A funny thing happened on the way to the recession. Denim met its demise.
You would think that jeans, perhaps the most proletarian piece of apparel, known for durability, strength and versatility, would soar in these times.
But blue jeans appear to have fallen out of favour with women. After a long reign in fashion, where denim was a demi-god, seemingly unstoppable with its many transformations and permutations, the allure now seems to be fading.
A recent Dow Jones Newswires story stated that sales for three of the sector’s publicly traded players – True Religion, 7 For All Mankind and Joe’s Jeans – have declined in department stores.
In a market saturated with too many brands and stratospheric prices, have jeans become their own worst enemy?
Overzealous brands ripped them to shreds, tricked them out with rhinestones and sequins and jacked up prices to make them as expensive as couture gowns. Skinny jeans became as snug as leggings.
Acid washed and shredded jeans appeared on the Paris runways for spring 2009 at Balmain’s show, accompanied by the whopping price tag of $2,100 (U.S.). In its fall collection, D&G showed jeans with legs encrusted in enormous crystals.
Levi Strauss would chuckle at the excess of pants he originally intended as tough workwear for men during the California Gold Rush.
Like Icarus, denim seems to have forgotten its humble beginnings and after soaring too high must now fall back to Earth.
Writer Daniel Akst, in a recent Wall Street Journal column, cites the ubiquity of denim as the cause. “Denim was a symbol of youthful defiance, embraced by Marlon Brando, James Dean,” he wrote.
“Now we’re all rebels, even a billionaire CEO like Steve Jobs, who wears blue jeans and a black turtleneck whenever unveiling new Apple Computer products.”
But the laws of fashion, and the ups and downs of the marketplace, dictate that the void must be filled. And if jeans are out, a different sort of trouser must step up.
This summer, the trouser surfaces in a variety of shapes: Drop-crotch, dhoti, high-waisted, full-leg, peg-leg, multi-pleated, harem – all different styles and all taking great strides to topple jeans in the popularity contest.
“The one great wardrobe updater this year is the pant,” says Susie Sheffman, fashion director at Fashion magazine.
But why not a simple pair of black trousers? Why all these weird, unusual shapes?
“Because we all have a simple pair of black pants in our wardrobes already,” she says. “Even in tough times we want a hit of fashion. And these are pants that are available in a variety of price points.”
One thing they all have in common is a roomier, slouchy fit in easy, draping fabrics.
“These looser-fit trousers are more comfortable and flattering on many more body types,” explains Maha Zeibak, co-owner of the cool Yorkville boutique UPC. Her business partner Anat Lowe pipes in: “For summer, these pants fall away from the body, rather than cling.”
“People will always buy jeans,” says Kasha Bilobram, the owner of hip Queen St. W. boutique Fawn. “They will wear them five days a week but the other two days they will wear a cool trouser.”
The soft, comfy fabric is what wearers seem to love about the new-look trousers, she says of the slouchy jodhpur-style pants she wears in our photo shoot.
“One customer referred to them as a fashion sweatpant,” she says.
The pants at Yorkville’s Designs by Naomi boutique are all cut in easy-to-pull-on Lycra/rayon fabric. Here the harem pants are more glam-rock-chick than they are genie, with zippers and fringe.
“It feels like you’re wearing nothing,” says the designer and boutique owner, Naomi Shapiro. She adds these pants also show off great footwear.
It’s that slouchy insouciance that Sheffman finds so appealing. She bought one pair of baggy chinos this season that she rolls up to bare her ankles.
“I’ve got my entire summer wardrobe figured out with one pair of pants. In the day I wear it with a v-neck T-shirt, with a cardigan or a tux blazer, and at night I add heels,” she says.
“One pair of pants can do a lot for you.”
© 2009 Torstar Syndication Services. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.