The Patchwork Denim Skirt Is The Hero Piece For This Summer

It’s a no brainer.

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Candela Novembre wearing a patchwork denim mini skiert
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The fashion world has become enamored with the naughties. Trends that peaked in 2002 — ruffles, low-rise pants, and even belly button rings have reentered the cultural conversation. But the denim skirt, a staple of the era worn iconically by Britney Spears (with a top to match) and Lindsay Lohan has returned to the zeitgeist via a slightly different route. Patchwork denim skirts, made of cut-up and re-configured slices of jeans, have become a designer fashion staple spurred on by an industry increasingly focused on ways to cut down on waste. Though not every iteration of the current trend is made from upcycled fabric, many brands are finding ways to repurpose leftover materials to create these cool and crafty designs.

“Brands with some of the strongest designer positioning… Gabriela Hearst [and] Marine Serre, to name a couple… have very vocally made meaningful commitments to sustainable practices, including upcycling,” explains Jana Hofheimer, buyer of advanced designer, evening, and denim at Moda Operandi. “For such prominent luxury brands to take this stance reinforces to the customer that prioritizing sustainably-produced merchandise is not only the responsible thing to do, but also is now the cool thing to do. Upcycling, in some ways, has become synonymous with premium, elevated fashion.”

Courtesy of Loewe

This shift, supported now not just by brands with a longstanding sustainability bent like Reformation, but also luxury labels that are increasingly centering themselves in the conversation, suggests a larger continued movement towards an environmentally-friendly narrative. Younger shoppers want brands to align with their values, not just to provide them with something to wear.

Fashion’s Focus On Environmental Impact

If you need further evidence, look no further than The Real Real’s newly-launched partnership with Gypsy Sport which repurposes vintage denim sourced in California into a 12-piece collection that includes both a colorblock miniskirt and one with appliqué details. New York label La Ligne also created a patchwork skirt on Earth Day in partnership with Alyssa Miller. “This button front patchwork skirt was created using fabrics from leftover La Ligne sampling and production yardage mixed with deadstock denim from FABSCRAP,” explains Co-Founder Meredith Melling.

Courtesy of La Ligne

A 2020 paper titled Understand Denim Recycling: A Quantitative Study with Lifestyle Assessment Methodology notes that the U.S. denim market is expected to be valued at over $107 billion by 2023, and globally the amount of waste generated is over 2.16 million tons. As overall clothing consumption increases, both advances in large-scale recycling technology and smaller-scale shifts from designer and consumers are necessary to address the environmental impact of what is being produced. But, as with any aspirational shift, without the existence of clothing that consumers actually want to wear, there can be no convincing.

The Return Of The Miniskirt

So, beyond the practical motivations (repurposing scrap fabrics and reimagining what denim can look like) why the trend cycle’s focus on skirts in particular? “I think Miu Miu's "internet breaking" (but not for everyone) micro mini really brought skirts of ALL lengths back into the conversation,” suggests Melling. “While we love a summer dress, a go-to summer skirt has so much versatility and is a great styling alternative to jeans, trousers, or sweats.” Amidst the months of working from home and forgoing large social events, skirts took a backseat to more practical or comfortable wardrobe staples. But, as the collective excitement around dressing up continues into summer 2022, the style is poised for its comeback.

Courtesy of The Real Real x Gypsy Sport

The trend can also be considered a continuation of the craftcore trend that emerged over the last few years. At the same time that many shoppers were taking up DIY-fashion as a hobby or side hustle, major brands took on the movement by way of crochet bucket hats, patchwork cardigans, and grandma-chic knit bags. The could-be-handmade aesthetic of these sewn-together skirts embraces the attitude that fashion doesn’t always have to be tailored to perfection.

Curious to test out the trend for yourself this season? Ahead, shop a selection of the best patchwork denim styles to put to the test.

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