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Upgrade Makes Denim a Hit with Young Women

August 1, 2000
Young Tokyo women are now mixing denim with brightly colored skirts.

In spring 2000, denim jackets matched with pink and colorfully patterned skirts have been the rage in fashion among young women. The streets these days are filled with figures clad in jeans jumpers offsetting skirts printed in flowered, paisley, or geometrical designs. This "jeans fashion" boom was initially ignited among teenage girls who copied the style of a popular male teen idol who was selected as "best-looking in jeans."

Material Make Over
Denim is typically thought of as a casual material used primarily for making blue jeans. In 2000, however, a new type of denim has arrived on the fashion scene; it is being used to create a stylish lineup of apparel suitable for wearing to the office or out for a night on the town. The apparel maker Sanyo Shokai has introduced a new line of garments incorporating this new material targeted at working women in their twenties. The fabric combines traditional denim with polyurethane, giving it an added elasticity that keeps its shape and moves in tune with the body. It also has a soft, feminine feel. Sales of denim products are up by close to 60% over the previous year, with a jacket that retails for 19,000 yen (173 U.S. dollars at 110 yen to the dollar) being the bestseller. Some garments are made from denim blended with materials like silk and wool to improve its texture and give it a high-quality feel.

Popular clothing outlets like Uniqlo and Gap are pushing denim in sales campaigns, and even sales for Levi's brand jeans jackets, the old standby, have increased. Other companies are luring a following of younger women shoppers by offering lower-priced denim jumpers and skirts. While casual denim has traditionally been associated with a well-worn look, the key to this new "fashionable denim" is its crisp, clean quality that perfectly matches the well-postured stride of women out on the streets today.

Mix and Match
One of the appealing characteristics of denim is its uncanny ability to match well with just about anything, allowing wearers to let their imaginations run wild when it comes to style. Today's young women love the way the fabric allows them to mix and match to achieve a variety of looks, ranging from sporty to adult. Few are adopting the traditional 1970s head-to-toe denim look, with most opting instead for pants made of a softer material or colorfully patterned skirts.

Some of these print patterns hark back to days of old, such as the 1950s polka-dot and checkered patterns, the 1960s kaleidoscope look, and psychedelic prints straight out of the 1970s. Many of these patterns incorporate the color pink to achieve a colorful, feminine look that has regained popularity after being out of favor for over 20 years. Recently, colors in fashion have included subdued hues like gray and khaki or the 1999 favorite, pastel. Some analysts say that the reemergence of pink reflects a freshness that has gained acceptance among young women.

Will Denim Make a Summer Splash?
Jeans jumpers have exploded onto the scene as the most popular fashion of the spring, but how will denim fare heading into the heat of summer? Right now, people are buzzing over swimsuits made of jeans material that "has the feel of wearing regular clothes." The biggest sellers so far are two-piece tank tops and bikini bottoms accented with a wrap-around skirt. Those in the swimwear industry, which has been devastated by unseasonable weather in recent years, are pinning their hopes on the popularity of denim to provide a much needed boost to sales.

Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.