Designer Jean Interviews
Change. The time has come for women to have jeans that are designed, styled and crafted specifically for them. A fashion industry professional I worked with several years ago once told me “at the end of the day, it’s all just denim.”
DB: What is your brand all about?
Making a statement. Providing a unique experience. American luxury and craftsmanship. Giving women exactly what they need and even more of what they want.
DB: Who would be your ideal customer?
The woman who wants and knows that she deserves a better pair of jeans. I honestly feel that every woman deserves a pair of my jeans.
DB: Your jeans have a uniqueness to them which I love, how would you describe them?
Well, I thank you for the compliment, this response from a woman is absolutely what drives me. I’m very happy that you and others have noticed this uniqueness. Each jean makes its own statement so I think it would be hard to give a specific description, so I’ll give you my two perspectives on that question. I think in a broader sense they can be described as, if you can imagine, the next evolution of the denim jean. Jeans that are made inside and out for the fit, design and style of today’s women. They are so much more than just jeans and that’s why I call them ‘Ready-To-Wear Jeans’. And to describe them perhaps as it pertains more to the aesthetics of the newest offerings of the collection, I’d simply have to say a sexy skinny silhouette that has been distressed, ripped and zipped to rock-star scale proportions!
DB: Zippers have been really popular on jeans, what made you want to put them on the knees and on the front of your jeans?
I’m very inspired by the idea force merger. In this instance my desire was to use the zipper, which is traditionally used in a strictly functional way on jeans and forcing it in to a purely aesthetic role. I’m very pleased with the outcome. I think the knee will be a consistent focal point in my design. The knee is the best place on a jean to make a strong statement.
DB: Are they comfortable on the knees? I can imagine kneeling down may be a little bit sore. I love the idea of using zippers etc for aesthetic purposes though, I am all for that!
That’s a great question because comfort is very, very important to me and I don’t want to just say yes without explaining why. A lot of thought was given to the placement of the zippers for that very reason. Here’s how I got the comfort issues to also marry with my design vision. The zippers are placed to fall just slightly above the knee. I then incorporated the shin patch, which falls just below the knee to achieve aesthetic detail as well as visually balance the leg. So on most women the zipper won’t fall exactly on the knees. In the event that the zippers do happen to fall on the knees there are a few other features at work. The front leg panel design, the stretch in the denim fabric and the quality/thickness of the zippers which can also be opened to relieve pressure in that area.
DB: What is your inspiration when designing?
I find most of my inspiration away from jeans. I look for beautiful lines and great concepts in any/all forms of design. I don’t really look at other jeans any more. They don’t inspire me and I don’t want to box myself into that way of thinking. I have created a path that’s so exciting for me. I’m opening the jean to all possibilities and I’ve only just begun.
DB: So do you get inspiration from things like nature or the city or maybe something else?
It truly is creating art for me. I treat every jean like a work of art. So inspiration comes from everything and nothing at all. Firstly, I look at my jean as being a part of a full women’s ready-to-wear collection more so than a jean in a contemporary or designer jean collection. This gives me the same freedom to create as a Marc Jacobs, an Alexander Wang, a Phillip Lim. And I’m very inspired by their work and by that of many other great designers as well. Some times I look through fashion magazines for hours and sometimes I have visions in a dream that wake me up in the middle of the night. I got the inspiration for the shin patch on the Harley Zip jeans because I love the sport of soccer. Who would put a shin patch on a pair of women’s jeans? But it works. This is why, I’m very excited. My thoughts, ideas and energy are growing stronger and stronger every day. My thinking is free and bold. Hopefully women will be able to identify with that.
DB: Tell us more about your cuts and washes!
I have to say the cuts are absolutely great. I’m constantly working to improve even on this greatness. The rear rise is slightly higher than the front rise for an enhancing fit without the plumber butt. The front leg panels are contoured and smaller then the rear leg panels which give a long slimming effect to the legs.
Current/Elliott is one of the hottest brands around, almost single-handedly starting the boyfriend jean trend. The soft, stylish looks which Katie Holmes, Rachel Bilson and more are obsessed. The pair met in college at UCLA, over a decade ago.
So I know you’re from Northern California. How did you end up in LA?
Emily: I left Davis for UCLA, which is where I met Meritt. We were the total hippie chicks at UCLA. We bonded over bell bottoms actually, 684 elephant bells because we both wear bell bottoms and everyone–
What are 684s?
E: Giant 70s vintage jeans that are just ridiculous. And no girls wore bell bottoms at the time–it was the era of ripped, zipped back BisousBisous pants and like Guess platform boots, so this is like ÔÇÿ95 to ’99.
So you bonded over jeans?
Merrit: Yeah and then we started going to flea markets together over the weekend and sharing our finds, but we were actually studying sociology.
E: And we sat next to each other at graduation, just serendipitously and we started talking about what we should do in the future and we both kind of went on to do other things, at least a little bit, but we were freelance styling on the side until we joined forces to become a styling team!
What was that conversation like?
M: Pretty dorky. I mean UCLA’s not the most creative school and at graduation we were both wearing long vintage dresses under our gowns and we were just like what do we love, what do we want to do? We complement each other well, so we figured we should stay in touch and at least hang out, and eventually do something together.
What were your favorite vintage stores then?
M: Well we used to take the bus to the flea markets on the weekends.
E: And there were so many amazing places even in Santa Monica back then, and this great place by the school. We were the only ones who went, it probably closed down after we graduated.
M: It’s true, we were the only ones ever there.
So after college, you each went your own way.
E: Yeah, I was styling and doing in house work for one brand. The styling work was both editorial and celebrity – I mean all of the same things I do now but on a much smaller level.
M: I did freelance writing for Conde, Allure, etc.
E: Yeah I mean when you’re young you’re just trying to build your book and get yourself together, and then it was like it all came together and actually worked and made sense when we joined forces.
M: And it was a slow process. She built her portfolio and I built mine and she met clients and I met clients and when we hedged them together we all of a sudden had this momentum. We never assisted or anything, we sort of just said yes to everything and figured it out as we went along. And then before we knew it we were styling big bands for their album covers and music videos and runway shows.
E: There are two of us, so one could just nod yes and the other could quickly figure it out.
How do you start? Once the two of you came together, what’s the first thing that happens?
E: You know people are always asking that – always – and now we have these amazing assistants and I want to be able to guide them and teach them, but that moment when it happens, it just happens you know? It’s like when people say they’re getting married and they knew because it just happened, it just happened! It worked. We got one client at Interscope and from there we became the go-to band stylists. And at that point it was all about music. The music industry’s changed so much.
What was your first big shoot? The first one that made you go, “Wow, this is awesome.”
E: Mischa Barton, believe it or not. I know that’s not band related, but she’d just started acting and she was major.
M: And then every new band that got signed to the label, they’d bring to us, sit us down and make us listen to the album and ask, “What do you see?”
E: It was like an image development thing at the beginning, which we’re so grateful for because that’s not how styling is these days, but it totally informs what we do and how we still style. We got to brand ourselves as stylists who think about what works business-wise and not just, “That’s pretty,” though we do that, too.
What was the biggest challenge when you started?
M: I mean when you start out and you’re that young you’re broke anyway, so you really have nothing to lose. It’s not like we quit our day jobs, and we were so resourceful. Like, “Oh I heard so and so started a business,” so we’d take them to lunch and get everything out of them, like how does it work? Everyone we knew, we’d say something like, “Hey! I’ll make you a customized shirt if you show us how to use this computer program, or how to get a business license.”
E: When you’re young and hungry and there’s two of you together, it’s just so much fun. But the hardest part is meeting the designers and getting enough cred to be able to pull what you want. But we were just so nice, and we really tried to be kind and thoughtful and return perfectly and be so responsible and that really helps. Those designer relationships are hard to build.
M: Yeah it was kind of like do one favor for everyone, and it always works in your favor.
How’d you transition from music into fashion?
E: We got an agent pretty quickly. And then it was a natural progression.
M: You know we’d do a music video and meet the director who’d ask us to do his commercial, which would lead to a fashion client.
What’s it like styling commercials?
E: It’s so different.
M: I love it!
E: We have a little bit of a differentÔÇö
M: I hate editorialÔÇö
E: And I love editorial.
M: And I love ad jobs and commercials.
What’s the process like?
M: Ad jobs? Way more of sitting down at a round table, story boards, market research. They hire you to come in and do everything.
E: But there are more rules. You want to get the best you can within certain parametersÔÇöand there are a lot of parameters.
Can you give me an example?
E: We just did Neutrogena with Vanessa and Emma Roberts.
M: We’ve done so many beauty onesÔÇöSally Hansen, Carls Jr., K-MartÔÇªFor Neutrogena it was like here, you know the girls, you know the product, make them look the best you can and it has to be about the product. So we have a pretty defined roll.
And you like that?
M: Yeah it’s fun!
E: I like it, too. Don’t get me wrong- I like weird feathered things and high fashion, I like the freedom of editorial. But editorial’s a labor of love and at the end of the day after an ad job, it’s like, “I can pay my rent.”
LA’s not as editorial a town, have you ever been tempted by New York?
E: Oh yeah definitely.
M: No. I’m a warm weather girl, but there’s a freedom to styling in New York. Though I’m totally intimidated by that whole getting clothes in a cab kind of thing.
E: We used to work there a lot. Last time we were there we were in Silvercup Studios for like a week and I felt really bad for the girls who work there. I mean we work on the beach, even our studios are on the beach. And these girls have to work like underground in Long Island City and there was like a murder across the street, and it’s pouring rain and I’m just like, “LA’s great.”
M: It’s just different. We do do editorial here, but it’s just very celebrity driven.
So are your creative ideas restricted by the celebrity then? Not necessarily in a bad way, but do you feel that?
E: Everything’s different. Some days you walk out of a job and it’s like that’s not what you had in mind at all, and others you’re just like, “YES!”
What’s one of the most fulfilling jobs you’ve ever worked on?
E: Probably anytime it’s with one of our repeat clients whom we just love: Mandy Moore, Emma Roberts, or back when Fiona [Apple] was promoting stuff. I think when you work with the same people over and over and then you build a rapport with the people they’re surrounded by and it becomes such a team. When Mandy’s last record came out and we built a whole world around it, a mood, and the process becomes organic and so fun.
Do you prefer working with models or celebrities?
E: It depends! It depends on what the project is.
Your answers are too diplomatic!
M: It’s true though! I would say that over the last two years we’re really celebrity oriented.
I think that’s the nature of LA though, I mean few people in New York are working with celebrities. And they’re kind of scary, in a too-cool way. It’s so much more laid back here.
E: Also, our lookbook shoots for Current/Elliot have been such an outlet for us. We’ve been able to create our own world.
Speaking of, let’s talk about the transition from superstar styling team to denim designers.
M: While styling, we were consulting with a lot of brands. And always thinking outside the box and the denim was just a natural progression. We had our vintage denim – bell bottoms, boyfriend jeans – we wore it all the time and we’d start bringing it on shoots and ad jobs and people would always ask, “Oh I want that in the shoot! That has to be in the editorial.”
I hate that in magazines. Half the time I see something amazing it says, “Stylist’s Own.”
M: Or vintage! So then there was so much demand that we started buying every pair of vintage jeans on site and keeping them at a studio with a tailor. It was just out of control.
E: But remember, this was the era of rhinestoned butterflied butts on jeans.
So you tailored the vintage jeans?
M: Oh yeah, we’d take the whole thing apart.
E: Which is why, when we were consulting for Serge Azria’s company Joie, it just happened so organically. We wore the jeans everyday and it was like, “Let’s just re-create these.
E: Everything was so dark, so dressy. There was pink, it’s slutty, you can’t put that with a really glittery top on the red carpetÔÇöit looksÔÇª
But they did!
M: They did.
E: And most of the vintage jeans that we used were men’s. They had character, the silhouettes were different.
M: Fashion just needed an ease, and denim was the perfect place for it. We just happened to be there at the right time, and everyone unanimously agreed with us.
E: Well, I have to say, we were in a position to create this out of nothing. We could’ve bought a ton of vintage jeans and re-built them, but thank goodness we were in a position in which someone believed in usÔÇöwhen we were consulting for JoieÔÇöand he believed in us at a time in which no one was interested in investing in denim.
Because there are 8 million ÔÇÿhigh-fashion’ denim brands?
M: Yeah it’s like there was a new denim line every weekÔÇöand they all think they’re so different. There was something missing.
E: Serge really let us do something wild. I’m shocked that he let us go there, because it was baggy and ridiculous and it’s hard to even imagine now, but there were no baggy boyfriend jeans on the market. It was ridiculous.
M: So we holed away and hired a few of our friends who really know denim and started printing our tags and ironing on current/elliot patches and finally we show it to him, to Serge, and he was ecstatic.
E: He’d wanted this, something like this, for so long.
M: And he was just thrilled that exactly what we all thought could be great actually came to life.
E: And we were just thrilled to have the samples. We didn’t really expect much more to happen.
Really though? I mean you put that much thought and effort into something you believe in and you would’ve been ok with it ending there?
M: Well we had a celebrity fitting that night, and we were like, “Ok, at least we have our real jobs to go back to.” So it was nice to be distracted. But then we’re at Ashley Tisdale’s house and we get a call from Serge, “The buyers loved it! It’s a brand! We’re going to Coterie next week.”
E: So we did. We went to Coterie that week, went to New York and met with Vogue next week, Bismarck Phillips, just everything in a week, it was crazy.
How did Vogue happen?
E: Meredith Melling Burke was wearing vintage bell bottoms and someone asked her, “Are you wearing Current/Elliot?”
M: And she asked, “What’s that?”
E: And then researched it and tracked us down. And then Barneys jumped in and wanted to launch in first.
M: When people like something, when they’re excited, you don’t have to sell it.
And they were everywhere overnight. Was that weird for you?
M: No. I mean I don’t believe that. It all felt the same.
E: We don’t see a lot of the press, so it hasn’t impacted us at all.
M: There are a few moments. I went to my hometown’s 4th of July parade, and I looked around and saw all of these girls in Current/Elliot and that was a little weird. When you’re in LA you’re in this little bubble and everyone’s wearing it, but it’s just LA.
What’s it like seeing the boyfriend jean everywhere?
E: It can be kind of depressing to go shopping. But our debut collection was 22 pieces, 22 pieces cherry picked from denim’s historyÔÇöand the boyfriend jean was just one of those 22 pieces.
But it’s what made an impact.
M: But for us, there was so much more. There was no straight leg, no bootcut. The elephant bells? People flipped out over those just as much as the boyfriends. The press was so into the boyfriend, but regular girls were dying for those elephant bells because I don’t think anyone had ever done the true, low-pocket skinny, skinny leg elephant bell at the time.
E: The boyfriend somehow blew up, but I never would have expected it. The whole story, that whole season, was about what we really believed in, as a whole.
Which is probably why Current/Elliot’s still at the top of the pile. How do you balance your two worlds?
M: We just keep them totally separate. We have different offices, different assistants, different hours in the day assigned to each.
E: But at the same time, these worlds are so alike, styling and design. I mean, if we hadn’t come from ten years of styling I don’t know if this would’ve been so easy, day to day. And luckily, for the parts that are difficult for creative souls, we have a great partner.
It’s pretty inspiring to watch you both do each job so well. Thank you!
M: Thank you!
E: Thanks love!
Interview and Images from Fashionista.com
The skinny jean. I love a skinny jean because it makes everyone look long and lean and it looks great with oversized tops or oversized sweaters.
Vintage Wash because it gives you an idea of a great old vintage levi but with the perfect new shape and color, and it is easy to wear during the day with flip-flops or sandals.
Cool girls at the flee market because they always have some interesting ill-fitting 80’s jeans that we get inspired from to make new better fitting washes.
Nicole and Nicky
The Rebel and Black Fade Jeans. The Rebel is new for fall and it is a dark clean wrinkled denim and the black fade is a new faded black that has a vintage feel to it but does not have any rips or distressing.
The perfect comfortable fit
it works with the rest of the t-shirt collection that i do.
Less bleached denim and move vintage feel
Yes, the vintage patchwork Jean because it is a new take on a 60/70’s bellbottom hippie look with a new silhouette that’s right to wear now and Nicole Richie rocked it at a basketball game.
JET is all about the fit and the fabrics, it is your casual jean and your sexy date jean. Jet started when I was buying vintage levi’s and bleaching them and making them into shorts in the late 80’s while I was a sales person at Fred Segal Melrose. Then the line grew into t-shirts and printed sweats…then in 2006 we added the Jean division as you know it now and relaunched the line in 2008 to include solid jersey novelty tees and sweaters and more jeans.
They do not bag after a few wears and they form to your body
Known for their soft denim and great fit, Genetic Denim has given an interview with Shopbop on the start of the brand and his favorites from the collection. Read some of the interview below:
Before Launching Genetic, you went on a cross-country road trip, visiting college campuses to find out what women want in their jeans. What compelled you to take this rather unorthodox, grassroots approach?
I’ve always been a heavy traveler and find that I learn the most when doing so. All the places that I’ve been in the world have influenced me one way or another. The trip you’re referencing is a perfect example. I ended up meeting 25,000 women and discovered what’s really important to them when it comes to the fit of their jeans. I think that’s the reason we have such a clear and strong vision, and what really sets Genetic Denim apart from everyone else…
What did you learn?
I learned a lot about what was missing in the denim market. I discovered that the top 5 inches below the waistband are the most crucial fitting elements in a pair of jeans.When it comes to jeans, the thing women care about most is how they look and feel in the high hip and behind.
What new Genetic style are you particularly excited about this season and why?
We are really excited about our denim sweatpant, the Val, which is a look that we were the first to introduce into the denim market. It’s a style we love, looks amazing, and takes the concept of jeans to a new level.
Click here to read the full interview at Shopbop and check out some of the new styles below.
Inerview and Photos Courtesy of Shopbop.com