Sun-kissed images of jeans-clad lovers cavorting in the sand. Snapshots capturing Hollywood’s glitterati decked out in dungarees and diamonds. Rockers at concerts sponsored by big denim brands.
These are just a few examples of California’s infinite presence in the denim trade and how its native myths have helped boost this endlessly morphing category.
The state landscape and culture have served as a treasure trove of inspiration for denim companies here — including the original Levi Strauss dating back to 1851 — to mine and appropriate into their brand images and designs. A century and a half later, the Golden State keeps churning out white-hot denim brands that show no ennui in referencing their birthplace.
“California got lucky because of the Gold Rush. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be talking about denim today,” said Kevin Jones, museum curator at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles. “As a result, denim has been part of the culture from Hollywood and James Dean to our world of music. It’s a natural for these apparel firms to borrow from these cultural resources. It lends an aura of authenticity.”
A couple of modern-day denim icons come to mind in illustrating the point. Since its launch in 1981, Guess Inc. continues tapping Hollywood glamour and allure, borrowing styling cues from the Fifties. Those provocative yet sophisticated portraits of ripe and upcoming models, from Claudia Schiffer to Anna Nicole Smith, have continued for 20 years, with the latest party girl, Paris Hilton, tweaking the formula.
In the Nineties, Lucky Brand Jeans opened up shop, borrowing its look from the hippie-chic streets of Haight-Ashbury with vintage-inspired jeans and bohemian blouses. The theme shines through at the company’s recently opened store at the Hollywood & Highland retail complex in Hollywood. It features a storefront painted in oversized paisleys, hardwood floors also stenciled with paisleys and walls lined in vintage designs. The motif continues in a Sunset Boulevard billboard designed with paisleys and younger images of founders Gene Montesano and Barry Perlman. “California is a big part of the brand,” said Scott Formby, senior vice president of creative direction at Lucky Brand Jeans.
Of course, why California resonates as the go-to, marketing-idea resource for a lot of these companies is the endless sex appeal oozing from the Hollywood, music and beach scenes.
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