Women who hate skinny jeans can rejoice this spring when the extra-tight denim that has dominated the market for more than two years makes way for wide-leg cuts.
Bell-bottoms and boot-cut styles will appear in U.S. stores this spring. Many apparel watchers predict the eventual demise of the skinny that has spurred both adoration and revulsion.
“The pendulum is swinging away from skinny,” said Ryan Dziadul, a spokesman for VF Corp’s 7 For All Mankind. “There are millions of pairs out there. For spring, it’s about bell-bottoms.”
Wider-leg jeans made an appearance this week at the Magic apparel trade show, the twice-annual Las Vegas pilgrimage where retail buyers place orders for the newest looks.
Jeans makers are looking for something new to entice shoppers who have proven scarce at the check-out line since the recession.
The move comes as jeans as a category will lessen in importance this spring, experts said. Khakis and corduroy pants are expected to steal the focus, said vendors.
True Religion Brand Jeans is increasing the amount of non-denim apparel in its line to between 30 percent to 40 percent, from about 5 percent last year.
“Denim has slowed down dramatically. She doesn’t want to buy more jeans,” said Oscar Feldenkreis, president and chief operating officer of Perry Ellis, speaking of the female shopper. “And the jeggings trend has slowed down.”
Jeggings, or leggings designed to emulate the tightest jeans, have been popular this past year across a variety of retailers, from high-end Bloomingdale’s to discounter Wal-Mart Stores.
Despite the trends shifting to a wider look, some retailers are nervous so vendors will continue to make skinny and other styles to offer a range of options, jeans makers said.
“(Retailers) are seeing it in the trend reports, they’re very curious, but they’re not really booking it heavily yet,” said Hala Jbara, director of marketing for Pepe Jeans. “They’re more willing to try boot cuts.”
That fear of the unknown is also evident in a wealth of recycled styles on display on the trade show floor where distressed leggings and tops, military-inspired pants and jackets or the ubiquitous graphic T-shirt jockey for attention.
“We’re seeing silhouettes we saw last year,” said Holly Valdez, co-owner of a Costa Mesa, California boutique. “They’re playing it safe, but changing it up a bit.”
A graphic T-shirt this spring may have an uneven hem or an Army-inspired top might now have ruffles, adding a feminine twist to a harder-edge look.
But these details don’t hide the lack of innovation in fashion.
“There’s really nothing overwhelmingly new,” said Eric Beder, analyst at Brean Murray Carret. “Yes, there’s a tweak here or there, but the women’s business is moving at a glacial pace.”
And given the conservatism in the market, many buyers have been placing orders for immediate delivery, rather than predict how trends will play out in the spring.
“I’d rather buy right now. I don’t know what they (shoppers) will want in six months,” said April Bullock, a buyer who owns two stores in Mississippi.
Bullock said apparel brands were overplaying the military trend, but that others inspired a second look.
“We’ve squealed a few times,” she said. “Fringe is big. It makes us squeal.”
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.