Re/Done: Denim Revivalists.
INTERVIEW BY KATE LAWSON
From the Wild West to the youth subcultures of the high street and hyped-up catwalk variations, denim has become the timeless and normalised uniform of the masses - chameleon-like in its transformations and DIY customisations over the years from worker to rebel fabric - the blue stuff is ingrained in our collective consciousness as an era-defying and identity-defining wardrobe staple.
Embracing jean lovers everywhere is cult fashion brand Re/Done, founded by denim gurus Sean Barron (formerly of Joie) and Jamie Mazur (model Alessandra Ambrosio’s beau) - with a vision to provide denim obsessives with their perfect pair. Reclaiming vintage Levi’s®, the label reconstructs them into a modern fit with a sustainable sensibility - preserving the history of each pair but also giving them new life.
Naturally Ambrosio is already a fan of the ethical clothing line for men and women, along with just about every other model and celebrity you could think of - we caught up with Barron and Mazur to talk denim’s biggest moments, who wears it best and taking the iconic fabric to new heights.
Hello, are you wearing denim today?
Yes, RE/DONE men’s Slim Straights with a RE/DONE logo tee!! And Jordans.
What was the first pair of jeans you each owned?
Probably a pair of shrink to fit 501’s .
Any personal denim disasters growing up?
Sean: Not that I can recall, although in retrospect some of my choices were probably a bit questionable by today’s standards.
Should men over 50 still wear denim - I’m thinking the Burt reynolds-effect?
Mick Jagger, Johnny Depp, Bruce Springsteen….hell yes!
Ok, I’ll accept that! And best movie / music video denim moment ever?
Born in the USA (Bruce Springsteen).
So it’s obvious you both love the blue stuff - how did you come together on this project and why?
Jamie Mazur: I’ve always been really passionate about denim. When I would see girls wearing vintage Levi’s, I was always struck by how much better they looked than any other jean: each jean’s wear patterns are one-of-a-kind and the faded colours of the jeans are what every other denim brand tries to emulate using harsh chemicals to create the jean’s wash. The only downside of vintage Levi’s was that the fit was never right. Often, these girls were wearing men’s jeans that they had tailored to fit them. But that was always a gamble. For every 5 pairs of jeans you take to a tailor, maybe 2 or 3 pairs end up wearable if you go to someone who knows what they are doing - less if you go to someone who doesn't. So I began to wonder if it was possible to do this on a large scale. Sean’s long history in the fashion industry made him the perfect person to test this idea with. After working out our process and developing our fits for about a year, we launched last July.
And what do you enjoy about working with denim in particular?
Denim is the most democratic material out there. Everyone wears jeans. They are universal.
So what’s the secret and process behind creating the perfect new-old pair?
Sean: Our concept might seem simple - take vintage Levi’s apart and reconstruct them into modern fitting jeans, but it is actually an incredibly complex undertaking. We source the vintage Levi’s from rag houses around the country and personally sort through them one-by-one after they arrive in our office to find the most beautiful and interesting pairs to reconstruct. The chosen pairs are then sent off to wash. Our process calls for washing the jeans twice, once at the beginning and once at the end - consuming the same amount of water as if you were washing your jeans at home. From there, the jeans are brought to our factory, located in Downtown Los Angeles, taken apart at the seams, laid to one of our patterns that we’ve developed over the course of a year, and reconstructed into one of our modern fits. All together, our jeans are measured at least 3-4 times to ensure a consistent fit. After going through their second wash and receiving the trim, including our RE/DONE label, rivets and buttons, the jeans arrive back in our office, ready to be photographed and uploaded on our site. It is definitely a labour of love that goes into these jeans.
And by choosing classic vintage Levi’s, is it your mission to keep heritage brands alive and relevant?
You nailed it! We are all about keeping heritage brands relevant. We see it as our raison d'être.
You also understand the importance of sustainable business practices and conservation - do you think brands and designers should be doing more to use and promote sustainable methods to build a more eco-friendly fashion industry?
Absolutely! I think every industry should be conscious of how they are impacting our collective future for better or worse. It is everyone’s shared responsibility.
How are you both influenced in your work - what’s a typical day like in terms of design inspiration?
We have the freedom to draw from so many incredible eras that all had their own style and style icons. Denim is ever evolving so there is an endless supply of inspiration around.
“Denim is the most democratic material out there. Everyone wears jeans. They are universal.”
And your range of fits transcend different eras - was there an ultimate denim time do you think, when it really became a style statement?
I think the 1960’s were a really special time for denim. It transformed from worker’s wear to a symbol of youth rebellion.
Are there any particular styles you would like to re-work from the past?
We dream of RE/DONE overalls, but finding a reliable and consistent supply of the raw goods is a challenge we are still grappling with.
What about new denim trends you’re into?
The move towards individuality and repurposing of course!
I love that denim takes on a life of its own after it’s been worn for many years - an old pair of jeans has many a story behind them. What’s the best denim tale you’ve heard in terms of the wearer?
Some of the most incredible jeans we find come straight off of truck drivers who spend their days traversing the American South with the sun beating down on their laps. Their jeans develop the most incredible wear patterns – especially the whiskering across the top of the jean. Usually those jeans also have incredible fades on the pockets where a pack of cigarettes sat.
So is it important to you that people who buy your jeans develop an emotional connection with the product?
Yes. They aren’t just buying a mass produced jean that is identical to the same jeans that all their friends have. They are buying a pieces with history, a piece that is as unique as they are. It is also so quintessentially America.
Who wore / wears denim best - who is the ultimate denim icon?
There are so many! Jane Birkin always stands out though.
And Jamie, I’m presuming you ask Alessandra to wear your designs too which is great for business?
Of course! She love the jeans so it isn’t hard to convince her to throw on a pair in the morning.
As well as the long list of A-list celebs wearing your pieces, it must be exciting to know people on the street are coveting them too - do you like to know who buys it, who that person is?
Of course! There is nothing we love more that getting amazing customer feedback, whoever that customer may be. So rewarding when they tell us that they found their perfect jeans!
And of all the style capitals you’ve travelled to, who really wears denim best?
No one takes denim as seriously as the Japanese. They are connoisseurs. In the States or in Europe, someone might spend a couple of grand on a perfectly tailored suit, but in Japan they will put that money towards a pair of 1940’s dead stock Levi’s and wear them with such pride.
What about ‘how to wear it’ - jeans and white t-shirt? What’s the ultimate denim look?
Can’t beat jeans and a white t-shirt. It doesn't get more classic than that.
And double denim, yes or no?
A Canadian tuxedo! Of course. Why not?
Well this year marks the 15th anniversary of Britney and Justin’s VMA double denim disaster, there’s one reason why! How else should we NOT wear denim?
I would say that is the perfect example of how not to! Another pet peeve is overly treated denim that has been washed with chemicals to within an inch of its life. Just looks so fake.
“The 1960’s were a really special time for denim. It transformed from worker’s wear to a symbol of youth rebellion.”
And what about skinny jeans, will that style ever die - with the wide-leg denim silhouette slowly creeping in last year?
Trends certainly come and go. There is definitely a moment for wide legs, flares, etc. But honestly, we don't think the skinny jean is a trend. It is here to stay for good.
What about other designers like Vetements Paris, Matthew Dolan and Faustine Steinmetz, they’re doing some really innovative things with denim in their collections - who else do you keep an eye on?
We have so much respect for all of those brands, but for us, we really look more to classic styles of the past for inspiration.
And you always choose an inspirational figure for your campaigns, what makes a good muse to you?
Girls want to be her and guys want to be with her. The reverse is true of course for men’s. But above all, we really believe in effortless style and beauty. We try to keep it simple, but aspirational.
You launched a men’s collection last year in December, tell me more about that?
We are shooting really incredible creative guys doing interesting things instead of just models. So far, we are finding that building a men’s brand is totally different than a women’s brand. Both are exciting, but come with their own challenges.
What about unisex fits - the conventional ways of shopping and dressing are changing as fashion considers a genderless shopping experience - will you create a product to reflect that?
We don’t have any plans to make unisex fits at the moment. However, our overall aesthetic for both men’s and women’s is very similar. Both are our best versions of the classics.
There’s always an obsession with the ordinary in fashion, as in what “real people” wear - denim is a base level staple that always goes through phases and will always be interesting for designers - what’s the next big denim moment in your opinion?
Obviously, we believe the move away from the homogenous stretchy skinny jean was a big shift. I think the future is a continuation down the path towards great individuality.