Injecting Life into Blue Jeans: Using Lab Informatics to Revitalize Denim in the Yoga Pants Era

Lab Informatics

Can lab informatics help denim companies recover in this era of yoga pants?
The denim market has seen fewer sales in recent years. Can lab informatics help them regain lost ground?
Image source: Flickr CC user Bob ~ Barely time 4 Flickr

Times are tough for the denim industry. Once an iconic symbol of the United States, their position as a wardrobe staple has been threatened by an unlikely challenger: yoga pants.

Look at Levi Strauss & Co, well-known for their line of denim jeans. They once brought in more revenue than Nike, but over the past 20 years their sales have plummeted from $7 billion to under $5 billion. Contrast that to Lululemon, whose line of high-end athletic apparel has catapulted them to be worth $9 billion today.1

Although initially dismissed as a trend, there’s no doubt that yoga pants are here to stay. The so-called rise of “athleisure wear” can be attributed to wearable clothes that are soft and comfortable. And thanks to Lululemon and other similar brands, they’re fashionable enough to wear on the street, too. Gone are the days of ugly gym wear. Now you can run errands right after leaving the yoga studio without having to change at all.

It’s certainly convenient for today’s on-the-go lifestyle and something I’m guilty of doing myself. But as someone who also loves a well-worn pair of jeans, what are denim companies supposed to do? Lab informatics could provide the key.

Bringing Innovation to a Clothing Icon

Let’s face it. When you’re a wardrobe staple, there’s not much need to innovate. How much have denim jeans really changed over the past century? Sure, colors, washes, and cuts have come and gone. But beyond that, have we really seen anything new?

Denim companies are out to change that. Following the example of athleisure wear, everyone from Target to American Eagle is revamping their jeans with an eye toward stretch and comfort.2 For many of them, it’s a smart move to win back female consumers, especially. For example, Levi’s makes up 25% of the global denim market for men but only 5% for women.

Using Lab Informatics to Capitalize on Opportunity

Clearly there’s a huge opportunity here for denim manufacturers. But how do you add the much-coveted stretch to denim without making what amounts to yoga jeans? Although clothing companies have long experimented with sports textiles, they’re now looking at ways to add coveted traits to their jeans while still retaining essential denim traits. Adding stretchiness requires more synthetic fibers, and too much of those means awkward bunching at the knees and hips. Finding a balance is key.

Along those lines, coming up with new washes is just as important. Say what you will about yoga pants: they’re unexpectedly flattering. Because jeans are made of intrinsically different materials, companies have to experiment with washes that contour and flatter the leg. And maybe while they’re at it, they can innovate with eco-friendly dyes3 that are more sustainable than current ones.

Streamlining Denim Innovation through Lab Informatics

There are many variables when it comes to revamping denim jeans. Fabric blends that are soft and comfortable with the right amount of stretch. Techniques to reproduce wear and tear on modern jeans. The washes necessary to create a flattering contour for a leg. This is all information that needs to be captured, but the sheer amount and depth can be dizzying.

With a lab informatics system, however, you can manage and mine the data efficiently. In the case of a denim company, they can track promising fabric samples or look for the best “recipes” to create attractive dye washes and distressed patterns. It lets you manage your firm’s R&D workflow, looking at candidates and then selecting the ones best suited for large-scale production.

Is your firm’s research and development section looking for ways to revitalize existing products? Then perhaps BIOVIA Experiment Knowledge Base will suit your needs. With its ability to search and mine data from any source as well as its integration and collaborative tools, it can bring innovation to any R&D laboratory. Contact us today to learn more.

  1. “Distressed Denim: Levi’s Tries to Adapt to the Yoga Pants Era,” July 23, 2015, http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-levi-strauss-confronts-the-yoga-pant/
  2. “Yoga pants craze pushing retailers to revamp denim lines,” July 30, 2015, http://www.retaildive.com/news/yoga-pants-craze-pushing-retailers-to-reinvent-denim-lines/403167/
  3. “Patagonia taps into new technology to evolve denim manufacturing,”August 4, 2015, http://business.transworld.net/news/patagonia-taps-into-new-technology-to-evolve-denim-manufacturing/#lumAI6gYBkZ6B5pH.97

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