Skinny jeans are old news. This autumn the retail buzz is about a new breed of denim — make-you-skinny jeans.
Innovations in fabric technology seldom make waves beyond the geekier fringes of the fashion industry. But the development of a new super-stretch denim, which uses spring-like construction concealed within the cotton yarn, could interest a wider demographic.
The material combines the perennial cool factor of blue jeans with the technology behind Spanx. Denim companies believe there is serious money to be made on the make-you-skinny jean and are battling over market share with a slew of new clothes.
“The fabric works on the principle of a coiled telephone spring,” explains Jessica Lawrence, Director of Design and Development at the British denim brand MiH Jeans, of its new Bodycon jean. “Your body is pushing against the outline, but the denim is similar to a phone cord — it keeps springing back into shape.
“The number one selling point of premium jeans has always been the fit promise. You expect a good jean to make you look a bit cool and a bit sexy,” says Lawrence. “This takes that to the next level.”
Suzanne Pendlebury, Buying Manager for Matches boutiques, has seen a boom in demand for jeans that flatter. “The J Brand Photo Ready jeans make you appear two sizes smaller — that’s a huge sales driver — and MiH offers super-stretch technology in its Bodycon jean,” she says.
Denim is steeped in French and Californian history, but the birthplace of the make-you-skinny jean is Istanbul. Isko, a denim mill based near the city, which supplies denim to mass-market and premium brands, developed the fabric 18 months ago before presenting it to the companies with which they work.
“The denim world is obsessed with tradition, but Isko are different because they are really innovative. They approach it as a conceptual textile,” says Lawrence. Having developed prototypes with two new-generation stretch fibres wound around one another, Isko has begun developing subtly different versions of the product for a range of labels.
Ilse van Alsenoy, Director of Women’s Merchandising and Design Europe for Levi’s, says the brand worked with Isko “to create a high-quality, four-way stretch denim with incredible recovery”. The Levi’s Revel jeans, which at £90 (Dh330) are the lowest priced of the genre, combine the fabric with “liquid shaping technology”.
With patent pending, Levi’s declined to reveal details, but Women’s Wear Daily reports that the phrase refers to a liquid chemical formula that is applied to the fabric’s interior using screen-printing techniques to regulate stretch in strategic areas, such as the inner thigh and stomach.
The make-you-skinny jean marks a significant step in the evolution of women’s jeans as the sector develops a feminine identity, in contrast to the usually macho world of denim.
“We are all about what women want,” says Jeff Rudes, founder and CEO of J Brand. “This fabric has the guts to make you look slender, but it feels soft, which women care about. There’s no compromise. That’s why it has the best sell-through of any fabric so far.”
More sophisticated design is crucial to this new wave of jean. Previous stretch jeans, or “jeggings”, were quite basic, says Van Alsenoy. The Revel styles have more thoughtful detailing; the whiskering was modelled on the cheekbone-flattering techniques of makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin. Lawrence explains that “the traditional ‘back yoke’ of a jean flattens your bottom. We’ve removed that and added darts into the back pocket, which lifts your shape.”
Some smaller brands are facing problems, as demand for the high-specification fabric is outstripping supply. “We’re tearing our hair out, trying to get more,” says Lawrence.
At J Brand, Rudes claims to have pre-empted the issue by coming to an arrangement with the mill several months ago. “We knew we were on to something really good here,” he says, “so we made sure we were in a strong position vis-a-vis production. Otherwise we’d end up with a lot of disappointed women. And that’s not good.”
Guardian News & Media Ltd