Can blue jeans make a fashion statement again?

In recent years, jeans have struggled to beat back more comfortable styles such as leggings and yoga wear.
In recent years, jeans have struggled to beat back more comfortable styles such as leggings and yoga wear.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK (WP) - From Ralph Lauren to Calvin Klein, America's biggest fashion labels are pinning their hopes on a blue jean revival.

Across the industry, fashion brands are renewing their focus on denim, betting the wardrobe staple can be a major sales driver as jeans battle stretchy pants for supremacy from the waist down.

In recent years, jeans have struggled to beat back more comfortable styles such as leggings and yoga wear. Making things worse, blue jean styles have been largely stagnant over the past decade, leaving shoppers little to get excited about.

Yet while Levi Strauss & Co. struggled for years to stave off pressure from stretchy pants, there are signs of a rebound. The jeans maker posted an 8 per cent increase in revenue in 2017, thanks to a significant revamp of its women's jeans.

Meanwhile, luxury labels are helping to pull denim out of the doldrums. Downtown streetwear brand Off White's washed jeans drew lots of interest for reworked denim, as did the patchwork jean styles from Vetements that led the trendy label to collaborate with Levi's.

PVH, which owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, has seen an "incredible improvement" in its jeans businesses worldwide, chief executive Emanuel Chirico said.

This January, the company enlisted the Kardashian clan in a global ad campaign for Calvin Klein's jean and underwear lines.

Ralph Lauren, in the midst of a bid to regain the brand's cachet, singled out denim as a segment it will refocus on going forward after seeing an 8 per cent spike year-to-date in its jean sales.

The mass-market labels are on board as well.

American Eagle Outfitters set a record for volume last fall, luring teens into stores with tall walls of denim in hundreds of different silhouettes and washes.

At J. Crew, denim led its sister brand Madewell to record sales both in stores and online last quarter, executives said.