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High and Mighty

Italy's denim leaders explain why high-waisted is the new low-waisted.

Protective moms and old-guard bosses will rejoice at the notion that low-rise jeans aren’t a high priority anymore.

On the heels of higher waistlines coming from designer runways, denim manufacturers are saying “basta” to the low-waist jeans that often trespass into unsuitable territory, especially in school or at work. “After six years of low-rise jeans and a general flatness, the market needed a jolt because avant-garde consumers were ready to move on,” notes Wichy Hassan, founder and creative director of Miss Sixty. High-waist jeans should dissuade the bad-taste romp of protruding flabby tummies that having been ruling the summer months the globe over.

“People are tired of super-low-rise jeans with various body parts hanging out,” stresses Bonita Newby, creative director for Evisu. “High-waist jeans, whether with a Seventies vibe in washed denim or clean and unwashed, are much more flattering and feminine as they accentuate the waist.” Evisu first raised the waistline for Evisu Deluxe for fall 2006 on skinny and wide-legged styles. So while change always takes time to metabolize, top-tier denim makers and young fashionistas view the new silhouette as a palette cleanser. “High-waist jeans are a completely different sensation compared to low-rise models that dominated the market for so long now, but I think people are ready to try something new,” says Bonita.

Hassan sings a similar tune. “Personally, I find a super high waist very sexy and flattering because bare tummies have become extremely cheap,” he says. Proving the point is the fact that from fall 2006 to spring 2007, raised waistlines gained major momentum in selections that ranged from bustier-derived high rises to detachable strips that allow wearers to regulate the waist height.

Wilbert Das, creative director at Diesel, admits change was in the air. “When we started experimenting with higher waists for spring 2007, we were careful not to fall into the retro trap with an Eighties revival,” he says. That meant striving to strike a modern balance among the pockets, the yoke and the waistline, he says, a mission partially achieved with stretch denim. “Tremendous progress has been made in stretch denim, which is similar to the original one but is more comfortable on the tummy,” notes Das.

Miss Sixty’s Hassan concurs that Eighties nostalgia shouldn’t be contemplated. “Whatever the silhouette, it has to be cool, modern and go against the mainstream,” says Hassan.

According to Virginia Cademartori, a 23-year-old university student in Milan, “High-waist jeans are a mom’s delight. I’m really starting to appreciate the new silhouette, especially because it’s nice to have an alternative. What’s more, it contains the tummy because not all girls are rail thin.”

Sybilla Bertolaja, a 17-year high school student, admitted she had a been-there-done-that attitude toward low-waist jeans. “For my tastes, super-low-rise was too vulgar,” she says. “I especially love black or dark blue skinny jeans with a high waist.” Her favorite combination is with T-shirts tucked inside or under oversize sweaters cinched with a thick belt.

Even Dondup, a jeans maker based in central Italy, whose claim to fame are jeans cut so low that sitting down became risky business, has jumped on the high-rise bandwagon. “Granted that 90 percent of our offerings are still low-waisted, it’s important to move forward while respecting a brand’s past,” says Manuela Berloni, co-owner and designer for the label, adding that fall’s bestsellers were styles with a detachable double waistline.

Up-and-coming hot brand G-Star is veering in the higher waist direction. “G-Star looks more to the streets than to the runways for inspirations, [but] we’ve noticed a slow but steady trend toward higher waistlines,” says Pierre Morisset, the brand’s creative director. For spring, the company introduced a washed tapered style called G-S Waist, which is available with either a moderate or very high waist.

Whatever the look, as Hassan puts it, “These jeans reflect a new kind of glamour.”