Blue jean baby Elizabeth Bae was raised by parents who both worked in the denim industry, so it’s of little surprise that she grew up to become the chief designer of Denim of Virtue, a luxury jeans brand.
Denim is a $13 billion industry dominated by Wal-Mart and Sears, and while apparel sales have declined this year, sales of jeans have increased. Denim is comfort clothing: The fashion equivalent of macaroni & cheese.
Just as chefs have taken inspiration from a cardboard box of noodles and a pouch of powdered cheese to create recipes like smoky black pepper cheese and macaroni with wild mountain chanterelles, designers have taken inspiration from a pair of pants invented for digging in the dirt to create a red-carpet-worthy fashion piece.
“I wanted to pursue a career I felt familiar with and had the urge to perfect the art of fit, style and comfort,” Bae says. “My mission is to offer a solution to the common complaints people have about their denim being uncomfortable and unflattering. I place a huge emphasis on tackling those challenges in my designs.”
Bae uses stitching to draw the eye upward and away from problem areas like full thighs. She combats wide waists by creating long, lean silhouettes, and she works with four-way stretch fabric.
Denim of Virtue jeans are 52 percent cotton and 48 percent elastane. When I pour myself into a pair, the first thing I notice is how comfortable they are. The fabric is insanely soft. It’s also super stretchy, acting as a shaper to smooth my curves and lift my tush.
The tush really is the most important concern when buying a pair of jeans. According to Bae, the larger your jeans, the bigger your back pockets should be. Itty bitty back pockets make your derriere look larger.
Though denim sales have increased overall, the sale of luxury jeans, costing anywhere from $80 to more than $600, have fallen and the decline in sales is predicted to continue into next year. With more than 300 luxury jeans brands on the market, and more coming on the scene every year, each company must find a way to stand out of the crowd.
One of the ways companies do this is through corporate narratology: The story behind the pants. This is what you read when you click on a Web site’s “About” button. Take, for example, Evisu.
The Evisu story begins like a fairytale with “Once upon a time …” It tells how Hidehiko Yamane, Evisu’s tailor — he doesn’t like the word “designer,” maybe it’s not fairytaleful enough — searched the world over to find quality denim. Yamane is a hero on a quest. He’s saving the kingdom with magic pants.
In the early 1990s, Yamane hand painted a seagull on each of the 12 pairs of jeans Evisu produced per day. That was then, before the phrase “inspirational shopper” was coined, before people like me gave ourselves permission to spend the equivalent of two weeks worth of groceries (for two people) on a pair of jeans.
I’m not sold on Denim of Virtue’s story. “All styles derive from the principles of ‘Virtue’ on the notion that it brings love, justice, value, quality, innocence, kindness, hope and character. Denim of Virtue believes that through ‘Virtue’ one can emerge into the world of finer things.”
I have a hard time understanding how a pair of jeans can make someone more loving or more just, but what I am sold on is the jeans themselves. Bae makes a great pair of pants. I look forward to seeing the company grow into its name.
Mariel Howsepian digs black coffee, fairy tales and a man in coveralls. She lives in Santa Monica and can be reached at Mariel_Rodriguez@antiochla.edu.