From raw to selvedged, sequinned to stonewashed, the most functional of fabrics has had a high-fashion makeover. Wave goodbye to your classic skinnies, this season, it’s nouveau denim or nothing…
Yves Saint Laurent said he wished he’d invented them. Brooke Shields wore nothing underneath them. James Dean rebelled (without a cause) in them and Justin and Britney committed sartorial suicide in them. And since their birth at some highly-contested point in the 19th Century, they’ve become the most important, game-changing piece of clothing to have ever graced the earth. Not only the hardwearing threads that once clothed dustbowl America, but a powerful symbol of youth, freedom, heritage and universality. The humble jean? They’re the cotton equivalent of a boy done very, very good.
It’s little wonder, then, that denim – in all its guises – has remained a constant staple of everyone, everywhere. From politicians to punks, popstrels to pensioners, it’s the constant fabric. To better a pair of jeans would be a shot at reinventing the wheel. But you better believe there are people out there who will try. Namely, a slew of designers who can’t resist an invitation to bend a rule here, rewrite a convention there, and generally wreak havoc on everything you think you know about style. After all, that’s their job. The little troublemakers.
Let’s get things straight, though; it’s not like it hasn’t been attempted in the past – Wrangler even created spa jeans in 2013 which were infused with apricot oil among other things. Denim on the catwalk is hardly groundbreaking stuff, but for spring/summer 2015 the air has been turned blue to an aggressive degree. It’s not only had a makeover, but it’s staging a takeover to boot.
Thanks to Monsieur Lagerfeld, denim strutted its rebellious self down the runway at Fendi for the very first time; the last bastion of tradition to fall. It marked the opening of a floodgate, with Gucci, Burberry Prorsum and Louis Vuitton just three of the big boys to deck out their models in the blue stuff. Elsewhere, DSquared2, Stella McCartney, Kenzo, Roberto Cavalli, Chloé and Isabel Marant also embraced it, with jeans, jackets, shirts and even, rather questionably, bags all given the same treatment.
Meanwhile, the street style sphere, the truest barometer of whether a trend has legs, is the best possible amphitheatre for the slew of new denim emerging from off the catwalk, too. Bright young thing Simone Rocha has just launched a suitably offbeat collaboration with J Brand, whilst Alexander Wang has also just turned his hand to it, breaking the internet in the manner of Kim Kardashian with his campaign. (Think model of the moment Anna Ewers, oiled up and in a compromising position on a chair). Alexa Chung has teamed up with Cali-cool brand AG Jeans. And a whole host of up-and-coming denim labels are vying for attention as the new ones to know: Saltspin (highly-crafted), Bethnals (unisex only) and Tu Es Mon Tresor (kitsch and embellished) being just three of note.
Yes, denim is an over-saturated market, but any savvy designer knows that if you get it right, it can be a licence to print money. It was Calvin Klein back in the day that proved it first for designers, making its first pair of jeans in 1977 and then a mere four years later managing to sell 15 million of them. That’s a lot of rivets.
But, as always in fashion, there’s always some esoteric reason why all designers appear to be reading from the same manual. Denim has always been popular, but why is it precisely now that it’s exploded with such enthusiasm? We’ve certainly not all suddenly taken to riding horses to work, or toiling the fields for sustenance, so why has this workman’s fabric fallen back into fashion favour across the board? Some say it’s an evolution of our current obsession with casual. Sports-luxe has been enjoying mainstream success for a few years now, again spearheaded by Alex Wang and his special brand of urban athleisure. The trainer, stratospheric in its status, has been such a popular symbol of off-duty cool that Karl Lagerfeld even decreed it as like ‘jeans for the feet’. Normcore has also been the buzzword of late, with sensible, practical clothes (plain knits, camel coats, no-frills boots) celebrated as the new cool. Denim, in this vein, could not be more of a democratic choice. It’s the fabric of the people. But on the catwalks, things have to be slightly more interesting.
Enter spring/summer’s reappropriations. Burberry’s fur-trimmed indigo jackets, Vuitton’s stonewashed knee-high boots and Gucci’s hybrid-lace peasant dresses. It’s a brave new world. How better to explore it than with the most fearless fabric of them all?
DENIM AS CHAMELEON
Spliced, diced and distressed to within an inch of its life, the blue stuff’s reinvention this season knows no bounds…
Main image: Gucci