It’s the waning days of summer, the sales are almost over, and in the distance is the faint rumbling of shiny new stock supplies. Yes, the next fashion season is in town, and with the catwalk trends come the denim trends. Straight, skinny, cropped, cargo, boot-cut, boyfriend; you may think you’ve heard it all before, but before you yawn and flick to the next page, safe in the knowledge that not even James Dyson could come up with something innovative for autumn, consider the latest entry into the very crowded premium jeans field: the North Korean government.
Two years ago, a trio of young, twenty-something Swedes were invited by the government into North Korea to manufacture a national jeans line. Really. “Noko”, as it was named, features two jeans styles for men and women: the Kara slim-fit and the Oke loose-fit ($215 plus shipping), both straight-cut and dark-wash, in keeping with the austere nightscapes of the designers’ inspiration, Pyongyang.
After the country’s largest garment company declined to produce the jeans, the state’s largest mining group, which also runs a textile operation on its site, agreed to produce 1,100 pairs, and last December the Noko collection launched. Just think of the possibilities: forget ginseng, it’s denim as a diplomatic talking point! And that’s not the only industry news that may have an effect on your closet. As clean silhouettes and the much-feted new minimalism shape the autumn trends, it looks like denim will take an equally reductive route: out with slashed, stonewash, fussy 1980s styles and in with the basics.
“For autumn, denim is very customer-friendly,” says Lesley Torson of Trilogy, a London denim boutique. “It’s dark, and washes are quite clean, giving it a more polished look.” Meanwhile, the advent of styles such as the utilitarian cargo with convenient side pockets, the forgiving high-rise cut, and the faithful indigo boot-cut flare will offer something the premium jeans world hasn’t seen for years: wearability.
“This autumn we completely reworked and redesigned our denim – from design and fit to fabric, fasteners and production,” says Patrick Robinson, Gap’s vice-president for design. Come September, a brand new range will hit stores, aimed at offering a competitive high street alternative to premium denim.
“The new 1969 Premium Jeans collection [prices from £35] was created with a major focus on fit, premium washes and styles that accommodate different body types,” says Robinson. “Our goal in re-engineering our denim was to create a range of styles that were cool, sexy and relevant for right now.” Shapes include a cropped skinny jean with an ankle zip and the relaxed skinny, slouchy on the hip but slim through the thigh and leg (read room to eat and breathe).
As for the designer side of the denim coin, Trilogy’s Lesley Torson is putting her money on the cargo as the season’s key style. “We’re selling lots of cargo-inspired jeans currently, and that will carry on,” Torson says. “J Brand did it first with a style called the Houlihan [£295], but now nearly every jeans brand has done their version, from Paige [£175] to Hudson [£199] and Current/Elliott [£245]. The cut is feminine, in a sexy way, and it comes in stretchy cotton twill with a pocket on the side. They also come in all sorts of colours: Current/Elliott has it in grey and khaki – the latter is a big colour for autumn.”
Holli Rogers, buying director at the luxury web retailer Net-a-porter.com, where an entire online sub-section is dedicated to denim, believes even the skinny jeans’ days could be numbered. “There is a cropped kick-flare jean called the Gigi [£195] by J Brand that hits just above the ankle before flaring out slightly and is super-flattering on all body shapes,” she says. “A new take on the bell-bottom, tight-fitting with a sharper cut, it has the potential to redefine the denim look for this season.”