No, denim is not dead, despite the fact that leggings are continuing to increase in popularity.
On Monday, apparel brand American Giant announced that it will offer a pair of “non-athletic” leggings. Founder Bayard Winthrop, who has touted American Giant’s high-quality basics at affordable prices, said the brand’s expansion into bottoms felt organic following the success of its tops, including its original line of sweatshirts.
Winthrop is far from the only one cashing in on the leggings trend: Over the last two years, several fashion retailers have dabbled in the activewear style, including H&M and Zara, according to retail data company Edited.
Growth in legging sales since 2013.
The new American Giant leggings, simply dubbed “The Pant,” capture the comfort of leggings and the function of traditional pants, Winthrop said.
“We were focused on how rapidly the whole athleisure moment is entering our lives in ways that aren’t relegated to the gym and couch,” Winthrop said. “However, the marketplace itself was pretty bifurcated. It’s really hard to justify expensive leggings, and the quality wasn’t always there.”
At the same time, shoppers are increasingly turning to e-commerce sites like Amazon to purchase leggings. According to the Washington Post, the tech giant has the largest market share of any retailer, raking in 11.6 percent of leggings purchases. Its share is more than triple that of Macy’s and double Gap’s. What’s more, Amazon’s share of leggings surpass that of its denim, which comes in at 9.3 percent.
Among the brands sold by Amazon is Michi, founded by Michelle Watson. Watson’s leggings have adopted a strong celebrity following and many loyal wearers, thanks to their unique, stylish designs which feature mesh inserts and color block patterns.
According to Watson, what was at first relegated to either the gym or the street has merged into a multipurpose garment. She said this is in part a reflection of the evolution of the modern woman, who has adopted a robust, busy lifestyle.
Katie Smith, senior retail analyst at Edited, echoed the sentiment: “Consumers are more active, travel more and are less bound to traditional workplaces. Dress codes have relaxed across the entire spectrum of social events, and functionality, ease and comfort have risen to the forefront.”
Both Watson and Smith attributed the rise of leggings, in part, to a cultural shift toward health and wellness. According to data from Edited, obesity among adults is beginning to slow for the first time since it was declared an epidemic in the 1980s. Meanwhile, activity levels are increasing—thus generating a growing market for leggings.
Despite the continued rise of leggings, Winthrop, the CEO of American Giant, said that denim will always have a spot in consumers’ closets. However, he anticipates that designers will continue to get creative about adding stretch and synthetics to denim in a way that emulates leggings by way of offshoots of the popular “jegging” style. “Denim and blue jeans are going to be there forever. Denim is a critical part of the American wardrobe, and that’s not going away,” he said.
Smith said that, while leggings have continued to grow in popularity, “it’s a myth that the denim category is on its knees.”
“This is not necessarily the death of denim,” she said. “Retailers’ increased investment in denim has resulted in increased sales. Denim’s durability and versatility at an affordable price point means jeans also have a place in most consumers’ wardrobes.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that The American Giant Pant was part of a Bloomingdale’s capsule collection.