When designer denim became “a thing”, it was the absolute signifier of cool. I was so obsessed with designer denim in my twenties that I could almost instantly recognise a brand by its wash and cut. I remember vividly stalking a woman in Spittlefields Market in London as I tried desperately to identify the logo on the bum of her jeans. If there was an emerging denim brand that the cool crowd was wearing, I needed to know about it. As it turned out the mystery label was 7 For All Mankind. It wasn’t long before I fell in with the tribe and bought two pairs.
Knowing about the latest must-have denim, and being able to afford it, made me feel special back then, like I was a member of a club that everyone wanted access to but few had the credentials for. Looking back it seems silly, but at a certain stage in life, these signifiers of your sartorial status seem important, especially in London, which was where I was living at the time. Working for Hearst Magazines, which was full of glamorous, well-dressed women, fashion was more like a competitive sport. We all took notice of each other’s outfits and how they were styled. Clothes gained you respect, especially the “right” jeans.
Since I’ve gotten older I’ve become less interested in denim, although like everyone else I still have plenty of it in my wardrobe. Although denim has become more, not less, of a statement in recent years, thanks to labels like Vetements and Y/Project, wearing the latest brands no longer makes me feel fabulous, just merely in fashion, which is definitely not enough to satisfy my sartorial needs.
In my twenties, wearing the next big brand was almost enough to make me feel incredible, certainly it played a large part. No doubt this derived from the insecurities of youth. I was more comfortable being recognised for my sameness rather than my individuality – it’s ironic that although I felt I stood out, I was in fact just following the herd. Now, feeling fabulous comes much more from having developed my own (hopefully somewhat unique) sense of style, which sometimes involves denim, but that’s as likely to be from Zara as it is J Brand.
I’ve always been a bit of a bargain hunter (I bought as often in charity shops when I lived in London as I did from Selfridges and now I’m an enthusiastic sales shopper), so buying and looking good in high-street denim gives me a greater kick than shelling out €300 for jeans that a designer or influencer has dictated I should wear. Having said that, ethical brands like Hiut Denim really interest me right now because they offer more than just aesthetics. They offer a philosophy, a fresh perspective and a lifestyle choice. There’s something fabulous about buying into that I think.
Right now, on every high street I see young women wearing high-waised jeans with very definite rips across the knees. These must be the “right” jeans to wear today if you’re 16. I hope each of them feels as fabulous as I did in my 501s when I was 18. The kind of fashion that makes a woman feel fabulous evolves as she ages. If you feel good, who cares if you’re part of the herd? If you don’t feel good, but you’re simply following everyone else because you think you should, that’s not good. And if €300 jeans make you smile from ear to ear every time you put them on, then they’re worth every cent. The important thing is to prioritise feeling fabulous over being “in fashion”, if you can. At the end of the day, great style doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with what’s in fashion.
For more savvy styling ideas and expert tips on how to buy and wear denim, check out the May issue of IMAGE Magazine, on sale now.