Spring 2017 Fashion Jean

Jeans. The first thing that comes to mind when I hear this piece of clothing mentioned is that everyone I know owns at least one pair. My mother loves her Ronald Sassoon skinnies, my grandmother wears her Daniel Hechter straight-legs on casual days, my father has his Hugo Boss favourites, and my niece and nephew have His and Her jeans from Country Road Kids. Our dearly loved and deeply trusted denims have not only become our go-to item for (almost) every occasion but have also slowly but surely risen to great fashion heights. Our sturdy blues have been given style status in all areas; from leisure to luxe, there’s nowhere that denim can’t be taken and no separate, from classy or casual, that won’t complement it perfectly.

Yves Saint Laurent once said that he wished he had designed jeans, as they ‘are expressive and discreet, they have sex appeal and simplicity – everything I could want for the clothes I design’. There’s something about these indigo items that leaves us wanting more as the years go by. With each new fashion cycle the denim styles are tweaked and altered to symbolise and refl ect the changing times – think back to the bell-bottomed freedom of the 1970s, the post-punk distressed jeans of the 1980s, the 1990s hip-hop baggy jeans and the skinnies of the millennium.

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(Who can forget Kate Moss and the skin-tight jeans she wore every time she was photographed in 2000?) Jeans are everywhere and, according to the recently released book on all things denim, Denim Dudes, by Amy Leverton, almost four billion jeans are produced each year, with the denim market being worth close to £50-billion.

It’s not hard to believe that Topshop sells seven denim items every second, as per Leverton’s research, and that each pair of jeans has a story of its own. Denim, starting out as working men’s attire, has had a long and interesting life to date, being the staple separate of people everywhere, from the horse-riding cowboy of Western America in the 1870s to high-fashion icons of today. Jeans are the fashion-equaliser of the world but it has taken them time, hard work and a whole lot of fun to get there. It’s a fabric so strong on its own that brands have been built to be dedicated to it alone.

From the heritage denim brands – The Lee Company, Wrangler, Guess and Levi’s – to the newer brands such as Diesel, Current Elliot, Replay and, locally, Ronald Sassoon and retail giant Woolworths’ denim subsidiary, R.E. The longest-lived brand among them, a name synonymous with denim, jeans and the lifestyle that goes with them, is Levi’s. And for good reason. In 1873 blue jeans were invented and patented by Levi Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis to create a sturdy, durable style of work pants for coal miners and cowboys.

It’s no wonder that our favourite pair of jeans can last us (almost) a lifetime. Hidden away, in the back of her wardrobe, I found my mom’s original Levi’s from the 1970s – they are the real deal ‘mom’ jeans that have now been recreated by almost every major retailer. The history of the fabric, however, stretches further back than the Californian coast of America – beginning in the towns of Genoa in Italy and Nîmes in France in the 1500s. Jeans were worn by sailors: the term was derived from the French word for Genoa, Genes, and denim, originally being ‘de Nîmes’, which means ‘from Nîmes’.

Initially only found in a man’s wardrobe, denim was associated with masculinity and ruggedness until Levi’s created the fi rst pair of female jeans in 1934. As women started to wear this traditionally men-only item, denim began to signal freedom for women and became a sign that women wanted to level o the di erence between the sexes. Wearing jeans soon turned into a symbol for femininity and sexuality in the fashion world – no one is likely to forget the photograph of Cindy Crawford wearing a pair of Levi’s 501’s with a hint of underwear peeking out.

Or Claudia Schi er in a pair of skin-tight Guess jeans on the cover of Tank magazine – both images taken from behind with the models clearly topless. There is something about a woman wearing masculine clothes that oozes sensuality. Farid Chenoune, a French fashion historian, says, ‘wearing masculine clothing is always incredibly sexy, like with a pair of jeans or white shirt. It is hard clothing made for resistance. But when they are associated with the softness of feminine skin, it creates a hot and cold e ect. A clashing contrast, which opens a door of fantasy.’ By the mid-1930s department stores across America were stocking Levi’s jeans and now, more than 80 years later, they form part of any woman’s capsule wardrobe (or more than just a part for some women). Denim today has expanded into a whole new realm of the fashion world as we know it.

Although it’s not the fi rst time that it has appeared on the runway, over the past two seasons designers have done denim in ways we have never seen before. It has been reinvented and uplifted, all the while keeping its inherent features. There will always be a side of denim that is linked to workwear and to leisure time – suggesting youthful carelessness and authenticity. Denim is also for hard-working people – those who want to rebel against the finer fabrics of satin, silk or lace. It is these qualities that make it so resonant on the runway today. Luxury designers have not only included this revolutionary aspect to their shows but they have made it the star.

Louis Vuitton took a sleek approach to the blue hues while Burberry brought back the denim jacket, contrasted perfectly with a soft, feminine skirt. Stella McCartney brought back the original denim design with the oversized jumpsuit – although it would be hard to imagine a coal miner in something that spectacular. Noting the resurgence of the 1970s, Leverton, also head of denim and youth at trend-forecasting agency WGSN, believes that designers are using denim to tap into the sense of nostalgia among wearers. ‘Denim touches a lot of people’s lives and they can identify with it instantly,’ she says. ‘At Prada, for example, it looks fresh but also so familiar.

That’s the secret to good design, isn’t it? It taps into consumers’ psyche.’ Denim is evolving as designers take something old and make it new. Denim culottes, patchwork denim and coats are all part of the new collections, with label Marques’ Almeida coming out on top for innovation. ‘It took us four seasons to do jeans, it’s more about an attitude that denim represents. It has infl uenced everything else we do – a concern with street style rather than preciousness.’ Whether it’s skinny, fl ared, straight-leg, distressed or boyfriend, I can bet my bottom dollar that you own at least one pair of denims and, right now, it means you’re on top of the fashion game.

Denim tells us a story of revolution, evolution, fashion and femininity, and there’s no telling what’s next. All we know is that it’s not going anywhere, so be sure to keep your denim separates somewhere safe – you’re guaranteed to wear them again, just like I will be wearing my mom’s ‘mom’ jeans for the year ahead. £ @ELLEmagazineSA 59 tells us a story of revolution, evolution, fashion and femininity, and there’s no telling what’s next. All we know is that it’s not going anywhere, so be sure to keep your denim separates somewhere safe – you’re guaranteed to wear them again, just like I will be wearing my mom’s ‘mom’ jeans for the year ahead.

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