Designer Jean Interviews
We got the chance to do an exclusive live interview with Self Edge founder, Kiya Babzani. We talked about how he got his start, what got him interested in denim, how he came up with the name Self Edge, and more. You can see a few of the questions below:
DB: How did you get your start?
KB: I’ve had an interest in vintage clothing and denim for many years, far before my wife and I opened the first Self Edge almost six years ago in San Francisco. I found that the Japanese were doing reproductions of classic American styles better than the Americans themselves and wanted to bring some of those brands state-side.
DB: How did you come up with the name Self Edge?
KB: Self Edge is a reference to the word “selvedge”. Before the 20th century the edge of the fabric (denim in our case) was called “the self edge”. It was later shortened from “self edge” to “selvedge”. There are still some old tailors that you’ll run into that still call it “self edge fabric”.
DB: What got you interested in denim?
KB: I got really into rockabilly in the mid-90’s and sought out clothing that matched the music. Vintage jeans, johnny-collar shirts, etc… On some trips to Asia I discovered a few Japanese brands which were reproducing these vintage styles of jeans and shirts but had improved them very slightly and the production quality was something I’d never seen before. That coupled with the fact that denim itself is such an interesting fabric I became more and more obsessed with jeans and classic 1950’s style American garments.
It is so great to finally learn how Kiya came up with the name Self Edge. I never would have thought that is was just another form of the word “selvedge.” You can see more of the interview like his jewelry line and his thoughts on resin treatments by clicking here.
Image Courtesy of SelfEdge.com
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 ÔÇÿ12 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!