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Noughties, utility and Americana to inspire denim trends for Fall/Winter 2020

By Marjorie van Elven


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Amsterdam - Denim businesses, experts and aficionados came together this week in Amsterdam for the latest edition of Kingpins, the international denim trade show held biannually in the Dutch capital, New York, Hong Kong and China.

One of the most popular events in the program was the trend seminar offered by Amy Leverton and Sam Trotman of British trend forecasting company Denim Dudes. Despite the seminar room’s large size (Kingpins took place at former gasworks complex Westergasfabriek), there weren’t enough chairs to accommodate all attendees interested in hearing the duo talk about the fits, colors, fabrics and finishes likely to gain traction in the Fall/Winter of 2020. Some had to watch the seminar standing up.

Leverton and Trotman arranged the season’s main trends in four themes, namely Business Casual, American Realism, Polar Performance and Superfan. Mannequins wearing outfits related to each one of the themes were on display right outside the room where the seminar took place, to further illustrate the forecasters’ points.

FashionUnited was there and shares the presentation’s main takeaways. Those interested in obtaining Denim Dudes’ Fall/Winter 2020 forecast in full can order a report on the company’s website.

Theme #1: Business Casual

The luxury market is reinventing itself, with streetwear staples such as sneakers and hoodies appearing in the collections of fashion houses like Balenciaga, Burberry and Gucci. But that doesn’t mean suits are dead -- in fact, we’re likely to see tailoring combined with denim for a more elevated look. Virgil Abloh already pointed towards this direction in his Off/White show in January, when the business suit received a Millennial makeover.

One of the main drivers for this theme is the casualization of the workplace: offices are more flexible in terms of what employees are allowed to wear, with denim becoming an acceptable part of the office outfit. Additionally, an increasing number of people work remotely or in co-working spaces in this day and age, which means they have more sartorial freedom and look for ways to unite elegance and comfort.

Silhouettes will be minimalist and practical: Phoebe Philo meets denim. As for color, expect muted, neutral shades like beige, sand and pastels. Head-to-toe beige remains strong, as do natural dyes and unbleached cotton.

Images: Off/White AW19, Chanel AW19 and Miu Miu SS19. All pictures by CatwalkPictures.

Business Casual outfits as illustrated by Denim Dudes at KingPins Amsterdam.

Theme #2: American Realism

Nostalgia has been dominating fashion lately: “1990s fashion” and “grunge fashion” were the most popular fashion-related search queries on Google in 2018, considering the United States alone. As a result, brands like Champion, Gap, Tommy Hilfiger and Juicy Couture have been catapulted back to hype status and “dad’s fashion” has become a thing.

According to Denim Dudes, this trend reflects young consumers’ frustrations about the current economy and politics: by romanticizing American iconography from the 1990s and looking for basics that stood the test of time, they are literally buying back their youth. What’s more, not only is this trend here to stay, young consumers will also start looking to the 1980s and early 2000s for inspiration.

Expect logomania to become even stronger and references to American skate culture to abound. Classic stonewashes will make a comeback, as will kitschy fleece and lumberjack flannels. Streetwear will also keep giving a nod to blue collar culture with hi-vis orange and reflective accents.

Images: Supreme Facebook, Ralph Lauren SS19 via Catwalk Pictures, Gucci AW18 via Catwalk Pictures

American Realism outfits as illustrated by Denim Dudes at KingPins Amsterdam.

Theme #3: Polar performance

Balenciaga’s seven-layered coat may have sparked memes all over the world, but the Spanish luxury house had a point. Another way Millennials and Gen Zers are using fashion to feel better about the current political and economic state of affairs is by turning to hyperfunctional, oversized outerwear that literally feels like a cocoon. Leverton and Trotman also related this theme to climate change: as the weather becomes more and more unpredictable, consumers are looking for practical, seasonless items that come in handy come rain or shine.

Stores are likely to be flooded by what the Denim Dudes call “extreme cargo”: think of sizeable outerwear inspired by fishing vests and utilitarian jackets with pockets galore. New technologies will contribute to make these garments even more functional, providing thermal insulation and even muscle wellness. Knit-like weaves inspired by Scandinavia are likely to rise in popularity, as are “denim fur” and denim-fleece combinations. As for color, bright purples reminiscent of 1980s sportswear will be all the rage, as well as icy shades of blue and grey.

Off/White AW19 via CatwalkPictures

Styling tip on Asos Facebook

Polar Performance outfits as illustrated by Denim Dudes at KingPins Amsterdam.

Theme #4: Superfan

While Millennials and Gen Zers’ love of vintage reflects their concerns about sustainability, there’s no denying sporting a curated selection of obscure vintage items is also a form of “flexing”, especially on Instagram. As street culture becomes pop culture and streetwear becomes luxury, hypebeasts are likely to increase their search for rare, unique, bespoke or customizable items.

Leverton and Trotman predict an increase in “merch mentality”: garments that communicate the wearer participated in an event or moment in time, even when this event or moment in time is only recognizable by a handful of people. In sum, drop culture and collabs aren’t going anywhere.

Young consumers will judge each other on their ability to curate looks and mix and match coveted items and vintage finds. According to the Denim Dudes, pattern clashes will go extreme as outfits will be “optimized” for Instagram. This layering trend will also inspire garments featuring unexpected fabric pairings and patchwork. Eclectic quilting and textured weaves are equally likely to gain traction.

Images: Junya Watanabe SS19 via Catwalk Pictures, Supreme Facebook, Off/White Facebook

Autumn/Winter 2020