the story behind
There is a story behind every brand. In our category ‘Behind the Brand’ the designers share their candid insight about their inspiration, the production process, and the people behind the brand. This time we sat down with Mary Stoe, director and creative at J Brand, to ask her about how Covid-19 changed their design process, what sustainability means for J Brand and how to keep your jeans in the best possible condition.
First of all, how are you doing?
I’m doing alright, thank you. It’s like living in a surreal movie with all that is happening in 2020. I try to keep my sanity by doing what I can to stay sane.
J Brand was founded in 2005. How did it all begin and what was the initial idea behind the brand?
J Brand launched the best Skinny Fit jean at the right moment - when the world was just moving on from boot cut - and became the brand known for the best fit, fabric, and washes with a subtle sophisticated trim. Watching from the outside at the time, it was an amazing thing to see and it carved a place for J Brand to be a leader in luxury jeanswear.
How would you describe the aesthetic identity of J Brand?
Clean, sophisticated, luxurious.
How is the current worldwide situation influencing your daily routine?
We are working from home and all the samples are being sent to my house. In my 20+ years in the industry, I’ve never done so many new ways of working – Google Hangout Design Kickoffs, Sketch Reviews, and Proto Reviews. It’s been very interesting to present a product in this way when typically it’s so touch and feel and looking at product on racks as a collection. Fortunately, everyone is working well together during this required alternative way of working.
What does a week at the J Brand headquarters (usually) look like?
Our offices are located at The Row in Downtown Los Angeles, a new destination for shopping and eating. The design firm Studio Shamshiri designed the space – it’s an open concept space that is beautifully understated. There is a lot of natural light that makes it a very optimistic place to work.
How do you stay inspired to come up with new designs? Where do you get your inspiration from?
I draw inspiration all the time – I came up in the industry when we would travel to sit and watch people on the street for trends. My eye is trained that way. And my mind works in such a way that something catches my eye and I start to create a way it can look in a garment or as a print or a detail. I like to approach the design of the line by thinking about what looks and fabrics will create newness, what new innovation or evolution of fits will be the most impactful and be those must-have wardrobe pieces. So, there are always two sides to the process – macro and micro.
"I like to approach the design of the line by thinking about what looks and fabrics will create newness, what new innovation or evolution of fits will be the most impactful and be those must-have wardrobe pieces."
What style advice would you give to people who are working from home these days?
My advice is to stay positive and be grateful to be working. I really try to keep laughing through the scariness of these times – to bring things to lighter energy. Try to remember that this will pass, we will evolve to learn how to live with this new normal, and that things will continue to move forward.
How does the production process of a pair of J Brand jeans look like?
J Brand is great in that our products go through a long series of fits and testing to ensure the products we ship are great quality. When developing a new fit, we make many revisions until we are completely satisfied with the final execution. With new fabrications we want to introduce, we work with our mills to test variations to make the best qualities and then we conduct wear tests.
How can you keep your J Brand jeans in the best possible condition?
To me, the best way to prolong a jean to look the same as you bought it is to wash them as infrequently as possible. You can put them in the freezer to kill the bacteria. And when you do wash them, it’s best to wash J Brand jeans in cold water inside out and hang to dry. Jeans lose colour more in warmer water and dryers cause more seam abrasion.
Sustainability is important for J Brand. What do you contribute to being sustainable and what difficulties did you face to get where you are now?
Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at J Brand. We are deeply committed to creating jeans that minimise our impact on both the planet and the artisans that make them. Our Jeans Innovation Center in Downtown Los Angeles, an incredible research and development facility shared with our sister brands part of the Fast Retailing group, is the home to where these sustainability innovations come to life. Our exclusive eco wash process developed here, reduces the water required to wash denim by an unparalleled average of 90%. We also use laser technology, which allows us to achieve the same vintage denim look you love while eliminating the traditional labor-intensive hand-sanding processes that are standard in the denim industry.
The entire garment industry has been moving towards sustainability at a rapid pace in the last two years and we have been adopting all that we can to use these elements in our products. This includes the fabric and trims we use as well. In addition to our sustainable practices utilised to create our denim, we also recycle fabric scraps from our in-house sample room and have connected our production facility with these recyclers - diverting about 40,000 pounds of fabric a month into insulation for homes, cars, and mattresses. We are continually working on new innovations for better practices, including natural dyes and less toxic chemicals for all processes.
"The best way to prolong a jean to look the same as you bought it is to wash them as infrequently as possible."
What would you name as the greatest accomplishment of J Brand?
Longevity is a huge accomplishment that J Brand has achieved by continuing to dominate the contemporary jeans market with the best reputation for the Skinny Jean. And, at the same time, the ability to lead new trends, continuing to reinvent the brand with new fits and innovations in fashion.
Any future plans you would like to share with us?
We are in a renaissance in terms of reinventing the company – with new fits, fabrics, and sustainable washes and techniques. We are re-launching our ready-to-wear line for Fall 20. Additonally, we have a collaboration with London-based designer brand Halpern in stores for Fall 20 as well as a men’s collaboration with Antoni Porowski from Queer Eye, so things are getting really exciting.
Discover the J Brand collection by Pauw Amsterdam in our stores or online.