She’s Just a Denim Woman

by Amy Leverton
Published by Rizzoli
More info/purchase

Calling all denimheads, denim purists or those just looking for a little inspo on a veritable wardrobe staple. Amy Leverton , a transplanted Brit residing in L.A. who has worked in the denim industry for 15 years including as Director of Denim and Youth Culture for trend forecasting site WGSN, has followed up her 2015 book “Denim Dudes” with something for the “dudettes.” “Denim: Street Style, Vintage, Obsession,” focuses on style rather than fashion — it’s a bible of who’s who in the world of denim featuring trendsetters, stylists, vintage dealers, shop owners and designers across the U.S., the U.K, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Unless you are well versed in the world of denimology most of these names may not be familiar to you however it will open your eyes to the cult of indigo.

Amy Leverton
Photo by Ryan Lopez

“Denim is a bit of a boy’s club,” said Leverton in a podcast , “but there are loads and loads of women and they haven’t been celebrated.” Publisher Rizzoli asked that she veer “a little less purist and a little more fashion so I let it pull me a little bit that way to appeal more broadly. It’s an inspiration book, both authentic and amazing,” she added.

Nina Kaplan
Photo by Bryan Lopez

The book opens with a quote from Yves Saint Laurent: “I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed, and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity — all I hope for in my clothes.” Yes, men wore the durable (denim) pants in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s working during the gold rush, on the railroads or on the ranch.

Iconic denim ad by Brooke Shields in Calvin Klein

By the 1930s and ’40s women suffragettes and factory femmes had borrowed from the boys and appropriated denim.  The fabric became Hollywood sexy in 1961 with Marilyn Monroe’s iconic photo seated in a director’s chair in a Lee Rider jacket. Blondie’s Debbie Harry wore Levi’s 505 jeans giving them a cool rock ‘n roll edge in New York in 1976 while the name Daisy Duke became synonymous with fringed denim short shorts. Farrah Fawcett on a skateboard and Brooke Shields and her Calvins are two more enduring images that firmly established denim’s haute hotness.

Sofia Lundqvist
Photo by Alberto Comper

Each page of this book, divided in sections by geographic area, shows a blue jean babe in a favorite outfit, be it selvedge raws, ’90s stone washed, patched, shredded, repurposed, pimped, embroidered jeans, skinnies, straight legs, flares, overalls, indigo shirts, jackets and skirts all take a bow here. There are six New Yorkers who represent including Linda Rodin, creator of Rodin Olio Lusso wearing Hullabaloo by Rachel Comey jeans and a Marc Jacobs top; and fashion designer Rachel Comey herself. Ms. Comey is proud of one of her “earliest denim experiments” known as her Legion Pant — inspired by her mother’s propensity to lengthen her jeans as she grew taller, producing the dreaded “dark spot” — “something embarrassing could be great fashion.”

Florene Kane
Photo by Eric Kvatec

Other New Yorkers include Florence Kane, cofounder and editorial director of Jean Stories, in her super patched “Frankenstein” jeans of unknown provenance passed down from a deceased uncle’s possessions. Since they fit her “eerily well” Kane concluded they must have belonged to a girlfriend of Uncle Mike’s as they would have been too short on his six-foot tall frame.

Hsiang Chin Moe
Photo by Eric Kvatec

Hsiang Chin Moe, a New York Filmmaker wears eclectic heirlooms acquired from flea markets across the country. The vintage Lee jacket and embroidered chambray shirt (a hand-stitched DIY project from the early 1970’s featuring Peanuts characters) and her KAPITAL Century denim distressed by their Kountry workshop in Okayama, “have some connections with various friends and locations.”

Nina Kaplan
Photo by Ryan Lopez

Nina Kaplan, an occupational therapist and motorcycle enthusiast from L.A. loves to mash up the different decades of denim in one outfit. Here she wears vintage Levi’s of the ’60s-70’s which flare at the ankle with a 1960’s Lee jacket complete with Gas Crisis patches ’70s patches and a Harley Davidson hand painted logo. The belt and “chaos pouch” are her homage to the ’80s/90’s –“as I am a child of the 1980’s.”

Kelly Harrington
Photo by Stephanie Sian Smith

Kelly Harrington, a London trend forecaster and designer for H&M has had an obsession with denim since high school; some of which she still wears. “Part of the thrill for me is the story behind the purchase. You’ll often find me scouring flea markets around the globe trying to find my next piece.” Her kimono is from an antique market in YoYogi park in Tokyo, her vintage Levi’s 501 jeans are customized by Japanese brand From Bonum — they are hand patched with antique French fabric by two craftsmen in the store making them extra special.

Lauren Yates
Photo by Eric Kvatec

In the Asia and Australia section of the book is Lauren Yates, of Bangkok , who writes a blog called Ponytail Journal. As a Thai-Chinese-British-Australian she is keen on history and is a “hopeless romantic in some respects.” Her clothing tells a story — the jacket is of blue Hmong origin dated back at least one hundred years judging by the coins that are sewn into the breast, a gift of a collector friend. The pants are antique from Laos — a combination of handwoven silk, silk embroidery, and an organic fiber dyed in indigo.

Jane Herman Bishop
Photo by Eric Kvatec

Two of the most interesting anecdotes involve designer Katherine Hamnett who invented stonewashing in the late ’70s only to realize the process had a negative impact on the environment by silting up rivers: “there are empty places in Mexico where there were pumice mountains. Ten thousand-plus people die a year from accidental pesticide poisoning in conventional cotton agriculture and regular elastane is not a sustainable fiber.” Another story I enjoyed was of Jo Sindle, designer, stylist and owner of Goodhood Store in London who bought a vintage Levi’s jacket in Ibiza. A few months later she realized that there was a perfectly fitted bullet tucked into the red tab (it had been there for years) until it was confiscated at airport customs! “They actually thought I was a terrorist threat because of it!”

– Laurel Marcus

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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