Designer Jean Interviews
Photo above: Lorna (left), Donna (middle) and Kim (right).
As you know I met up with Donna Ida from the famous Donna Ida boutiques in London to try out the denim clinic. You can see the previous denim clinic posts here. We thought it would be fun to do an interview with Donna, since she loves premium denim as much as we do, and find out some of her favourite trends, loves and experiences. Carry on reading below to find out more.
DB: What is your favourite cut in a pair of jeans?
Skinny then flare… and anything high waisted!
DB: What’s your most fondest memory since opening your boutiques?
There are so many – usually the funny ones though. I once ended up standing on the shop floor in just jeans and a bra because a customer had asked me to try a top on, then when she liked it on me she came into the fitting room, took it off me and threw me out! I always have a great time with Kim too, she’s our Managing Director and has worked with me for years. We had a lot of fun once driving through In n Out Burger in LA – a lot of my happy times tend to involve food. But the best memory of all has to be when I met my husband. He walked into the first boutique 2 weeks after we opened. A complete chance and very very lucky meeting. I got him at Donna Ida!
DB: You are really nice Donna, so what’s your secret to staying friendly and down to earth even though you are so successful?
Ah that is so nice of you to say! When people are nice to me, even if they just smile it makes me feel great, so if ever someone catches my eye on the street I smile at them and I’m sure it makes their day as much as it does mine. Nasty people don’t get anywhere, I firmly believe that.
DB: What trends are you loving right now and what is your favourite ever trend?
The high waisted flare that 18th Amendment did in 2006 were so me and I just loved them. They were completely new and fresh. One trend that I didn’t think I would love as much as I do is colour. It’s so easy to wear! Coloured jeans are a godsend, I just love them.
DB: Do you have a favourite food?
I have so many. I love Italian – I could eat pizza and pasta all day, but I also love Japanese, Greek, Lebanese…
DB: What sort of music and movies do you like?
I’ve loved the Rolling Stones and The Beatles for as long as I can remember, but my favourite song is Tiny Dancer by Elton John. My favourite movie is Moonstruck. The first birthday I had after I met Bobby Dazzler, he hired a private cinema and had it screened for me after dinner. He hadn’t quite worked out just how little I drink at that point and didn’t want to waste all the wine and champagne he had ordered so proceeded to drink the lot then snore through the entire movie. I still loved it though!
DB: Why did you decide to open Donna Ida?
Because I couldn’t find anywhere to buy jeans that I felt truly comfortable in. Department stores have a great selection but I couldn’t get the service I needed and I was paranoid I wouldn’t be able to get them up over my thighs and would have to get dressed and go out looking for more sizes myself. Which usually did happen.
DB: What shows do you attend?
I go to Coterie in New York and Tranoi in Paris. Sometimes I go to Project in LA and I do all the smaller shows in NY and Paris while I’m there, but really Coterie and Tranoi are the big ones for me. Trade shows are hell, but they have to be done.
DB: How do you decide what to buy?
I usually know what I’m looking for before I go, but mainly it’s just gut instinct and knowing what shapes sell at what time of year. I rarely dither, either I like it or I don’t, so I can make quick decisions.
DB: What new brands are you looking forward to this season?
Rag & Bone have been doing amazing skinnies so I’m looking to our January delivery of their legging which is gathering a huge fan base. Bleulab are a new brand who are doing reversible denim and they’re launching in the UK with Donna this December, and then there’s Rich & Skinny who have relaunched. Their fits have always been spot on – I’m looking forward to having them back.
DB: How many pairs of jeans do you own?
Not as many as you think – maybe 20 or 30? I have tended to turn them over in the past, which I now realise is a mistake. I’m not getting rid of anything from now on!
DB: Which is your favourite pair?
That is such a hard decision – there are so many I rely on but probably the one I wear the MOST is my Paige Verdugo skinnies. They’re fantastic.
We caught up with Kei who is the design director of Allan.J Denim to find out more about the brand and what they have to offer to the premium denim world. This is the first time we are blogging about Allan.J Denim on DenimBlog so we thought an interview about the brand would help you all get to know them a little bit better. You can see the collection on their website here.
DB: How did your career in denim/fashion begin?
My interest in denim as an individual consumer and also as a fashion designer has been lasting for 15 years while studying and working in Japan. I’ve been always thinking about the new ways of expressing the things that are different from existing ones through denim.
One of our starting factors is the question about genuine premium denim. Are they really Premium denim in terms of quality? I wanted to show real premium denim to customers. Obviously, quality is not the priority factor to customers when they actually spend the money. I think that 3 factors are the most important to be a real luxury brand. The legitimacy of best quality and the best value/The authentic brand story/An evolutionary process of growth by trend changing.
The legitimacy of quality cannot be re-built. so, at the first place, I try to give the trust with the quality and next, give the brand awareness and loyalty consistently. Most of people don’t care about quality and raw-material is the first one for branding. Design is considered more importantly than above factors. So I wanted to show to the customers that brand value and legitimacy are more important than price and design. But it does not mean that I do not care about design and price.
I have wanted to make genuine premium denim, the denim with the sensitivity that can be transformed in different ways with the basic concept of simplicity. This idea made me launch the new brand, Allan J. I wanted to create new denim that fits the Steve Jobs’ beautiful expression “INSANELY GREAT”.
DB: What inspires you when designing your jeans?
The inspiration of my design always comes from human nature. The characteristics and tendency vary from different countries and people, and I found it very interesting. It is always an attractive and meaningful work to broaden and diversify my perspectives. It keeps me inspired and looking for something new. My passion and enthusiasm for making new clothes/jeans that I want to make and I can make for them become a new starting-point of my design.
DB: What is the best feature of a pair of Allan J Denim jeans?
Most/All denim brands place major emphasis on “Fit”. That’s because “Fit” is the most important aspect of denim. Our central idea about “Fit” is “Exposure”. Our results about “Fit” are driven from the question, “How to expose the beauty of women, especially the beauty of women’s curves?” All women including me always want to look thin, even skinny, to the extent possible. “To look thinner, to look longer with a slim waist line” Allan.J creates our own fit, pattern and washing. When other denim brands claim the fit, Allan.J claims the silhouette. That is the best feature of Allan.J.
DB : When I look at your collection, there are some factors that are different to American denim brands. Could you tell us more about that?
The basic concept of Allan.J is “Denim styling look”. Since we wanted to suggest more feminine, more elegant and sexier look that is based on denim, we recommended our denim go and be matched with feminine woven items. These ideas made us come up with the various items. We try to make it possible to wear denim at a formal classic party and even make it look better to wear our well-dressed denim than to wear formal suit at the party.
DB: For those who aren’t familiar with Allan J., what makes your brand different from the others?
Some people might think that our jeans are similar to J Brand’s skinny and Current/Elliott’s boyfriend-fit. However, the biggest and important difference is its materials and wearing. Every brand can utilize soft fabric and customers would feel softness. But, the agreeable wearing of our jeans that would make you feel like it’s wrapping up your body. We can surely say that this sets us apart from other labels.
DB: What is your favorite cut you have designed?
Leggings and Skinny. I am sure that once you try Allan.J on, you will notice why I picked them for my favorite.
DB: Could you tell us the difference between your Bone Classic, Fantasy and Fantasy Gold collections?
I would like to say it’s the expression of tradition, authenticity and trend. Bone classic is the story about tradition. Those in Bone collection stick to the essence of denim as we all know. It reflects the idea that nothing becomes meaningful without the essence of itself. As for the Fantasy, we wanted to share our interest and everybody’s hope of “looking stylish”. Regarding the FANTASY GOLD COLLECTION, we wanted to give people a “New” and “Different” experience through the couture-like sense
DB : What do you want to achieve in the future?
We hope to keep telling people the fact that denim can be elegant, our thoughts and sharing about “SEXY” that is different from what other denim brands claim.
DB : Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers of DenimBlog?
I would like you all to stay with denim in your precious time and experiences, to love the fit and brand that you now love, to experience Allan J. yourself, and to love the moment and feelings that the experience with Allan J. provides you!
Earnest Sewn have hired their original designer, Ben Talley Smith, as their new creative director of the company. We asked Ben a few questions on how he feels about the new position, his plans for the denim company and more. You can read the interview below.
DB: How do you feel about being back at Earnest Sewn?
I am extremely excited to be back at Earnest Sewn. Earnest Sewn is a brand that has so much to offer and already has such a great history and customer base. I feel confident that I’m the right person to come back in and evolve the brand further.
DB: As creative director, do you have any plans to grow the brand?
Yes of course! There are a ton of concepts that we started in the past that I would like to revisit. We had a premium concept called AEC&S that was probably before it’s time that I am looking forward to addressing again. Not necessarily AEC&S as it was but the concept of pushing the envelope in terms of wash technique and innovation. Earnest Sewn has always been about being on the cutting edge of wash and fabrication and I intend to continue that. Wash development has always been a passion of mine and I think it keeps a brand relevant. I plan to update and evolve the Earnest Sewn wash and style range in upcoming collections.
DB: Are you going to take it in a new direction at all or keep it the same?
Earnest Sewn has always had a great vision. I intend to continue with the Vintage Americana aesthetic mixed with Japanese detailing in Men’s while I am going to try to modernize the women’s direction slightly. I don’t intend to drastically change what the brand is about, as I believe it stands for integrity of product and innovation in the marketplace.
DB: Can we expect anything new and exciting from Earnest Sewn then?
Yes, starting with an update to the spring ‘12 line. We are working on an additional fashion capsule as well as a few fast track styles. I’m a firm believer in being able to react to what’s in the market and in making sure we have what’s current as well as new innovative designs. I am also focused on creating additional collaborations, as that has always been part of the Earnest Sewn history.
DB: How does it feel being creative director instead of a designer for the brand?
It actually doesn’t feel much different. While at Earnest Sewn in the past, I was allowed to design the product that I loved so it’s nice to be able to do that again. I’m excited to see what I can bring to the market on my own and with the Earnest team. We are working with the best factories and laundries in the industry so I feel confident that we can make amazing product that people will want to purchase.
DB: Have you learned a lot in your time away from the brand that can help make it better?
I have learned and grown significantly since leaving Earnest Sewn in 2009. Scott Morrison, the founder of Earnest Sewn has always been a close friend and mentor to me over the years – from ES to Evisu to 3×1, so I feel equipped for the task. I also learned a great deal from Marcus Wainwright and David Neville when I worked with them at Rag & Bone as they launched the Rag & Bone/JEAN line. The last few years have taught me about building an international brand and what the market is looking for. I feel honored to have been able to work for some of the industries most talented designers and hope that I can use all that I have learned from them to make Earnest Sewn as good as it can be.
DB: What sort of trends do you see for next season?
I see the continuation of colors done with new techniques as well as coating but you will just have to wait and see!
DB: And just for fun, how many jeans do you own? I’m sure it’s a lot!
Not as many as you might think. Like most people, I usually wear the same jeans until I come up with something new that I absolutely have to have, but in my archive in Brooklyn, probably around 250. I’ve always ended up with the amazing first developments that for one reason or another didn’t make it into the line. Those are my prize jeans, the true one of a kind’s.
DB: Wow, that is quite a lot of jeans. I have a couple of sample jeans or ones that didn’t make it to production from some brands which I love too, what sort of wash is your favourite from those ‘prize jeans’ as you call them?
Honestly, there are a few and it often changes, but my current favorites are a slick resin coated “6 month” wear pattern jean with a reverse repair hem from the 2007 Earnest Sewn collection. Another is an over-dyed coated black jean that once had actual high gloss black house paint applied to the seams. But probably my prize jean is a replica of one of the most iconic jeans in history from 1917 that we only made 6 pairs of at a huge expense. It took about 72 hours of repair work per jean to make and it’s really one of the more amazing jeans I’ve ever seen.
DB: That does sound amazing! Thank you Ben!
This is a sponsored post.
We caught up with Michael Silver, the president of Silver Jeans Co. to find out more about the brand, it’s fits, why it was started and of course its 20th anniversary plans!
DB: Congratulations on your 20th anniversary! How does it feel to have been in the business so long?
To be honest it feels like I just started! A combination of exuberance and fear make everyday seem like a new day and challenge. 20 years may sound like a long time but to me it seems like just yesterday that I started the brand. Silver Jeans Co. is also a baby compared to our parent company, Western Glove Works, which is also celebrating it’s 90th birthday this year!
DB: How has Silver Jeans evolved over the years?
Well, in many respects, the basic DNA Remains completely intact. We are “jeaners” and we always have been. We worry about every stitch, every wash formula, every yard of fabric. We don’t manufacture jeans, we craft them so daily the grind of making a perfect pair of jeans is the same. The only difference is that we have expanded the number of styles we make and the audience to which we sell. Our fans include all ages and backgrounds and our product offering in sportswear has certainly grown enormously. But as I said we remain “JEANERS.”
DB: For our readers who are not familiar with Silver Jeans, what makes your jeans so great?
As I just said, we “craft ” them. We are tireless about the details; the way the inside pockets work; the stitches per inch; the shape of every pattern angle on a jean is scrutinized and has been improved over the last 20 years. In the 90 years that our parent company has been in business, we have crafted over 70,000,000 million jeans in our history and learned a thing or two about denim, shrinkage, how product reacts to home wearing and home washing. We have a technology team that literally writes a specification book on each and every style and there are hundreds of styles created yearly. We test and retest our laundry formulas and the stitching and seam allowances. We even concern ourselves with what happens if a jean sits on retailer’s shelf in terms of the light and it’s effects on indigo and fit. We fit and refit every single production run of jeans and our technologists look at every aspect of the laundry and dry processes on prototypes and once again on every production run.
DB: I heard for the anniversary you are reissuing a limited edition jean called the Frisco, can you tell us more?
Frisco was really our breakthrough “item” that helped build the brand some 20 years ago. My Design Director Allan Kemp and I were inspired by old Levi’s, contoured waistbands and processes to create aging for denim (sand blast and stone wash). We also thought flares were totally cool and that the rise and fit on women’s jeans sold at the time were not as good as they could be so we invented a fit “Frisco” with a contour waistband, a super low rise (at the time 11″ was considered LOW) and went on to sell 5 million Friscos over our history. We thought it fitting to celebrate our anniversary by reissuing the Frisco which pays homage to the original – a flare jean, button fly (as my designer says ,the only kind of fly for REAL JEANS ) and used a similar medium stonewash shade. It’s not as high rise as the original at all but it is a higher rise than many other Silver Jeans Co. jeans at 9″. It’s a simple jean that fits as comfortably as it looks!
DB: Do you have anymore 20th anniversary plans?
Other than reissuing the Frisco for the consumer and retailer who love it then, we plan to celebrate with our Silver jean Co. staff “family” in December. Compared to Levi’s or Wrangler, 20 years is really not that old. I think I will save the big celebration for our 50th year. In many ways, we’ve only just started with Silver Jeans Co.!
DB: What makes denim so important to you?
Denim is part of my heritage and part of our company’s heritage so it feels like “home” for us. It just feels natural to be involved in denim. Denim is a fabric and an lifestyle for all ages and all parts of the world! It’s timeless and everyone has a fond denim memory. I, myself, have many many!
DB: Why did you decide to create Silver Jeans Co. 20 years ago?
I had spent my first 17 years with Western Glove Works in the production and engineering side of the denim business (even though I was a fine arts grad !!). So after really wanting a new personal focus and after seeing the successes of many of the licensed brands we manufactured at the time, we started our own “brand” almost as a challenge to myself. After years of making jeans for many of our own work wear labels and many other notable private label retailers, we thought it’s time to take 70 years of experience and put it into a brand that is truly our very own !
DB: What has been your favourite memory since the brand was founded?
There are so many! I think when my Design Director and I would travel the world from Tokyo to Amsterdam to Iowa almost 20 years ago, we had so much fun! We would look at every jean anywhere, tear it apart, study and theorize how it was made, why it was made and then… try and figure out how Silver Jeans Co. could do it better (this was almost always over Sushi and sake!)
Today… many years later, I meet people who have been wearing my brand for 20 year’s that tell me how they still love them.