bleu de Gênes

The word “jeans” is derived from the French phrase bleu de Gênes.  If you ask me that is a pretty snobby word for a fabric of such humble beginnings; fashioned into trousers because of it’s inexpensive durability for laborers and Cowboys.  I was surprised that a fashion staple so synonymous with American culture started with something so….French-y.  But like the word, the jean fabric (or “denim” as we now prefer) itself has evolved into an icon far different from what it began.  I’m not the only one to recognize this, of course.  A book published in 2002 is called Denim : From Cowboys to Catwalks – A Visual History of the World’s Most Legendary Fabric.  It chronicles the rise of the denim business from pioneering brands like Levi’s, Lee, and Wrangler, to its use by high fashion houses.

I was excited to see if and how denim would be reflected in the new collections at New York Fashion Week for Spring ’12 Ready to Wear.  I have been cynically quoted as saying that when it comes to denim, we are in a cyclical rotation and there truly hasn’t been an innovative shape introduced since the 70′s.  This year, a few designers made me question my own theory, while others aided in proving my point.

Charlotte Ronson’s New York shows have become a hot ticket the last few years.  Throughout the decade, her designs have come to personify cool and her laid back yet feminine aesthetic have garnered her quite a healthy celebrity following.  This season, she sent some sweet denim details down the runway with a prairie vibe that somehow struck a balance between second-wife-on-a-polygamy-compound and sexy-hipster-at-a-music-festival.  I never imagined those two women would hang out in real life, much less morph into one person.  See for yourself:

While I don’t entirely dislike the looks, I am not encouraged to interpret them in my own wardrobe.  I have a sneaking suspicion that, save the overalls, they would be a jewel in my crown of fashion accidents.

Diesel Black Gold presented a more familiar denim look.  Designer Sophia Kokosalaki called the theme, “It’s time to Reflect”, and paired pale denim pants and jackets with a reflective metallic fabric made from a photograph of mirrors that was turned into a print and fused with leather.

I don’t expect to see much of the metallic leather in my town, but I can absolutely envision the look reinterpreted with the colorful sheen denim looks that are soon to be everywhere for Holiday.

In Milan, DSquared took an even more traditional route, paying homage to the quintessential American fabric by showing it with an American flag-print blouse.  I didn’t see this show live, so based on the images alone, I thought the bottom of the denim had been dyed to look like mud.  With some research, I discovered that Designers Dan and Dean Caten were actually presenting a tribute to the traditionally mud-soaked Glastonbury music festival.  Halfway through the runway show, sprinklers popped onto the dirt covered runway and the models were asked to stomp through the mud.  It just goes to prove that, if styled correctly, denim can look cool if even the worst of circumstances.  Some models even walked the runway with a Heineken in hand.  Who doesn’t want to be that girl?

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