Posh denim - there’s probably a more mellifluous name for it but this will do for the moment - is the antithesis of the dreaded ripped denim trend that’s spreading like leprosy across knees and thighs. I loathe this distressed nonsense. It’s meant to look worn-in and loved, but it’s completely ersatz and tacky.
By posh, I don’t mean the embroidered and jewelled denim that’s newly on-trend again. I’m more intrigued by those lady- like denim dresses promulgated by Carolina Herrera Or the denim trouser suits at Tibi. By the way, according to Lisa Aiken, Net-a-Porter-com’s retail fashion director, the denim blazer is the new update on the bomber or army jacket.
Saint Laurent sent denim down the catwalk with velvet evening tops. As for Dior’s denim Bar jackets and jumpsuits… so chic. These are items you could wear to work, even the boardroom. But the prices. “How do you justify charging upwards of £2500 for a denim jumpsuit?” I asked Maria Grazia Chiuri after her Dior show on Tuesday. She had her answer ready. “Modern luxury isn’t just about show-off details. It’s can be quiet, amazing craftsmanship, feeling good…. and longevity”.
Fabrics don’t come much more resilient than denim. Yet its finer qualities are only beginning to be appreciated – partly thanks to Chiuri, who since joing Dior as its creative director a year ago, has worked hard to make it as much a part of the label’s lexicon as twinkly tulle or houndstooth.
Chiuri likes her Dior denim impeccably tailored and that message is spreading. In the general shift towards ever more functional but still smart dressing, denim is a useful tool. Stella McCartney’s upgraded fitted denim shirts and dresses are sharp and flattering, while Azzedine Alaia’s signature wool, biker jacket now comes in a dark, top -stitched denim that’s destined to become another classic. At £1890 (truly), this is clearly to be cherished for years to come.
But there’s no need to spend hundreds. Medium priced denim is acquiring ruching, pin-tucks, high-waists, dark washes and other touches designed to elevate its status. Toast has elegantly slouchy striped denim wide trousers (£175) and denim-twill tunic dresses (£150, toast.co.uk). At Mother of Pearl, the label that’s made a name for itself with gamine silhouettes and whimsical prints, denim is such a strong performer they’re introducing a core range of their best sellers, refabricated in denim.
But does any of the above really cut it at cocktails? ”Definitely,“ says Amy Powney, Mother of Pearl’s Creative Director. “I wear mine with red lipstick, gold jewellery, great shoes and possibly some sparkly socks. Styling up casual pieces is my favourite way to dress”.
I’m tempted by MoP’s pearl embellished denim flats, Massimo Dutti’s denim kitten heel mules , as well as Reiss’s dark denim double breasted jacket – and fantasise about the Alaia jacket. It’s not just the durability, but the indigo shades, which suit everyone and work with everything, including other blues. That slight graininess means you’ll never look too corporate, even if you’re wearing a suit.
Lisa Aiken, likes to layer her posh denim with fitted shirts worn over polonecks and says that “while denim is becoming much smarter, juxtaposing different elements makes it more interesting”. Aiken wore double denim during London Fashion Week, “keeping the washes similar but playing with proportion: fitted shirts with straight legs, or an oversized denim jacket with slim legs”. She recommends rigid denim. If that sounds creaky and harsh, opt for soft denim with minimal stretch.
Unfortunately, for all its wholesome connotations, denim’s an ecological scoundrel, that requires 10,000 gallons of water per pair of jeans and leaves a trail of toxic excretion in its wake. Ideally, go for organically dyed denim, and at the very least, invest in pieces that are built to last. E.L.V, which stands for East London Vintage is a brilliant small label set up by Kari Greaves and Anna Foster that only uses recycled denim (check it out revenvert.com, a wonderfully stylish eco-etailer). ELV’s proving so popular they recently launched a made-to-measure line. Can’t get posher than that. (elvdenim.com)