Jeans Brands Stretch in New Directions

Denim is having a licensing moment.

A bevy of agreements either have been recently announced or are coming to virtual and physical shelves that are based on denim brands either moving into new classifications or collaborating with character and entertainment properties.

A rough year
This comes as the traditional heavyweight labels – Levis, Wrangler and Lee, among others — try to bounce back from a rough start to the pandemic, as their sales plunged due to retail closures (including their own stores); their inability to move eCommerce to a healthier share of their business, and work-at-home consumers’ gravitation to less structured activewear and workout gear.

To be fair, jeansmakres have long had well-established licensing programs, so the confluence of these announcements isn’t neccessarily an outgrowth of the 2020 issues that have continued into the new year. But they show denim stretching in new directions:

  • Kontoor Brands’ Wrangler label launched a home goods DTR online at Pottery Barn Teen that includes love seats, bean bag chairs, curtains, sectionals and other products. Wrangler also is readying a Rick and Morty apparel collection and introduced Wrangler x Fred Segal apparel at Nordstrom.
    Meanwhile, Kontoor’s Lee label has a branded collection made from recycled denim that it developed with retailer H&M that launches today (Feb. 4) with jeans, bucket hats, workwear jackets and other items.
  • Target  will launch a limited-time Levi Strauss-licensed DTR of home goods, pet accessories, apparel and other denim-inspired on Feb. 28. There will be more than 100 items ranging from $3 glass tumblers to a $125 bar cart, with most products under $25.  The new collection builds on Levi Strauss’ Red Tab jeans that launched at Target in 2019. And that’s in addition to Levi Strauss’ licensing agreement with New Balance for footwear that launched last year and a revival last fall of Hello Kitty-licensed jeans. It also is readying a collaboration with Italian fashion house Miu Miu. “We’re focused on growing lifestyle and share of closet in categories other than denim bottoms, and those categories remain  significantly underpenetrated,” Levi Strauss CEO Chip Burgh told analysts last week, also noting the company recently introduced Red Tab sweatpants. Over the next 10 years, Levi’s expects non-denim products to increase to be about half the company’s annual revenue, Burgh said.
  • The Gap, which hired IMG last year to handle licensing for its namesake, Old Navy and Banana Republic brands, signed a licensing agreement with Al-Karam Textile Mills for a “Gap Home” collection that will launch late this year across bedding, bath and accessories for children, adults, baby and teens.
  • Guess unveiled a five-piece piece capsule collection of sweatshirts and jackets with fine art collaborative FriendsWithYou and featuring the latter’s Little Cloud character.

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