Behind the Love for Jeans, the Versatility of Denim

By Tunggul Wirajuda on 07:46 pm Apr 03, 2014
Tags: jeans
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Denim jeans have long been a widespread favorite, with their variety of cuts, styles and shades. (JG Photo/Tunggul Wirajuda)

When it comes to comfort and a good fit or feel, no other type of clothing feels more right than a well-fitting pair of denim jeans.

These qualities and other elements, like its popular appeal and mix of form and function, have won denim a venerated place among the public and fashion pundits alike for over the past century.

“Denim’s egalitarian appeal is as relevant now as it was in the 14th century, when it was used for poor people’s clothing,” says denim expert and Lee Cooper consultant Tilmann Wrobel.

“The material derived it’s name from the French town of Nimes, as exports of the cloth marked ‘De Nimes’ [‘From Nimes’] made their way to Britain and the United States during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries.

“The cut of denim jeans are also a window into its past use, as it is cut more like wood than gold, as one can do egalitarian things that are accessible to people.”

Wrobel notes that the cloth, which first made its way into pop culture in the 1950s, is renowned for its paradoxes.

“Denim jeans can be ready to wear or in the case of designer jeans, tailored to custom. On one hand, they are mass produced and on the other, they are distinctive to the wearer, as they leave an imprint of the wearer’s identity due to their habits and the oxidation process,” he says.

Wrobel highlights his observations of the different styles of denim jeans around the world. “People in northern Europe tend to favor darker-colored jeans, while people in southern Europe favor brighter shades. Denim trends in Britain are influenced by street clothes, while hip-hop styles are most tangible in the United States,” says the fashion designer, whose agency, Monsieur T, creates collections for retailers like Adidas, DC Shoes, Quiksilver and Lee Cooper.

“In Japan, the denim jeans have a retro yet contemporary look, as its manufacture is much the same as it was 150 years ago. The variations go deeper than what we see, as in the cut, styles and colors. But regardless of regional preferences, jeans are universal because they can be worn on any occasion,” he says.

Wrobel notes that Indonesian fashionistas are just as savvy to denim styles as their counterparts elsewhere.

“I noticed that Indonesian tastes in denim jeans are oriented toward stronger, brighter indigo shades. However, over the past few years, younger Indonesian designers are becoming true denim connoisseurs, as they move toward more international, purist styles and away from brighter colors as well as American influences,” Wrobel says. “This open-minded exploration of purist styles is made possible by the sprouting of different fashion communities. While some of them are going into this direction, others are still geared towards mass production. This trend is also driven by the proliferation of mass media among young Indonesians, as this would enable them to reach out to their prospective market and make newer influences or trends accessible.”

Wrobel observes that some Indonesian fashion designers are progressive and their innovations are ahead of the more conservative local fashion industry.

“The Indonesian fashion market has been security driven, so there hasn’t been much risk taking. As such, their attitudes toward customers haven’t varied or changed much,” he explains. “But the arrival of more major foreign retail brands would change the balance of the Indonesian fashion industry, as it would give customers more options. However, the market would still be dominated by established players like Lee Cooper, as the brand is known to the Indonesian public. Moreover, old brands have a ‘wisdom’ that can only be acquired through time.”

Wrobel is certain that the wisdom of established brands and the Indonesian market’s demand for new styles will balance each element out and make the country’s fashion industry more interesting. Whether this will be the case is yet to be seen. What is certain is that it will make Indonesia’s already eclectic fashion scene more interesting than ever before.