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Teen shoppers say denim is cool again, as fashion athletic loses steam

Need more evidence that athletic apparel is starting to lose its muscle?

As investors debate whether the "yoga pants" trend has peaked, a new report by Piper Jaffray finds that young shoppers are clearing more space in their closets for denim.

According to the firm's biannual "Taking Stock With Teens" report, jeans are grabbing a larger piece of mindshare, or relative public awareness, among upper-income female shoppers. That group's taste is important because it tends to trigger a broader shift in fashion cycles.

In Piper Jaffray's latest survey, denim rose to 19.5 percent of overall mindshare among this group — members of households with an average annual income of $109,000. That compares with 14.1 percent in the spring, and 13.8 percent one year ago. It's also the highest in six years.

Fashion athletic dipped from the spring, falling toward 15 percent mindshare among the group. Still, that represented a modest uptick from the prior-year period.

Piper Jaffray's findings come as Wall Street looks for signs that athletic apparel companies like Lululemon are starting to lose steam. In research sent to Jefferies clients last week, analyst Randal Konik noted that Google Trends search results show interest in denim is picking up, whereas fewer shoppers are searching for yoga pants.

"We believe that the athleisure trend is plateauing, and we expect more conservative growth going forward," Konik said.

Despite renewed interest in denim, "Leggings/Lululemon" once again ranked as the top fashion trend for upper-income females. Adidas and Nike made that list in their own right, ranking seventh and ninth, respectively. "Ripped jeans" came in fifth, followed by "jeans" in sixth.

According to Piper Jaffray, American Eagle leads the denim trend among upper-income teen-age girls, ranking as their No. 1 destination for the item.