Wouldn’t you just love to pick the brains of some of the world’s top denim designers? Well, Hypebeast was thinking that very thought and went forth to conquer a really cool interview with Donwan Harrell, founder of PRPS. It’s a snapshot of this designer of highly-coveted jeans, known for its quality, attention to details and unconventional finishing processes. What does Harrell think about selvedge denim, Japanese craftsmanship, the the story behind the use of purple in his collections, and his love of black cars—read it all at Hypebeast.
Earnest Sewn recently announced the return of their original designer, Benjamin Talley Smith. Denim Therapy caught up with Mr. Smith to get the scoop on what we can expect from him, now that he’s returned from a sabbatical of sorts, spending the last few years consulting for denim brands like Rag & Bone, Evisu, Helmut Lang and 3×1. His first full collection as Creative Director is expected to debut in Fall 2012.
Denim Therapy: How would you compare your perspective as a designer for Earnest Sewn now, the second time around?
Benjamin Talley Smith: I feel more evolved. Earnest Sewn has always been about beautiful jeans and I don’t plan on changing that. I have evolved as a designer… I feel more educated, more innovative and I have a slightly more modern point of view. I plan on bringing that to Earnest Sewn.
DT: How does your experience with the other brands you’ve worked with in the past reflect in your thought process today?
BTS: Each brand that I’ve work for since 2009 has taught me something uniquely different. Rag &Bone taught me about building a line and developing subtle yet relevant washes. Evisu taught me about designing for multiple markets around the world as well as developing a brand globally. Helmut Lang taught me about innovative styling and mixing of fabrics and washes. And 3×1 reminded me how to make the best quality jean possible and what Earnest Sewn has always stood for.
DT: When you think of Earnest Sewn, do you personify the brand in any way (and who would that be?), or do you think more of an idea of what the brand should be?
BTS: I represent a small part of the brand since I was born in Vermont and grew up in the country, but Earnest Sewn is about so much more. The Earnest Sewn image is about a guy that understands and believes in quality product whether it is a jean or watch or pair of shoes. Earnest Sewn is about a lifestyle more than a specific jean. The Earnest Sewn girl is a bit more fashion forward and aspirational. I have the most fun trying to figure out what that means and how to achieve it. Creating a girl’s jean that is effortlessly cool is what Earnest Sewn women’s line is about.
DT: How do you differentiate yourself from the hundreds of popular denim brands afloat right now?
BTS: Integrity of product quality and innovation in silhouette and wash. Sewn was built on amazing washes and I will continue to push the envelope in development and innovation.
DT: Do you have any pre-designing rituals?
BTS: I don’t really have any rituals. I’m usually designing multiple seasons at the same time so there’s really no beginning or end. Most of the real design work takes place at the laundry so that’s usually where I find the most inspiration. Sketching and ideas come everywhere and since I live in NY but work in LA I spend a lot of time on planes and in airports. A great many ideas are drawn on napkins or sketchbooks on the road. Inspiration usually comes from being out in the city or at concerts and watching people on the street.
DT: What would be your dream collaboration? Any plans of that in the future?
BTS: A think the partnership between high fashion lines and denim has been great recently. That is what we are looking into. I’m also a big fan of Parisian fashion so I might do something in that line but I don’t want to give anything away. I’m also very interested in collaborating on non-denim and non-clothing related items. Earnest Sewn is about a lifestyle brand so the concept of bags, shoes or furniture are not out of the picture. I think each collaboration is about bringing two innovative companies together. We are experts in denim so that’s what we bring and it would be great to get the same kind of expertise in another field in collaboration with us.
DT: What are the most popular washes/fits in the line? What are your favorites, and how would you style them?
BTS: Currently I’ve developed something called “Lightening” for the SP12 women’s line that I love and has gotten a good response. Given that I’ve only been on board for 3 weeks I’ve only been able to design a little but this is my favorite so far. It’s an over-dye program in multiple colors that looks like a lightening storm on a coated color. It’s a pretty fashion forward skinny and needs to be worn with heels. It’s a real downtown-girl jean, very rock n roll inspired.
DT: Do you have any favorite/least favorite denim trends right now?
BTS: I love coating and color so right now is a good time for me. I’ve always like process and treatment so I’m in a place that is familiar to me. I’m not really all that into prints and patterns on denim but I know that’s happening, I’m just looking for new ways to do it.
DT: Street style and style blogs are huge in the industry right now as a source of inspiration, influencing the high-end labels rather than vice versa. How much does street style influence your designing
BTS: All day everyday! I get most of my inspiration from photos of how people wear their jeans, either on the internet or on the street or at concerts. Blogs have changed the way I design and see trends and how quickly things can evolve in the market. I also think that it has made trends much more global.
DT: How many pairs of jeans do you own?
BTS: 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-kinds.
DT: How do you store/keep your jeans at home? (e.g. hanging a specific way, folded in a closet?)
BTS: Back when Earnest Sewn started we shipped every jean in an ornate slide out cardboard box. This became incredibly expensive and the stores were not using them so we’ve had an excess of these great boxes for years. I store most in these boxes or rolled in old vintage ammo boxes.
DT: What are you excited about in your next collection? Can you give us hint about what’s next?
BTS: I’m excited for the continuation and evolution of the Sateen denim group we are showing for Spring 2012. But really there’s a ton of work to be done and I won’t be happy until we are done! You’ll just have to wait and see!
—Kathy Ng Hassan
Tags: benjamin talley smith, Designer Interviews, Earnest Sewn
Last Thursday, Denim Therapy had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing G-Star‘s women’s designer Rebekka Bach. She has been with G-Star for over six years now, hailing from Amsterdam, which is also where the brand is headquartered. We wanted to find out what was the goal behind the new collaboration with Los Angeles’ Kitson boutique. Even though G-Star Raw already has a wide cult following, this denim brand has only just recently opened up shops on the West Coast as part of the brand’s efforts for global expansion.
Denim Therapy: Why did you decide to collaborate with Kitson?
Rebekka Bach: G-Star is about authenticity and craftsmanship, but we are also about contradiction. We don’t like to think of ourselves as just one thing. We’re always trying to change things. Kitson is known for being the place for celebrities to shop and since our brand is popular amongst celebrities, we felt there was a good match there.
DT: Are you currently working with special denim or hybrids?
RB: We have a denim which has a special coating that we’re working with.
DT: What should we anticipate for 2012?
RB: We are going to be heading towards vintage finishes and details. We really want to capture the essence of the women who would wear our jeans, such as the L.A. woman.
DT: Will there be new styles or silhouettes next season?
RB: Actually, most of our styles (such as the Elwood) have been around for many years. We only modify and evolve around the fit.
The G-Star x Kitson capsule collection will include six women’s pieces, all featuring special artwork made specifically for this collection: G-Star’s popular Arc Super Skinny, a denim vest, denim shorts, sweat pants, a knit t-shirt and canvas tote bag. Can’t get enough of G-Star? Go to G-Star online for more raw and unfiltered denim action.
—Kathy Ng Hassan
Tags: Designer Interviews, G-Star Raw, G-Star x Kitson, Rebekka Bach
We recently caught up with iconic denim designer, Adriano Goldschmied, who is Founder & Creative Director for Goldsign and Executive Vice President of Product Development for Citizens of Humanity. Always staying ahead of the game, Goldschmied contemplates his brands’ sustainability initiatives: “We have a big responsibility in inventing new processes that have less impact on the environment; using less chemicals, less water, less energy and creating better and healthier situations for workers. In addition, the most important thing is to move the jean business from cotton to new fibers that are more eco-friendly. The denim market is changing and expanding globally and we need to keep up with the new markets such as Shanghai, Dubai, S?o Paulo, Mumbai and more.”
Denim Therapy: What are you doing now?
Adriano Goldschmied: I just started to design Fall 2012 for Goldsign and Citizens men’s. In addition, I am working on new fabric developments and new washes at our laundry.
DT: How would you describe the difference between Goldsign and COH?
AG: Citizens is designed for a premium denim segment that generates quite a big business while Goldsign is much smaller, more sophisticated and for specialty stores and boutiques. The final customer is different, as the Goldsign customer is sensitive to the fashion trends and to denim innovation. The Citizens customer is more about trends and successful styles supported from the media. The Goldsign consumer is individualist and dresses for her own taste—according to the feeling of her own aesthetic.
DT: How do you feel about being called the “godfather of denim?”
AG: In general I care much more about the substance than the labels or definitions. Obviously it is a great pleasure that people give such credit to my long career in the denim industry and that they recognize me as an innovator who started so many successful brands. However, my attitude is much more on thinking about the future and the new things to do more than what I did in the past.
DT: Do you have any pre-designing rituals?
AG: Many times when I am done with a line and I have to start the new one I have a few moments of panic. I am scared. [I ask myself] ‘Shit, how am I going to make this, what am I going to do better?’ It is just a few seconds and then I start to work… I don’t have particular rituals. I give a lot of attention to the macro trends, the economic changes and social innovation.
DT: Street style and style blogs are huge in the industry right now as a source of inspiration, influencing the high end labels rather than vice versa. How much does street style influence your designing?
AG: Even though I am very interested in the new blogs, in particular social media, I feel as if I am still part of the old generation. I am not a digital person, I still use my fingers to touch a fabric, create a new fit or a new wash. For me the street style is what I see in the streets when I travel or when I go to a flea market as that is still my main inspiration. I know that I look outside of fashion, but I care more about a few key pieces of information, than the mass of information of today’s times.
Thanks to Adriano Goldschmied who took time off from his busy summer schedule to answer our questions. To shop or learn more about these denim brands, go to Citizens of Humanity online or Goldsign Jeans online.
—Kathy Ng Hassan
Tags: Adriano Goldschmied, Citizens of Humanity, COH, Designer Interviews, Goldsign