When the decade-long grip that skinny jeans had on consumers was finally released during the pandemic, it created an opportunity for brands to bring forward classic but forgotten fits. Consumers eased back into staples like bootcut, slim and straight, while Gen Z found novelty and newness in wide and slouchy styles.
This cadence of fresh denim is trickling beyond the basic 5-pocket jean, allowing consumers to better express their personal style.
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Interest in Y2K-era fashion is kindling demand for denim miniskirts and maxiskirts in both indigo and Barbiecore pops of pink. Jean shirts and dresses are a mainstay in the Western trend. Denim blazers à la Giorgio Armani and Saint Laurent speak to consumers pursuing the “quiet luxury” aesthetic spurred by HBO’s family drama “Succession.” Meanwhile, jean jackets have become the go-to item in Taylor Swift and Harry Style fandoms to DIY with patches and embellishments that nod to their songs or eras.
Underpinning the various ways that fashion is embracing denim is its versatility. That quality is especially important to consumers who are increasingly thinking about the cost per wear of the garments they purchase.
“Denim is one of the most diverse materials in the fashion business and can be dressed up and down. It stretches from workwear to skate to street to luxury and that is reflected in the way the styles in denim appear and how the material is being applied and treated,” said Herbert Hofmann, Highsnobiety vice president, creative and buying. “It’s a durable and easy-to-wear material so customers like its comfort and usually also the price point.”
Known for having a pulse on what’s next in fashion, Hofmann said Highsnobiety is anticipating a shift away from Y2K. The Berlin-based e-tailer is betting on denim shirting and shorts to fill the summer gap. “We haven’t seen styles like cut jeans with fringes last summer so much, but this season will be its big return,” he said. “Let’s see if people want to buy it already cut or make their own at home from an old long pair like [past generations.]”
He added that Highsnobiety did “bigger buys” on denim and its variations the past two seasons, but then pulled back slightly this season because the company wanted to “move on from the Y2K wave.” Still, examples of the Y2K’s influence on denim include looks from Glenn Marten, the creative director of Diesel. Hofmann noted that the Italian denim brand is translating the creativity it puts into its jeans to other items like swimwear with denim prints and motifs. “They also put a lot of work and layers into their denim caps,” he said.
Other brands on Highsnobiety’s radar include Acne Studio, which Hofmann said is using an “overly cute cat print” to push the denim trend forward, and Prada, which “did a great job with making shirts, dresses and shorts chic.”
Fashion statements are made with denim in Good American’s collection. The brand’s soft stretch indigo midi and mini dresses are made from compression stretch denim that smooths, sculpts, and shapes curves. Jean shorts are another major category this season for Good American, especially ’90-inspired styles that are shredded, ripped and have raw hems.
Lower rises and coordinates permeate AG’s collection this spring and summer. “Undertones of Y2K” is driving demand for AG’s Remy skirt, a low-slung mini inspired by the aughts, said John Rossell, AG Jeans’ head of marketing and creative.
“We’ve also seen the excitement around our new Alanna cropped jacket that pairs back to the Remy skirt. It’s a fresh, sans-collar take on the Trucker that accentuates the neckline and is really playful and versatile, changing the mood depending on the choice of top paired underneath,” he said. Both styles are offered in AG’s Vapor Wash cleaning process that combines laser, nanobubble and ozone technology to save water and energy and eliminate chemicals.
The brand’s new relaxed slim short, the Becke, is also getting a warm reception from consumers. “The low-rise trend is likely to thank for that,” Rossell said. “It’s no surprise that it’s a current customer favorite since it’s so easy to dress up or down with a tank or a button-up shirt.”
He added that white denim and lighter colors have also been popular this season, especially for pieces like the Robyn Trucker jacket. “Customers love the feminine fit as it pairs easily with jeans, shorts, skirts and dresses,” Rossell said.
Betty Madden, Lee’s global vice president of design, said denim skirts are having a big moment this season, especially those that are midi-length and have a late ’90s feel. The brand taps into that nostalgia with a split denim midi skirt and the Rider shirt dress.
“Both have a touch of stretch and that worn-in feel in a lighter-weight denim,” she said. “They’re great options that you can wear just about anywhere.”
Other options offered by Lee are the short Union-All—a summer-friendly take on the heritage style from 1913—and the short Bib Overall in lighter fabrics. The latter is available in an ecru carpenter version and a shredded indigo version
Unfinished hems added a bohemian feel to Carve Designs’ denim assortment. The brand’s organic cotton denim cutoff skirt is “perfect for running errands or grabbing lunch—a must have for the warmer months,” said Jennifer Hinton, Carve co-founder.
Hudson expects to see growth in more leg-barring categories. “As the weather warms, we find that women are coming to Hudson in search of more than the traditional jean and jean short and we have adapted to this demand by growing our short, dress and skirt assortment,” said Ben Taverniti, Hudson Jeans’ design and creative director.
A key item is the Freya Shaker short, a new style that offers a wider leg than what Hudson has done before. He said Hudson’s high-rise reconstructed skirt has been a top seller, and the brand continues to offer the style in new washes each season.
The utility trend is being adapted by non-jean categories as well. The brand introduced a reconstructed cargo dress in indigo. Taverniti said Hudson’s cargo styles “continue to be incredibly popular.”
While Hudson leans into the ongoing demand for pink with two jean styles, it also paid attention to interest in clay, a tangerine orange hue, and classic white.
Also showing a robust lineup of white denim this season is Lucky Brand. “White denim has been a seasonal fashion staple for decades, but this season it’s taking on a fresh new twist, inspired by the ’90s and Y2K nostalgia,” said Tamara Reynolds, Lucky Brand’s vice president of denim.
Reynolds said the trend is about embracing the carefree spirit of the ’90s and the unbridled energy of the Y2K era. “With a focus on inclusivity and gender-neutral fashion, this new take is about embracing the freedom to wear what you want, how you want—that’s the beauty of a white canvas,” she said.