Denim isn’t just for weekends and casual-Fridays any more. Increasingly, jeans are the go-to pants in the 9-5 workplace. They’ve become a lifestyle choice,” says KC Lamb, brand manager for the wholesale apparel company Ambrosia & Company. “The growing trend is good news for jeans manufacturers and retailers because it makes denim buyers year around customers.”
The $13.5 billion U.S. denim market grew by four percent in 2016, according to NPD Group, which found that 60 percent of Americans wear jeans to work four days a week. “Jeans are becoming more and more accepted in the work place, Our sales numbers indicate it,” says Suzanne Schiller, design director at FDJ French Dressing, Inc. “We’re making more styles that are conservative, clean and feminine, jeans that you can dress up and wear any time.”
“Women want to wear jeans, and we’re making plenty of styles that are appropriate for the workplace and for all kinds of social events afterwards,” says Nancy Kanizo, vice-president of sales for KUT from the Kloth. “We don’t put special tags on any of our styles, but we hopefully inspire store owners to promote the idea that women can wear jeans every day, including to the office. That absolutely increases sales.”
STYLE TO SELL
Designers are quick to educate retailers and customers on innovations like new fabric blends with better stretch recovery or moisture wicking, longer-lasting dyes or coatings and professional detailing that can make jeans a go-to choice for the business wardrobe. Here’s some of their advice:
“Fit is the most important thing,” says Kanizo. The jeans shouldn’t be too slouchy or low-rise. Distressed, embellished and faded styles are not appropriate for most offices. Aim for a professional polished look, such as a classic trouser style or a slim silhouette that can be dressed up with heels, booties or wedges.
Dark washes and classic cuts are best. “Our solid black, five-pocket jean is very popular for the office. The top stitching thread matches the fabric so it doesn’t look like a traditional casual bottom,” says Schiller.
Stocking multiple colors in workplace appropriate styles will increase buyer choices and sales. Denim lines have moved well beyond “blue” jeans to neutral colors like charcoal gray, navy or sand. There are also seasonal colors, like wine, olive or dark brown for fall. White or khaki-colored jeans are staples for spring and summer. “Special finishes, such as coated denim (which gives the look of faux leather) can give a woman a reason to buy another pair of black pants,” says Elyse Pope, brand manager with Ambrosia & Company.
“Women can get creative in styling denim for work,” says Pope. “A simple blouse with a statement necklace and heels for example will dress up a pair of jeans.” Many brands are designing nice blouses, tailored shirts, dressier sweaters, blazers and jackets to pair with workplace denim. By thinking beyond pants to outfits, “retailers can encourage customers to purchase a third piece (a vest, sweater, scarf or leather jacket) to complete a look,” says Lamb.
Social media is an excellent way to market the latest professional styles and products to buyers. “More retailers are showing women how to build a wardrobe around dress jeans,” says Lamb.