Saturday, September 3, 2011

Denim Evolution

Hello Readers : This is Paromita  Freelance Fashion Designer from India. Recently I had opportunity to work with one of the Designer Denim Jeans Brand from Europe and that led me to do some research on Denim and Jeans and its Evolution. Here are some of the Outcomes which I found interesting to share with you.

In fashion history, jeans and denim history continues to hypothetical for many of us. No one truly knows the perfect answer to where jeans began. As it often happens fashions often emerge together in various parts of the world and are the result of the sudden availability of a new materials like fabric, cloth, dye or technique stitching technique invention etc. However, the phrase Denim Jean is thought to derive from several sources. As book suggest the majority of denim derives from the English translation of the South of France French phrase 'Serge de Nîmes'. Denim fashion history is thus associated with “Serge de Nîmes”- (a kind of material) from Nimes (A Town in France). It may well be that the fabric which was made in France also had a version made locally in England, and was called by the same name of denim, in the same way that Cheddar cheese is called cheddar all over the world. The Serge de Nîmes was originally a wool silk mix, twill weave. Certainly by the 19th century in England, denim had a white warp and a navy woof (weft). Denim was considered a hard wearing sturdy fabric, ideal for heavy laboring.

Some other source suggests that, In the eighteenth century as trade, slave labor, and cotton plantations increased, workers invented and wore jean cloth because the material was very strong and it did not wear out easily. Also some believe that the 19th century: the California gold rush the gold miners wanted clothes that were strong and did not tear easily. In 1853, Leob Strauss started a wholesale business supplying clothes. Strauss later changed his name from Lob to Levi.

Why is Denim Blue?

Denim is unique in its singular connection with one color. The warp yarn is traditionally dyed with the blue pigment obtained from indigo dye. Until the introduction of synthetic dyes, at the end of the 19th century, indigo was the most significant natural dye known to mankind, linked with practical fabrics and work clothing. The durability of indigo as a color and it's darkness of tone made it a good choice, when frequent washing was not possible. In 1870 BASF in Germany, originally suppliers of natural indigo had started the search for a synthetic substitute in 1894 the process was perfected.

Traditional Denim

Durable twill-woven cotton fabric with colored (usually blue) warps and white filling threads; it is also woven in colored stripes.


A big problem with the miners’ clothes was the pockets, which easily tore away from the jeans. jacob davis had the idea of using metal rivets (fasteners) to hold the pockets and the jeans together so that they wouldn't tear. davis wanted to patent his idea, but he didn't have enough money, so in 1872, he wrote to levi strauss and offered strauss a deal if strauss would pay for the patent and strauss accepted.


In 1886, Levi sewed a leather label on their jeans. The label showed a picture of a pair of jeans that were being pulled between two horses. Jack Spence for Lee started to pre-wash them. Francois Girbaud started with stone-wash. First pea gravel, then pomice, because they Floate around with the jeans, Nstead of lying in the bottom of the water; Turkish stones are preferred for their porosity and cleanliness or stones from Sicily, but their supply is limited. Different brands used it in 1988 in Italy started sandblasting.

Denim is no longer a cotton only product denims come with either polyamide, Lycra, polypropylene or with polyester and a special bonding with a 100% nylon net for a more active look. two-way stretch fabrics and special coatings or rubberized effects continue to be a strong trend The shabby, rotten or dirty look in line with the trend for a vintage denim looks set to be around with the 'homespun look' with his irregular appearance. Lighter, softer denims in dress and shirting weights were introduced. Various natural fibers, such as linen, hemp or wool and for the luxe looks even silk and cashmere are turning up in new denims to give them different aesthetics.

The 1930's: westerns - Cowboys - who often wore jeans in the movies-became very popular.

The 1940's: World War II - Fewer jeans were made during the time of World War II, but they were introduced to the world by American soldiers, who sometimes wore them when they were off duty. After the war, rival companies, like wrangler and lee, began to compete with Levi for a share of the international market.

The 1950's: Rebels - In the 1950's, denim became popular with young people. it was the symbol of the teenage rebel in TV shows and movies ( James dean in the 1955 movie rebel without a cause). Some schools in the USA banned students from wearing denim.

The 1960-70's: Hippies and the Cold War - Different styles of jeans were made, to match the 60's fashions: embroidered jeans, painted jeans, psychedelic jeans. In many non-western countries, jeans became a symbol of' western decadence' and were very hard to get.

The 1980's: Emergence of Designer Jeans - In the 1980's jeans became high fashion clothing, when famous designers started making their own styles of jeans, with their own labels on them. sales of jeans went up and up.

The 1990's: Recession - Although denim is never completely out of style, it certainly goes out of 'fashion' from time to time. In these years the youth market wasn't particularly interested in 501s and other traditional jeans styles, mainly because their parents: the' generation born in blue' were still busy squeezing their aging bodies into them. Since no teenager would be caught dead in anything their parents are wearing, the latest generation of rebellious youth turned to other fabrics and other styles of casual pants, such as khakis, chinos, combat and carpenters and branded sportswear pants. They still wore denim, but it had to be in different finishes, new cuts, shapes, styles, or in the form of aged, authentic, vintage jeans, discovered in markets, secondhand- and thrift shops, not conventional jeans stores. Levi Strauss & co., the number-one producer of jeans and the "single most potent symbol of American style on planet earth" (as the Los Angeles times succinctly put it), is in trouble. eleven North American factories close, a nation grieves.

2000: Reinventing Denim: Something decidedly weird is happening in the world of denim. The products need to be reinvented from time to time and jeans have been back on designers catwalks, at Chanel, dior, chloe and versace. The single most potent symbol of fashion, summer '99 tom ford's feathered, beaded, beat-up, torn-knee gucci blue jeans, seen globally, sell out instantaneously at $3715 a pop. And then, on the internet, was the shining image of helmut lang's silver-sprayed pants, striding out beyond our conception of basic utility. Freed of all social and creative restrictions, denim is assuming any number of disguises and contexts to be worn in and has broken through almost any limitation on price. It can also be found in home collections, appearing in cushions, bed spreads and furniture-coverings.

However, if denim is making a major fashion statement, where does that leave the traditional jeans brands? The old mass market has segmented, fragmented, shattered into a multitude of mini, micro and niche markets. The last generation has a vast quantity of brands to choose from, a different perception of the cult value of owning small insider labels and a fanatical loyalty only to what's hot on a daily basis. 
Denim Adoptability in Different Ways.

Hard though it is to believe, towards the end of the 20th century, denim sales were down and cargo pant sales had emerged as a new style statement in the 20th century. However, the evolution of Denim Jeans has gone many fold from the beginning of 21st century. The 21st century has seen many different versions of Denim styles. Some are as below.


Vintage washes, now considered an art form, have grown to become a huge business focus for laundries. However, in its earlier days , vintage washes meant that to have whickering on your jeans cost twice as much as the traditional sandblasting and required a huge investment from laundries in terms of machinery. There are lot of new Washes and Acid Blast techniques have emerged in the market and has given a new and multifold dimension to the vintage look of the denim jeans and will go many fold in future as well. This "science" of new washes and new machinery just keeps on growing. Vintage or Aged looks continue to be an integral part of every denim range now, often featuring more than one wash.


Levi's Red, launched in 1999, emerged as a denim garment that defied all the traditional associations with denim as a five pocket western jean. This conceptual range, quickly adopted by denim other companies for the fit and fabrication, (Denim lycra blend and many blended fabrics with denim) went on to inspire the Levi's Engineered range in the spring of 2000. Levi's Red engineered shapes are celebrating a revival for spring/summer 2009 and have provided inspiration for denim and sportswear brands for the past ten years.
Acid wash / Blast 

Acid wash and blast bleached looks have reincarnated themselves through the ages, from skinheads looks to punk, to 80's snow washes. As an "ironic" reaction to the recent refined, high-end, clean designer denim looks, the market is slowly returning to open-end, cheaper-quality denim constructions with more imperfections and surface texture.

Return to Volume

The carrot fit created a new silhouette - extreme volume through the seat, an elongated front rise and tapered hemline. It also influenced the return to lighter, fluid denim weights for jeans. This slow filter into the mainstream market has explored carrot fits, harem pants, dhoti pants and more recently jodhpurs and chinos.
Slim proportions 

The slim-fit emerged as a continuation of customization. The embodiment of the 70s New York rock aesthetic, the early slim-fit victims at that time were literally sewn-into their jeans. It's a look that didn't come back quickly, but by the early 2000s the early signs of a slim-fit revival had begun to emerge. Model Kate Moss has been credited with reintroducing skinny jeans for women. It's now a look which we've seen all over the world: a mainstream classic.

Destroyed and Threadbare Denim

Who can part with their old favorites, even when they become threadbare and torn? Holes damage has featured frequently as the uniform of rock bands (often accompanied by a bandanna), adolescents and celebrities. Remember Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA or Britney Spears with a strategic split below her back pocket? Punk "mass destruction" also continues to influence fashion, and grunge, glam rock and gothic undertones all feature in catwalk denim collections today.

Re-Emergence of the Hourglass Silhouette

Silhouettes are polarising back to extremes of feminine and masculine right now. For women's denim fits, this means the return of the waistline and hourglass curves. Despite the anxiety over a shift in proportions and the loss of the hipster, which gave woman a flattering elongated torso, the pin-up silhouette is here to stay. The knock-on effect has been the reappearance of shrunken jackets and shorter top blocks.


Customization was the practical girl's answer to the vintage revival, combining thrift store looks with a pre-loved sensibility, reworking 1970's craft and embellishment references for an urban, mainstream marketplace. This classic "converted" jean-skirt has been reworked in both fashion and basic denim lines for the past decade and shows no sign of diminishing.


The jean to epitomize this risqué trend was the McQueen "bumster" in 1992 -"presenting a new view of cleavage" commented the BBC News. The "how low can you go?" hipster inspired Lee Australia to try to sell their 16.5cm front rise jeans with a bikini-line razor attached! With a renewed focus on the midriff, extreme low front rises epitomized a South American spirit of carnival. The low-rise block has influenced Women’s wear and menswear silhouettes and denim blocks throughout the past decade. For example: 70's hipster flares, love-worn vintage looks and more recently ethnic skinny fits.
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