The new women’s denim brigade

Style pioneers who look far beyond the ubiquitous skinny jean

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to wear denim. Hence, after more than a decade of the omnipresent skinny jean, the shift to a relaxed silhouette is more than welcome. And the new status quo has a much more interesting aesthetic – think frayed, hand-painted, high-waisted or patchwork.

This sartorial swing, inspired by headline-grabbling fashion brand du jour Vetements and LA’s cult denim label Re/Done, has had me wearing my old Levi’s 501s again and engaging in a spot of scissor-happy DIY. But it’s the rise of a handful of female designers who are innovating with denim and denim-look fabrics that has really piqued my interest.

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Women such as Italian-born Cristina Casini and her business partner Keiko Seya, former fashion stylists and co-founders of Parisian lifestyle brand CristaSeya. “Fabrics are the most important thing for us,” says Casini, of this autumn/winter’s edition#05 (first picture), featuring a Japanese “sachiko” stitched fabric, normally used to make martial arts kit and dyed indigo blue to give the illusion of denim. “It’s the starting point – we want to create timeless pieces from rare, raw materials, made by artisans with the highest savoir-faire.” CristaSeya’s distinctive garments are intended to appeal to those “bored with the relentless fashion cycle”.  The team works in editions, as opposed to collections. Each edition (there are two per year) is always available and becomes part of a permanent offer, aimed at laying the foundations of a modern wardrobe.

Similarly, Kéji embraces the slow fashion ethos and aspires to “create pieces that have a perennial place in women’s wardrobes”. The brand was launched in 2015 by Hong Kong-born Katie Green, who trained as a pattern cutter and then worked as a buyer at Net-a-Porter for almost three years, before branching out into luxury denim. Noteworthy items from the latest ready-to-wear collection include an A-line jacket with bell sleeves (£300) and indigo-blue Japanese cotton-denim wide-leg jeans (£280, second picture), with a matching relaxed-fit jacket (£300, second picture).

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Faustine Steinmetz, now in her sixth season, has said she likes to “treat jeans like a piece of couture”. The Parisian-born designer studied at Central Saint Martins under the late Professor Louise Wilson and is keen on sustainability, quality and handcrafted fabrics. Taking an experimental approach, everyday items such as jeans and denim jackets are deconstructed, fringed and given an unusual twist. Standout pieces for spring/summer 2016 include a white knotted dress (£900) and a warped, floating denim jacket (£430, third picture).

All of these new shape-shifting silhouettes have an androgynous, gentlewomanly appeal. “We love the unisex feeling,” continues CristaSeya’s Casini. “All the pieces are masculine and oversized; we believe femininity is a subtle and discreet attitude. Our customer is between 30 and 80 years old; she’s an opinionated woman with a strong personality.” Taking fashion slowly, following their own paths – this new breed of denim designer shows resolute character too.

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