Friday, August 24, 2007


Women Embrace Carefree Fading And Denim Care

The phrase “aging gracefully” could as easily apply to a pair of beloved blue jeans as to the aging population that still finds them viable. “A well worn pair of jeans offers a vintage look, extreme comfort and a feeling that is similar to connecting with an old friend whom you haven’t seen in a while, yet you immediately fall into synch with,” says J.D. Breen, public relations director for James Jeans. “Every woman should have a pair that makes her feel this way.”

An increasing number of women apparently do feel that way; the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ reports that most women love wearing denim and, perhaps because they better understand the nature of the fabric, they don’t mind if their denim fades. Eighty-three percent of female respondents told the Monitor that they enjoy or love wearing denim, and a slightly higher number cedes that they accept denim’s natural tendency to fade after washing.

Some in the industry consider this natural fading a simplistic form of “wabi-sabi,” an intricate Japanese philosophy that reveres the beauty of natural imperfections. Scott Morrison, a pioneer in the premium denim industry and founder of Earnest Sewn, explains how this concept figured largely in the creation of his popular line of jeans. “The fabric naturally has slight flaws and the way we do the washing adds a unique beauty to our jeans; every pair is different. That is my Western understanding of wabi-sabi, finding beauty in the imperfections.”

Chad Jackson, North American marketing manager for Evisu , another premium denim label, adds, “Denim gains character through imperfect characteristics over time; jeans plus wear brings on a wabi-sabi element appreciated by the individual.”

Solomon Smeke, president of Salt Works, another denim label agrees: “Women expect that their jeans will fade eventually. They will wear them faded, but they will also be buying new ones because denim is a commodity that women have to have. It’s like a car or a cell phone; it’s a part of everyday life and living.” According to the Monitor, a typical female respondent owns seven pairs of jeans and wears them four times a week on average.

Women maintain a wardrobe of denim for a variety of purposes, considers Jennifer Scott, denim buyer for Atrium, a retail emporium recognized for its denim merchandise. “There are day jeans and going-out jeans. When it comes to day jeans, women don’t really care if the color of their denim fades, because along with that process, jeans get softer, lighter and more comfortable.”

For the going-out jeans, however, care is key. Three of four female respondents told the Monitor that they sometimes or always check garment care labels. “The right washing will prolong the life of a garment,” promises Scott. “We hold seminars every Thursday morning for our sales associates, offering education on garment care, so they can educate customers on what to expect over time.”

Women would be wise to listen to the authorities about laundering their jeans, as there are instances where they wish to preserve the color, particularly with the latest generation of darker or novelty washes in stores now. “For the past two seasons, women have really embraced color in their denim. Our bright red and bright pink jeans have contrast stitching and you do not want to lose those details to the fading that comes with the laundering process,” Jackson from Evisu says.

“We have yellow, soft pink and baby blue jeans for summer,” offers Smeke from Salt Works. “We have darker, very clean washes for fall and these are hues that customers are going to want to maintain; so taking the time for proper care is essential.”

Tips include washing denim inside out in cold water and line drying to preserve the color. Consumers are clearly listening and that is reflected in a lesser incidence of fading than in the past. According to the Monitor, 30 percent of respondents in 2007 said that they had purchased a garment that faded, down from 32 percent making the same claim in 2002. This reduction over the past five years indicates that consumers are now better educated on the importance of garment care.

When fading did actually occur, consumers were most likely to blame their laundering skills, the Monitor reports. Thirty-three percent attributed fading to the way that they washed an item of clothing, 21 percent considered the garment of inferior quality. Education and experience in garment care makes a significant difference; according to the Monitor, older consumers encountered the fewest problems with fading. Just 16 percent of respondents aged 56 and older experienced fading issues, compared with 44 percent aged 16 to 24, 33 percent aged 25 to 34 and 21 percent aged 35 to 55.

“When women buy jeans, they take the time to learn how to wash them for whatever look they desire,” affirms Colette LoVullo, owner and founder of Coco and Delilah, an online boutique with a retail location in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

As most of the experts attest, caring for denim is a careful equation of education and expectation. And when it does fade, embrace it, advises Breen from James Jeans. “There is something true blue about pair of jeans that you have made your own over time.”

This story is one in a series of articles based on findings from Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor™ tracking research. Each story will focus on a specific topic as it relates to the American women’s wear consumer and her attitudes and behavior regarding clothing, appearance, fashion, fiber selection and many other timely, relevant subjects.