The next big pair of blue jeans? Yoga pants

This month, Levi’s debuted its new line of women’s jeans, backed by its largest-ever marketing campaign targeted to women, “Live in Levi’s.” Starring Grammy award-winning recording artist Alicia Keys, the push is designed to recalibrate the Levi’s brand to suit the realities of changing tastes and multicultural styles.

The company undertook a two-year-long safari to cities such as Chicago, Shanghai, and Stockholm to interview hundreds of women of different ages, body types, and ethnicities. Its findings? Women everywhere want a slim, form-fitting silhouette with the comfort that only stretch fibers can provide.

“The one comment that came up in every interview was that fabric and feeling is now as important as fit,” Karyn Hillman, chief product officer of Levi Strauss & Co., told the New York Times[1]. “Five or even three years ago, that wasn’t true.”

‘Athleisure’ becomes ascendant 

Five years ago, traditional and designer denim was still selling strong. That’s changed in the last couple of years, according to the NPD Group: In the year ending with April 2015, sales of women’s jeans in the United States were down 5.5% to $7.9 billion, from $8.3 billion in the previous 12 months.

Last July, Levi’s announced a 76% drop in quarterly profits. But it’s not just Levi’s that’s hurting: Premium denim has been suffering double-digit declines, NPD says. VF Corp.’s Seven For All Mankind brand, for example, saw its revenues dip 7% in the 12 months ending in April.

Why? The transition to skinny jeans and leggings seen during the first decade of the new century helped mainstream a slimmer silhouette. But more recently and thanks to high-tech stretch fabrics, those form-fitting bottoms no longer needed to be constrictive.

Instead, “athleisure” wear has upgraded comfortable yoga pants and sweats to everyday status. “Today’s consumer is on a quest for casual comfort, whether it’s jeans or yoga pants,” James Curleigh, president of the Levi’s brand, told[2] The Huffington Post.

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