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Will Spanx's Innovations in Shapewear Denim Pay Off?

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Following swiftly on from the launch of Levi’s Revel, shapewear giant Spanx has made its entry into denim, launching a line of skinny jeans that promise to shape the wearer and smooth the silhouette.

While skinny jeans have been at the forefront of fashion for a few years now, they have not always flattered or even fit their wearers. Many women buy multiple pairs of jeans in their quest to find the perfect fit, and often are still not satisfied – in the US, females over the age of 15 have an average of four pairs of jeans per capita, in the UK two. However, recent innovations in fabric technology have brought a host of new launches promising a fit like never before, with Spanx being the latest arrival.

A Brand Trusted by Women the World Over…

While Spanx is by no means the first to come up with shapewear denim - Levi recently launched its Revel range, while US brand Not Your Daughter’s Jeans and supermarket Asda’s Great Bum and Tum jeans all promise to shape the wearer - it nevertheless has potential to carve a niche for itself in the denim market. Spanx started the shapewear trend in underwear and is perhaps the most well-known and trusted of all shapewear brands. Now, it is leveraging the power of that brand in denim, a category where the quest to find a flattering fit transcends all age brackets and incomes. Women who instinctively trust Spanx underwear to shape and flatter may well be tempted to try the brand’s denim.

The Spanx jeans, which come in a range of styles and colours, are available in top-end department stores in the US and UK as well as online. Priced at US$100 (£62), they sit in the premium denim segment in the UK and on the upper fringes of the premium segment in the US alongside recently launched rival Levi’s Revel. In the UK, women’s premium jeans saw 6% value growth in 2012, this being one of the strongest growth rates in the category and behind only the super-premium segment (7%), adding US$11 million (£6.7 million) in absolute growth. Value growth in premium women’s jeans was a little slower in the US in 2012 at 2%, although in terms of absolute growth the segment contributed US$50 million (£31.8 million), the most of any segment in women’s denim.

…But Lacking in Denim Know-How

Premium women’s jeans are predicted to record some of the highest absolute value growth in the category to 2017 in both the UK and the US, although success in any hard-fought market is of course not guaranteed. As a shapewear brand, Spanx does not have the cult cool of many of its rivals in denim; to date, its successful garments have been made to be hidden away rather than shown off, and this may prove a potential barrier in a category where brand identity and image carry a lot of weight. While Spanx brings expertise in shape control to the category, it is a relative novice in denim design. Women paying a premium for denim want the best of both worlds – fit and fashion – so depending on the success of the Spanx denim range, further down the line collaboration between Spanx and an established premium denim brand could be a route that pays dividends.

Women’s Denim Onto a Winner

Regardless of the success of the Spanx venture, jeans that promise to not only fit well but also give the wearer the appearance of being thinner mark a significant step in the evolution of women’s jeans as the category develops its own identity. With a renewed focus on a flattering fit – and the fabric technology to back it up – shape-enhancing denim has the potential to bring a whole new lease of life to women’s denim at a very opportune time.

Demand for shapewear is being driven by a conflict between actual body shape and the current ideal. Female bodyweight as a whole is rising - in every region for which Euromonitor International has statistics – Australasia, Eastern Europe, North America and Western Europe – the percentage of the female population (aged 15 and above) classified as obese, having a BMI of 30kg/m2 or more, has risen over the last five years. In the decade from 2002-2012, the mean female BMI has risen from 27.7 to 29.3 in the US and from 26.8 to 27.4 in the UK. Meanwhile, a wealth of coverage in glossy magazines, newspapers and online is devoted to article after article analysing celebrities’ appearances, with weight loss in particular being praised.

As long as this dichotomy continues, there will be demand for apparel that shapes the wearer, and, regardless of which brand comes out on top, women’s denim as a whole stands to benefit, with consumers taking a fresh interest in the category as fabric innovation allows for a fit that flatters. Shapewear can shape the path for women’s denim.

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