We are living in an era of economic oxymorons. Crowds line up for gourmet food trucks, CEOs fly coach, and the vain receive Botox on the beach. Thus, timing was perfect when Gap relaunched their 1969 denim line two years ago. The 1969 brand offers consumers a premium fit and cut but at reasonable Gap price points. The average pair of 1969 jeans is $70, a competitive price compared to the $200 average cost of designer denim these days.
We visited the 1969 design studio in downtown Los Angeles yesterday for a preview of their Fall 2011 line. Though Gap’s creative team is based out of New York and their merchandising headquarters is in San Francisco, the 1969 team set up shop in downtown Los Angeles, “the heart of the denim industry” according to Rosella Giuliani. Giuliani and her team of eighteen employees work in an open loft space just steps from the Los Angeles Fashion District. But the studio’s close proximity to the country’s best denim factories, wash houses and laundries is not the only reason 1969 chose Los Angeles as its home. Southern California’s good vibrations juxtapose East Coast sophistication in a good way, and having bicoastal design teams for 1969 denim as well as Gap gives the company a dynamic advantage.
Yesterday, Giuliani wore a high-waisted full-flare light jean that must have been inspired by Fast Times at Ridgemont High. (Her summer jean is still available in the 1969 store on Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles, which was 1969’s first storefront.)
But about the clothes: The designers of 1969’s Fall 2011 line wanted to “highlight the beauty of the fabric,” said Giuliani. Nicole Burroughs and Jason Ferro, the design directors for women’s and men’s 1969 jeans, presented materials never seen before (especially in a Gap store), including stretch leather and reptile embossed denim. Our favorites from the fall collection featured 1950s, 60s and 70s silhouettes, but there were new ideas presented in dropped crotch pants for men and women and a modern men’s pleated denim trouser (now, there is an oxymoron). The newest men’s cut, The Original, takes cues from the original 501 jean from the 1950s with a looser straight fit and cuffed hem.
Giuliani’s 1970s high-waisted summer jeans were translated into the women’s Saturated Sateen pant with a darker wash and slimming pin-tuck down the front for fall, the perfect jean for the office. We can predict the 1960s slim jean, the Audrey Crop, will fly off shelves, but it reminded us of a familiar Gap campaign for a certain black capri. Will the Hepburn-meets-Gap oxymoron work its selling magic this fall? We shall see.