We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend, and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in the fashion industry with our column, "How I Shop."
Jane Bishop is a California girl turned Brooklyn-based fashion editor with retail in her blood. The co-founder and creative director of JeanStories.com — a site devoted to all things denim, from the people who wear it to the people who make it — grew up working in her family's LA store, named after her father Ron Herman. She came to New York for college and earned her chops at Elle and Vogue before working at Gap with Patrick Robinson. She is now the style director at Travel + Leisure and a contributor for Lucky, Glamour and Vogue.com. Bishop and I met in Savannah last week, where she was in town to moderate a panel on denim with Jean Stories co-founder Florence Kane at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
I am a uniform dresser, to a certain extent. Everything I wear is a version of a theme. I tend to dress in a blue, white, black, gray color palette, sometimes red. I remember around the time that I was turning 30 and becoming more confident in my own personal style, I had just left Vogue or was just about to leave Vogue. I had been there for six and a half years and seen a lot of trends come and go. I observed enough of fashion to know what was me and what wasn’t me. It was at that time that Phoebe Philo came to Céline and minimalism became the catch word, minimalism was having its moment. It wasn’t just Phoebe, there were a number of others like Tess Giberson, even contemporary price point designers that were doing very minimalist, very clean clothes. When that happened, it all made perfect sense to me. I was done with my Pucci scarfs and my circle skirts, although I do have a soft spot for Dries [Van Noten] and I will wear a print, embellishment or sequins if it’s Dries. The two things happened sort of simultaneously — minimalism really came back into fashion and I came of an age where I felt like figured it out, didn’t need to experiment anymore and knew myself really well.
That’s what I always say about jeans, too. The best thing about your favorite pair of jeans is that the second you put them on, you feel like yourself. They’re comforting not in the sense that they’re comfortable, but in the sense that you put them on and you know that they’re going to fit you this way and you know exactly what you’re capable of doing when you’re wearing them. You’re capable of doing most anything. I live in Brooklyn, I commute to the city every day — I need things that are practical, clean, well-tailored. I coordinate pants every single day so I need things that always go together.
Even my wedding dress — which is in a lot of ways the biggest investment piece ever — I saw it at a [Céline] pre-fall appointment and thought, okay, my wedding’s in November, that dress is going to be available in November, that’s my wedding dress. I never looked at another and I never tried another one on. I’ve gone into stores and bought things not planning to buy them, but they are always very practical purchases. It’s never out of character. I don’t make those mistakes anymore.
I shop a lot online lately, at Net-a-Porter or Matches Fashion which I think is doing an amazing job with their selection. I love how their merchandise arrives — the boxes, the packaging. I try to keep it local and shop for everything else in Brooklyn.
And to be perfectly honest I shop at my dad’s store, my family’s shop [Ron Herman] in Los Angeles. It’s so comfortable for me to go there. I go there every time I go to Los Angeles, which lately is about every four months on average because I go out there a lot for Jean Stories — the denim industry is really out in LA. Every time I go, I stop by the store. This is not a plug, I just really, honestly, truly love to go and talk to the denim buyer there and see what he’s buying, what he saw last season, what he’s seeing for next season, what worked or what didn’t work on the sales floor. That’s really valuable information for me and not every store is willing to share that with me the way my family’s is, so that’s a great resource for me. I love to see what my dad is up to. My mom does all the women's buying for downstairs and my dad does all the women's buying for upstairs.
There is a pair of Levi’s 517 that I purchased from my dad’s store and I wore from the time I was about 19 until I was 22. All the summers when I was working at my dad’s shop selling jeans, I wore those Levi’s. I was living in L.A., I had a musician boyfriend — I remember that summer very clearly. They had been found by one of the buyers there and reworked for the store, so by the time I got them they’d already been reworked in some way but they’re zipper-fly, long-rise, boot-cut Levi’s. Then I moved to New York and I put them away for almost a decade. I recently pulled them out and thought, “You know, these jeans, I love them, they don’t fit me right any more but now I see them in such a different way than I did then.” I see a pair of jeans as something you can fix and alter and adjust and amend and taper and tailor and do all kinds of things to, so I decided to give them a little bit of love. I’m in the process of it. Every time I get one thing done, I live with them for about four months — put them on, take them off, put them on, take them off. In a couple months, I’ll know what to do with them next and then they’ll appear on Jean Stories when they’re done.
Because I take my jeans very seriously, I like to buy them directly from the people who make them -- at the Levi’s site, the Mother Denim site. They usually have the biggest variety and the way that they merchandise it — you get a sense of the jeans being worn, you get a sense of what the jeans stand for. And I love going to 3x1 obviously. I have the great pleasure of getting Scott [Morrison's] attention when I go in there.
I do a lot of my shopping when I’m about to go somewhere and when I have a trip planned and a city I’m visiting. When you go to a new city, you can kind of imagine yourself having a different life and part of that fantasy experience is enhanced when you’re not wearing the same old clothes, when you’re wearing something you’ve purchased especially for the occasion and might even be a little out of character for you. Not to mention that there are certain necessities that you need, like if I’m going to Palm Springs for a wedding and need something that’s really lightweight because all of a sudden because it’s 110 degrees in the desert.
The last thing I bought was a pair of Reed Krakoff shoes from Net-a-Porter that I love. They’re boots that have a very tall block heel, an ankle strap and a gold plate that defines the heel. I love them because they look so good with wide-leg or boot-cut jeans. A flare on me, because I’m so short, is a lot. It’s a lot of volume and a lot of fabric to have around my ankles right now. But a little bit of a boot cut or a baby flare — I don’t know, everyone’s coming up with different words for it — but I think a boot cut is something that comes out of the knee a little bit and goes over your boot. I really love a long leg on a jean right now, it’s a very slimming look.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Disclosure: SCAD paid for my travel and accommodation in Savannah to cover its week-long speaker series, SCADstyle.