FA2L is for anyone who cares about beautiful things–clothing, shoes, accessories, home furnishings–and the interconnected tribes of those who make, sell, market and desire them. If something speaks to you, buy it now or hold your peace: there are links in each story, so the item you want is just a click away. I'd like to hear from you, too: please view my profile, use the email button and send me your comments.MG

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Denim, a Love Story: Where the East Meets West

Before jeans were fashion, they were work clothes, made of tough cotton selvage denim woven on shuttle looms and dyed with natural indigo. Such pants were extraordinarily durable, and molded to the contours of each wearer's body while gradually softening, creasing and fading. Today, of course, designer denim products run the gamut from crisp stovepipes to torn, "whiskered," even paint-splattered versions (which can cost many hundreds of dollars per pair).

Denim came from Europe, where French and Italian communities made work pants from the stuff centuries ago; but the quintessential blue jean–the Levi's 501–is an American product through and through. That said, Japanese culture, with its keen appreciation of authenticity, has greatly influenced what can only be called denim connoisseurship. Case in point: in the late '80s, a gentleman named Hidehiko Yamane worried so much about vintage denim's scarcity he decided to make his own. He found a 1950s shuttle loom, supervised the weaving of selvage denim and hand-painted Levi's-style arcs on the back pockets of finished pairs. The process was painstaking, but his product resonated with denim aficionados around the world. This was the beginning of EVISU. By the late '90s, though, Yamane's original vision had gained such momentum it was no longer a small company turning out handmade jeans–it was a worldwide brand selling everything from t-shirts to outerwear. Along the way, it lost some of its insider charm and became one more name in a sea of products.

Recently, EVISU went back to its roots: it cleaned up distribution, narrowed its focus and relaunched a tight collection for Spring '10 (some of which is available at Barneys New York now, and at Barneys.com December 14). FA2L isn't overly fond of denim "effects," but a few pairs in the lineup speak fashion loud and clear: a slim, dark jean; a bleached-out, beachy-looking pair; and the SHINGU (above), which takes distressing to an artful level. Any would make worthy additions to denim collections everywhere, so get them while you can.