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Is it worth the Flare?


During the reign of the skinny, and the recent rise of Athleisure, the new kid on the block is the bell-bottoms or the flared leg bottoms.

It isn’t the first time we are seeing this silhouette challenge and demand its position among other fashion favourites. Diving a bit into the history of ‘bell-bottoms,’ starting from the 19th century US naval sailors wore wide leg pants for functional reasons. It was in the 1960s, during the counter-culture movement, these items at army surplus stored, became a source of origin for flared legs popularly known as ‘bell-bottoms’. The silhouette then went mainstream when they were patronised by Sonny & Cher. The Duo, outfitted in bell-bottoms, made appearances on TV shows and performances.

Bell-bottoms continued to be in vogue till late 1970s. However, ‘boot-cut’- the sister of this retro favourite was revived during 1990s and 2000s, popularly in the denims category with minor updates.

In recent times, for more than a few seasons now, designers across the globe have been obsessing about the 1970s and it is by no surprise that this by-gone staple, is getting pulled out of dusty wardrobes, and is beginning to see the limelight. Also, with the resurgence of 90s as an inspiration for AW16, international runways have set centre stage to bring bell-flares back in vogue. Included in this list are movie celebs sporting and promoting this retro favourite.

Now, will it make a true impact?, is worth a study..

From Designer’s Stage

Take a look at the recent Resort & Spring 2017 ready-to-wear collections! After a slow start, over the last few seasons, designers are looking at this retro staple as an alternative to the over-saturated skinny jeans market.

Resort 2017 collections confirm the trend, utilising the high waist to slim hip, rendering the elongated leg and crop kick flare versions. Drawing inspiration from nautical lifestyles of early Spring, ‘bell-bottoms/boot-cut’ pants are re-interpreted in a Chic and dressy update, with use of various fabrics like corduroy, velvet, canvas, brocade and jersey. Denim is not the only material trend for this style’s new avatar.

Prabal Gurung & Andre Gn exemplify the dressy update with use of non denim fabrics like brocade. Resort’17 from Chloe has a more feminine, chic yet playful mix of silhouette and print. Gucci’s Spring’17, the top most viewed show on Vogue Online, saw a cropped -close to culottes update of bell flares. Interestingly, carrying the trend into Spring’17, is Victoria Beckham with this denim bell bottom updated with a hint of athlecticism…

Well, who said bell-bottoms cannot be a canvas for new & trendier updates…

To Bollywood studios

While trend reports are on and off about bell-bottoms for seasons now, what got our attention to make a special mention, is bollywood celebrities like Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone and many more! They have been boasting this 1970s look for sometime now. Beginning last year end, the ladies in B-town have been obsessed with flared leg denims ranging from vintage to medium washed to dark indigo hues.

Deepika Padukone showcased her exclusive range for Myntra, dominating the finale with none other than a boot leg low rise denim. As a matter of fact, she has been spotted wearing the trend multiple ways. From a dressy look, teamed with a soft shine crop top, to co-ordinated sets in classic ‘boot-cut’ leg. Hot and trendy, must say…

Social media shutterbugs captured many more of this trend during the first quarter of 2016, especially during February & March 2016. As seen above, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor and Malaika Arora were outfitted in elongated bell bottoms, each of different indigo wash.

This only takes us to the thought, ‘is it time to pull out those flared denims from your Mom’s boxes?’

Take a look Globally

Looking at the Google search trend reports, under the high influence of the ’70s since Spring 2015 and now moving to the ’90s, bell bottoms have grown 30% worldwide, over a period of 2 years. The country that topped the charts was US, contributing 3 times more when compared to other regions. Next in line were Canada and then UK, thus establishing a place for ‘bell-bottoms’ as a contender in the International fashion scene…

Thus, in-sync with search trends, Global Fashion brands have inserted SKUs to revive this style in their current season offering.

Ready to wear brands like Top Shop, Mango, H&M and AnnTaylor’s loft have a ‘Flare’ fit classification filter, in their Online catalogue. Zara has added a option to choose under Characteristics, where ‘Bell-bottoms’ features, applicable for Jeans and Trouser categories. Seen emerging in the non-denim category, taking a twist on AW15’s Culottes, is an updated ankle cropped lengths with Bell flared leg opening.

However, all these brands have a much smaller portfolio allotted to this product, than what the catwalks indicate.


Product offering is very small, contribution to less than 10% of their Bottoms portfolio.

LOFT, being an American brand has a larger % of their portfolio allocated to bell-flared bottoms, in sync with the consumer search trend in the US. However, other international brands, that have higher presence in Europe and UK, have dedicated a much lower part of their portfolio (half as much as LOFT) towards bell-bottoms. This is in-line with the slower trend in consumer search observed in these regions.

Apart from the above, Athlesiure trend saw the 1990s’ quintessential boot-cut update in products from Mango, River Island & Addidas. Flared leg openings were exaggerated and fabricated in knitted jersey and rib structures.

Stylumia Retail Insights

Stylumia data reveals only ‘2’ products trending among the top 10%, within the Trouser & Jeans category. They are from International retailer – Forever 21 & Asos, predominently in the youth category. Reference images below:

On the other hand, Indian Brand’s top products for Trousers/Jeans category did not have a ‘Bell’ or ‘Boot-cut’ style. As a matter of fact, most brands are not offering this silhouette for retail yet.

There are two ways to look at this! ‘Loss of opportunity due to lack of availability’ or simply ‘Trend needs more time for the Indian women to catch up’.

For retail in India

Coming to bottom line and some real business, what does all this mean? Will these Flared hemlines take over and become the new Skinny? If we zoom into India on the Global map, Google search trends show a non-definitive trend over macro & micro periods. Further in detail below:

The product, over a period of 2 years, has maintained a Flat trend with eratic spikes of demand, which is not a strong enough pattern to confirm a rise of ‘bell-bottoms’.

Based on the data analysis, on comparing the ‘Skinny pants’ with ‘Bell-Bottoms’ growth trend, skinny pants have grown on an average by 17%. Bell-bottoms, despite all influence has remained FLAT in growth.

While the trends from Runways & social media, have spoken of bell flares for Spring months ever since 2015, the consumer in India is not showing great curiosity for the same. The trend below illustrates a Flat LTL Seasonal growth during Early Spring 2015 vs 2016.

Does this mean, that India, is not ready to embrace the come-back of the 70s bell-bottoms, the way rest of the world is? While ‘bell-bottoms’, in general may not be of significant importance, the interest for ‘Flared Jeans’ specifically seems to be on the rise seasonally. Reports below illustrate:

‘Flared Jeans’ have seen a spike during Winter15 to Early Spring 16. A similar pattern is on the rise after a lul till Sept 2016. It might be worth a wait, to watch this consumer trend for more confirmations…

To Conclude

International designer influence and consumer trends have confirmed the growing interest in bell-bottoms, from runways to retail collections on the high street.

In India, research shows that, although celebs are wearing the trend, it hasn’t influenced the Indian consumer yet. The Skinny is still growing and there is no increase in demand for ‘Bell-bottoms’.

If we look microscopically, interest towards newer denim silhouettes is visible, supported by the ‘Flared Jeans’ search trend. As observed, this is a seasonal demand and it is recommend that ‘Denim only’ brands can definitely use this opportunity and add this style to their portfolio for Hits 0 & 1 of Spring 2017 collections.

However, for others, one cannot yet forecast the fate of bell-flares for 2017. It is worth a watch for Summer & Fall 2017…

Blog by: Pooja Saraf

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