Distressed isn’t just a style of denim. These days it’s also the state of its sales.
According to market research firm NPD Group, spending on jeans dropped by 6 percent last year. The single-digit figure might seem rather small, but it’s “rare” and “dramatic” for denim, chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen told the media. Furthermore, companies like VF Corp., parent of such brands as Lee and Wrangler, also have reported sales hits, particularly among women. An NBC report listed Lee’s decline at about 15 percent domestically.
There is a number of factors contributing to denim’s fading fanfare. One is consumers’ changing relationship with their blue jeans.
“The origination was as a work pant, the most casual [pant],” says Julia “Jules” Weiskopf, owner of Jules Pittsburgh, a boutique in Lawrenceville known for its selection of designer denim for men and women. Nowadays denim has become many people’s go-to pant for dressing up for a date or dinner with friends if styled properly, she says, while yoga apparel, leggings and activewear are taking over the casual, day-to-day clothing category.
The cost of quality denim also is beyond what a lot of people’s pocketbooks permit, or at least too much for them to buy more pairs of jeans more often.
“It seems there are two classes of denim, high priced and low priced,” says designer Paula Minydzak of West Mifflin, who designed and sells her own denim collection (www.facebook.com/minydzak.denim). “There’s not much in between.”
American-made pieces produced with heavier, more durable fabrics easily can run into the $100-plus range, she says. Recognizing this, a lot of smaller pop-up labels have taken their production overseas to get prices down, but often times these jeans don’t wear as well or last as long because they’re made with lower-grade materials.
The comfort people have grown accustomed to with activewear also has dissuaded some from doing more denim shopping. In addition to being made in America with cotton sourced from United States cotton growers, Ms. Minydzak’s jeans are designed to be altered at the waist to allow for a better, more customized fit with less gapping around the waistline. On average, they start at about $50.
Similarly, other brands are seeking ways to rival activewear with a better fit and feel. One of Ms. Weiskopf’s favorite denim brands her boutique carries is DL1961, which offers styles with four-way, 360-degree stretch (www.julespittsburgh.com).
“That satisfies the girl’s need for comfort,” she says. The store also has options from Hudson and Joe’s Jeans and plans to incorporate some new brands come spring. Despite the industry-wide sales slump for jeans, it remains a top-selling category in her store.
“I’m kind of showing people how to wear their jeans in a different way,” Ms. Weiskopf says.
Runway Recap: FashionAFRICANA
What do nearly 80 children ages 2 through 13 look like on a runway?
Last weekend at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside, it looked like a celebration of African culture and creativity at the first FashionAFRICANA kids runway show. The children modeled looks from Kiya Tomlin, THREEafrica, Adey Designs and Kelly Lane Designs in rich colors and prints. Actor and Pittsburgh native Bill Nunn served as the emcee.
African-inspired dance and music entertained the crowd before the children paraded down the catwalk. During the show, the 200-plus people in the audience applauded and cheered as the mini models took their turns on the runway.
Event organizer Demeatria Boccela started FashionAFRICANA more than a decade ago as a way to highlight the beauty and culture of the African diaspora, which often is little viewed in mass media and fashion magazines. She hopes to make the kids show an annual event.
For more from PG style editor Sara Bauknecht, check out the PG“s Stylebook blog at www.post-gazette.com/stylebook. Follow her on Twitter @SaraB_PG or email firstname.lastname@example.org.