The trend police tell us that stretch denim is so over. Now it’s all about the hard stuff. Rigid denim of the kind I remember from my youth when stretch denim was about as uncool as it was possible to get.
Which puts the ultra-cool among us at odds with much of what’s going on at high street and mall level, and at the big specialist denim brands. They’ve all gone mad for stretch in recent periods and invested a lot in developing and marketing new super-stretch products.
But isn’t that always the way. Lee Jeans is the latest denim giant to declare a new commitment to stretch. The $1bn brand is reinventing itself and this week introduces its new AW16 collection, its revamped website and its latest Move Your Lee campaign.
Lee is adding more stretch across its entire range and branding it as Lycra Beauty. It’s also using cotton and Tencel blends with the Lycra to produce soft, light fabrics that stretch but still look like “authentic” denim and feel comfortable when the wearer is moving around.
Those guiding principles have led to the development of Dream Jeans that are meant to feel like yoga pants inside but look like regular jeans (presumably this is based on the assumption that the growth of athleisure is as much about comfort as style).
The Dream Jeans come in a super-stretch fabric with a T-shirt-like fabric lining the waistband, the metal bits, the zip and hip areas, and the waistband itself is wide and stretchy.
Marketing VP Kim Yates told WWD that: “It feels like a yoga pant on the inside and on the outside looks like a great pair of skinny jeans. Everything is grounded in this whole new brand positioning that we’re bringing into life for the Lee Brand. We went back to our heritage starting in 1889, realising we were a brand from the very beginning that was helping can-do people do more. So we translated that into the modern era, inspiring life in motion — freedom of movement and to move boldly with style.”
Not that stretch is everything this season. The 100% cotton Japanese dry selvage denim Lee 101 collection is being introduced from Europe for US customers. Will that satisfy the trend police? Probably not. But then Lee, like most denim marketers, knows it’ll be a tough call to get the mass of consumers out of stretch jeans and back into 100% cotton.