD Group.

VF Corp has noted the decline, with Scott Baxter who heads the company's jeanswear business, recently saying that its Lee brand, with a 60:40 ratio of women-to-men sales suffered a decline of about 15 percent in the United States. Interestingly, Wrangler, with only 20 percent of revenue coming from the women's category, saw a single-digit increase in the Americas.

Baxter told investors that In the Americas, the jeanswear business was facing continued challenges "due to the ongoing unfavorable women's denim trend."

Denim innovation center

To combat the denim doldrums, VF Corp said it will soon open a "global denim innovation center," but declined to give further details.

VF Corp isn't the only retailer feeling the hurt. Piper Jaffray's biannual "Taking Stock of Teens" survey shows over the last two years teen girls' brand preferences have moved away from denim names like Levi's, Guess, and American Eagle toward athletic names like Nike, Lululemon, Athleta, Urban Outfitters and Victoria's Secret.

Affluent teens surveyed by Piper Jaffray listed leggings/Lululemon as the top fashion trend for two seasons in a row. Part of the blame for the denim doldrums, according to Piper Jaffray', is the lack of "fashion newness" in the market and the innovation of fabric technology in recent years.

That innovation is now driving jeans companies to diversify in order to stay current with the consumer.

Joe's Jeans is turning to "alternative fabrication" and will be introducing several non-denim programs for the fall to include leggings made with "innovative textiles." The company said in July it recognizes leggings as one of the fastest-growing segments in the market.

The Gap, which may be bucking the trend through its sportswear retailer Athleta, told CNBC the denim fatigue fad is not new.

"Fashion denim is cyclical. Currently, mid- and high-waist denim styles are trending, in addition to soft pants. Denim is still a dominant category for us at Gap and Old Navy, and we are committed to continuous innovation," said spokeswoman Edie Kissko.

But the NPD Group's Cohen begs to differ, saying the risk for retailers is that the "athleisure" love affair could have a lasting effect.

"It caught the denim makers by surprise because they have never really seen it before," said Cohen, "Trends today don't come and go, they come and linger. So if the consumer has migrated away from denim, it's going to be very hard to win them back."

Super Contributor
Posts: 3,125
Registered: ‎03-09-2010

Re: R.I.P. denim? Why yoga pants might be to blame...

Denim has never been high on my list of clothing items. I don't think I even owned a pair of jeans until I was in my late 30s.

Honored Contributor
Posts: 34,583
Registered: ‎03-09-2010

Re: R.I.P. denim? Why yoga pants might be to blame...

I am definitely a denim person and I will ""stay the course!"" (don't know why THAT quote came out!)

~Have a Kind Heart, Fierce Mind, Brave Spirit~
Respected Contributor
Posts: 2,656
Registered: ‎03-13-2010

Re: R.I.P. denim? Why yoga pants might be to blame...

I guess nothing is forever. I think more and more we are all about comfort. I opt for pants that have wide waistbands and sit slightly below my natural waist. True denim is an unforgiving fabric. I still have blue jeans but wear them less and less. (Btw, Peter Nygard leggings from Dillard's rock!)

Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 5,746
Registered: ‎02-26-2012

Re: R.I.P. denim? Why yoga pants might be to blame...

Well my two cents is the decline in denim has to also do w/ the whole 'slim' leg trend of the past few years...and the low riders a few years before that. There are not too many women over a certain age (fill in subjective number) who liked how they looked in the low riders...which lead to the whole muffin top jargon. Nor do to many of us feel like we look all that great in the tight, skinny jeans.

To me it was about how I looked as well as how uncomfortable either of those two styles of jeans looked on MY body. Now on your body...and your lifestyle...both those styles may have looked awesome. Just speaking for myself and the women I know....of all ages and weights.

Looking back, the style that I thought looked best on me, were the Calvin's that were more straight leg and came to right below/at my belly button. Which did not make them 'mom' jeans on my body. Basically the waist of the pants came right up to the slimmest part of my waist...but not at my waist. If that makes any sense. Kept me from having the dreaded muffin top, kept me from looking overly hippy thru the hip and thighs and did not make me look like I had a pooch in my tummy.

I do wear jeans now and not yoga style or leggings when I'm out and about in public. But those kind of pants come right off...just like the bra...as soon as I get home from work.

"What we practice daily is what we build a life on. Practice peace, love & kindness."
Honored Contributor
Posts: 10,004
Registered: ‎07-28-2012

Re: R.I.P. denim? Why yoga pants might be to blame...

On 8/15/2014 lovestoteach said:

I am definitely a denim person and I will "stay the course!" (don't know why THAT quote came out!)

I'm with you on this, loves. Love my jeans and am very comfy in them.

"To each their own, in all things".
Honored Contributor
Posts: 13,347
Registered: ‎07-25-2010

Re: R.I.P. denim? Why yoga pants might be to blame...

I like yoga pants. I always rip my denim pants.

Super Contributor
Posts: 1,906
Registered: ‎09-26-2011

Re: R.I.P. denim? Why yoga pants might be to blame...

I love my yoga pants for comfort and love my Lucky and Joe jeans for going out!

Super Contributor
Posts: 631
Registered: ‎12-30-2010

Re: R.I.P. denim? Why yoga pants might be to blame...

Very interesting article, thanks for sharing! I'm definitely a yoga pants/leggings "athleisure" girl. Jeans are too hard to fit. The only place I buy my jeans is Loft for the tall aspect and fit I like.
Frequent Contributor
Posts: 144
Registered: ‎02-04-2011

Re: R.I.P. denim? Why yoga pants might be to blame...

Athleisure convert here, totally agree. It's about time something replaced jeans. I've been wearing them since 1970 and I'm pretty sick of them Smiley Happy