Industry Insights

Everything Brands Need To Know About Denim In A Post-Covid World

June 4, 2021
the Editorial Team
Consumer wearing soft denim while working from home during COVID-19
While trade shows have come to a stop, innovation and transformation within the denim industry have certainly not. Season-less collections, high performance and sustainable concepts are just beginning to define a new kind of denim that not only caters to a particular demographic but also opens opportunities to transform when and where people choose to wear denim.

Imagine waking up in the morning and being able to slide into a pair of jeans that feel soft and comfortable to wear while you work from home, perform yoga and try to recreate a viral trend on TikTok. In the past, this has irked denim wearers who like their denim rough and rigid; however, that is no longer the case.

According to the Cotton Lifestyle Monitor, nearly half of all consumers surveyed indicated that the activewear and athleisure wear had replaced denim in their wardrobes. The report also states that the athleisure market could hit a $260 billion valuation by 2026. The possibilities are endless, and it may also be an opportunity for the denim industry to explore technical innovations and fabrics offering high performance.

Here are three directions that could change the denim industry in 2021:

Traditional Meets Natural

To introduce biodegradability in stretch constructions, we predict that many denim mills will opt for natural alternatives to polyester such as hemp, soy, linen, and bamboo combined with more traditional fibres such as cotton — both organic and recycled, Tencel™, and Modal.

Tencel™ Refibra™ Technology Campaign Shoot - Biodegradability in stretch cotton
Source: Tencel™ ReFibra™ Technology Campaign

Throwbacks But Better

As people get accustomed to a ‘new normal’, they will seek comfort in familiar and comforting styles — for example, tie-dyes, retro-fits, 70s flair and 90s grunge. We see workwear and streetwear taking off as they have also become symbolic to social movements such as #BLM and #FridaysForFuture.

Nostalgic Denim Trends in London Fashion Week 2020 and 2021 collections - retrofit denim by Moda Operandi and Dior, flair denim by Chloe, 90s grunge denim
Denim Trends seen across brands for Autumn/Winter 2020–2021

Seeking Comfort in Cotton

The Lifestyle Monitor™ survey, conducted in March 2020, stated that 70 per cent of consumer favoured cotton as the most comfortable denim fibre to wear. Comes as unsurprising, since denim is still mostly synonymous with cotton; however, this creates opportunities for mills to favour natural fibre blends with cotton that would appeal to consumers’ desire for softer, more durable breathable denim.

Taking Trims Into a Greener Future

Companies like Dorlet have taken it upon themselves to improve the trims supply chain by offering sustainable alternatives using a 4-pronged approach:

  1. Reduce water, energy and chemical consumption in the colouring process
  2. Scaling a raw material trims that depend on a unique oxidation process to achieve desired colours
  3. Switching to recycled plastic from bottles and fishnets to make buttons
  4. Creating a completely reusable, removable and recyclable jean button that is also chemical-free
Dorlet Diablo — a reusable, removable and recyclable jean button
Source: Dorlet Diablo — a reusable, removable and recyclable jean button


The denim industry is on the verge of genuinely accelerated change, from digitisation to improved communications around certification and lifecycle assessments. Nevertheless, it isn’t an overnight transformation. Many mills feel the need to respond to ‘greenwashing’ claims that the industry has faced for a while. Although consumers call out brands on how they treat the planet and people, including their employees, it falls upon the mills and manufacturers behind the brands to set an example unlike ever seen ever before. We must be proactive, experimental, and compliant with the world’s social and environmental standards to weave a better future for denim.