Let your denim talk

Written by Jyoti Verma | Updated: Aug 31 2008, 06:48am hrs
The story goes, perhaps not apocryphal, that when Neil Diamond sang Forever in Blue Jeans in 1979, denim companies vied with each other to use that song in a commercial to sell blue jeans. The song was ultimately used by Gap. Ever since, the tough fabric that was created for miners has been a style statement.

Ask software geek Abhinav Sharma what does blue jeans mean to him and he quips: Its the only form of apparel which even when dirty, looks stylish. This sort of statement is exactly what Shyam Sukhramani, marketing director for Levis in India, hangs on. He follows the MTV generation to seek ideas for blue jeans, an innovation patented by Levi Strauss and David Jacobs in 1873.

Consumers today live in a seamless space that connects them to their friends across the globe, and are expressive the way they want to be. Hence the choices they make are global and could depend on their mood. We are lucky that we have a product, which entertains everyones whims and fancies, all in style, he says.

According to Technopak, the Indian retail market size of jeans (men and women) in 2007 was at Rs 3,080 crore with a healthy growth of 18% over last year. Denim production in India in 2006 was estimated to be at 400 million metres, of which 250 million metres was for domestic consumption and rest for exports, outlines Priya Sachdeva, senior consultant, Technopak Advisors.

Global research conducted by Cotton Incorporated and Cotton Council International in 10 markets reveal that 94% of consumers own at least one denim item. US consumers own the most number of jeans (nine) among the countries surveyed, followed by consumers in the UK and Colombia (eight). In China, consumers own four pairs of jeans each, while Indians own two pairs. So, there is a long way to go for denim in India still.

Clear on its business potential, Lisa Pinto, brand head, Bossini, is working on the new denim line at the casual wear brand. Stressing on the combined power of fabric, fit, wash and embellishment, she is confident to innovate denim to something one wouldnt have imagined yesterday. In fact, that is the major change denim has seen off late, she deems. With customers spoilt for choice and brands contemplating smarter, denim is not restricted to a rugged pair one drags down to college. It is part of ones Friday dressing. Today jeans are much more than a five-pocketed apparel, she says. Marketers, however, point at the organic denim (eco-denim), organic diffusion lines or select green pieces to be the latest fad.

The overall picture of denim seems encouraging to all, but not so much to image consultant and stylist, Yatan Ahluwalia. For him, denim is on a downswing with brands making it increasingly Bollywood-oriented and mass market. There is a rush to deliver to the short-lived fashion aspect with every brand thinking otherwise. What one sees is a John Abraham or a Kangana Ranaut selling the new fit, rather than a Michael Schumacher suggesting how functional and comfortable it is, he says, adding, Thats a reason I think premium brands that are now venturing the space would make a difference. At least their product would be classy, thought over and deliver the real comfortable product one is actually looking for.

Agrees adman Josy Paul. Happy on the way brands are making their grey cells work to meet the changing consumer demands in a globalised world, what is disheartening to him, however, is the way denim is seen today.

Once a cult with deep social acceptance in the West, and the cheapest way for any individual to connect to the West, denim has lost its mission. Whats missing is the ideology, reducing it to immortal vanilla and giving up to tech crazes like iPods. There was a time when one wanted to be a rebel, a hard guy at work and life. And so came the denim. Today, people want to move with the flow, and thats what has reduced denim to something which the other has, he says.

Its a realisation thats not lost on young designers like Ramya Gopalan, product manager-denim, Wrangler. Working on the denim for past five years, the Nift alumnus is just back from the Bread and Butter fashion fair at Barcelona. Fed with ideas and inspirations that could work, she is not chasing a G-Star or a Levis 501 to bring in the heritage element all over again. Though accepting that these sell well still, she, in her new range, is trying to keep up with Wranglers heritage and bring in value additions and style. So, would this be any different from what others have

Not entirely, as much ideas come from the same trend forecasting fairs with one bumping into colleagues working on the denim at a Levis or a Pepe. However, everyone prefers to bring in ones brand ethos and play it up. Like, we will be doing something with leather this time, she says.

Blue jeans will have a future. The reasons to don it will depend on each succeeding generation, who reinvents this basic fashion statement.

Key trends for denim globally for 2008-09


* Rider jackets make a comeback, both skinny and oversized, with vintage feel and a creased effect.

* Skinny fits widen, with upsized slims and relaxed drainpipes.

* After seasons of pared-down, minimal design, the boundaries of traditional five-pocket jeanswear are broadening to explore diverse external detailing

* Oversized patch pocket, the kite pocket, pouch pocket, thigh focus, distorted proportions, workwear shovel pockets and pocket outline.

Key surface trends

* Acid and ice-washes exaggerate and morph into upscaled bleached surfaces.

* Creating new colour applications, extreme resins and cracked all-over surfaces.

* Print gets bold: all-over plaids and animal prints, XXL branding and tongue-in-cheek conspicuous stencils.

* Denim surface destruction becomes key: new over-destructed techniques emerge with varied effects.

Source: WGSN, a London-based online research and trend forecasting site