Designer denim you’ll want to wear all winter
Fashion is fleeting. Jeans are forever. For many of us, blue denim trousers are the ultimate base; a blank canvas that offers flexibility both in what you can do in them and what you can put with them. They are the most democratic of garments (Levi’s says its first blue workwear jean was created on 20 May 1873) and are championed by everyone from presidents (Barack Obama) to artists (Andy Warhol did screenprints of his). They have a knack for eliciting adoration from their wearers (a pair of excavated Levi’s from the 1880s recently sold at auction for $76,000). They also look fantastic with a wealth of other wardrobe classics: trench coats, striped shirts, white T-shirts, navy sweaters and black overcoats. As Bottega Veneta’s creative director Matthieu Blazy puts it: “There is nothing more timeless than a tank top and pair of jeans.”
Warhol is the ultimate pin-up for how to wear jeans and look semi-professional – no one has ever looked better in a tie with jeans than Andy. And it’s the kind of styling that has served as inspiration for designer Brunello Cucinelli, who also has a fondness for vintage Levi’s: in the ’60s, he used to wear them with a blue one-and-a-half-breasted jacket. Today, he can wear the luxury denim he’s developed at his own brand. “I’ve always loved jeans in any combination,” says Cucinelli. “My favourite outfit is always jeans worn with a jacket, tie and elegant shoes. I almost feel that it’s such a special garment that I’d leave mine as inheritance.” The Italian designer has also recently added snow-washed jeans to his successful denim offer to apparently entice the millennials.
At Cucinell’s London flagship store on New Bond Street, jeans are super-light, feel pre-loved and come in a range of fits (priced from about £480). A new ergonomic shape is my favourite in the changing room, although the “leisure” fit – a slightly roomier cut – sits nicely around the thighs and hips before tapering towards the ankle. You can’t argue with the fact that the brand’s tailoring expertise makes for excellent construction.
As someone who lives in vintage Levi’s, I have considered that designer jeans on a cost-per-wear basis can reap good returns while usually boasting a flattering cut. At Maison Margiela, a pair of mid-blue jeans, styled with a striped shirt, fit perfectly; ditto at Prada, where a slightly darker denim version sits just right. Both would work dressed up for day or night. (Prada’s incoming 2023 jeans look particularly great.) Loewe’s have a slight rip and are a bit roomier (the brand’s creative director Jonathan Anderson has almost never taken a catwalk bow in anything other than jeans).
Grace Wales Bonner has used denim ever since starting her namesake label. “Denim has always felt like an essential fabric when building a wardrobe and has been a returning element in our collections,” she says. “In the past few seasons, we have explored the combination of denim and artisanal woven fabric in organic cotton, made in Burkina Faso. I like a jean with a little volume and slouch in the cut, a slightly tailored sensibility,” she adds.
There are definitely two camps with luxury jeans: thoughtful, well-cut classic styles alongside those with a fashion twist, such as with cargo pockets (Givenchy), super-baggy (JW Anderson and Louis Vuitton), logoed (Versace) and textile-embellished (Junya Watanabe). Either way, I am buoyed. Long live the jean.
Model, Aramish Mangi at Viva. Casting, Keva Legault. Hair, Maki Tanaka using Bouclème. Make-up, Takenaka Kazuhiro using Chanel. Photographer’s assistant, Tom Oritz. Stylist’s assistant, Timothy Brooks