Our New Favorite Jeans Are a Cross Between Disco Chic and Cowgirl Cool
As denim fever reaches new heights in the fashion consciousness, there’s a definite line between mere jeans lovers and legitimate denimheads—call it separating the wheat from the chaff, or the raw from the stretch, as the case may be. It’s not as simple as eschewing cheaply made skinnies or fetishizing authentic Big-E orange-label Levi’s. For the truly addicted, present company included, the penultimate pair of jeans is not arrived at via a set of searchable terms, it’s characterized not so much by precise cuts, washes, and trims as by what a particular pair evokes for the very particular, very individual wearer. Denim, that lowly, once wholly utilitarian fabric, has these days practically become as personal as a fragrance, as sentimental as heirloom jewelry.
This was the attitude with which the young designer Adelaide Bourbon approached the founding of her line, Eve Denim, just launched in Los Angeles this week with an ethos that somehow manages to channel workwear, a disco ball–illuminated skating rink, and a Left Bank chanteuse. Available now via the brand’s website are exposed button-fly flares; short shorts; multi-pocketed overalls; cowboy jackets; and straight-leg styles in semi-cropped cuts, in a range of hues, in raw and regular denim, as well as corduroy, all priced from $125 to $395. You could argue her roots echo the path of denim itself. Adelaide Bourbon is indeed her real name (though she admits to a phase of wanting to be known as Lisa). She was born in France, raised in the U.S., and claims to have a mind-set that’s very much of both worlds, but when we talk on the phone, she reveals not a trace of a French accent.
“I wanted to move things forward but with history in mind,” says Bourbon. “I guess that’s what any designer wants: to realize the moment when history is relevant. Basically, I started all this by looking to make what I couldn’t find in the world.” Or, perhaps, what she couldn’t keep: Twenty years younger than her sisters, including the one for whom Eve Denim is named, Bourbon grew up raiding their abandoned jeans for the cool patches and the high-waisted cuts she favored even when they were out of fashion, while her otherwise-thrifty mother would sneak behind her and throw away pairs she deemed past repair.
That sense of duality and history served Bourbon well in her previous life as a creative consultant to Joie cofounder Serge Azria, starting just as he was launching his Equipment label. “My job centered around finding vintage inspiration, so it was perfect for me. I got to dig through all those incredible archives,” she says. Over the past several months, as the process of developing her own line kicked into high gear, the Eve Denim Instagram became a veritable mood board for the flattering wide legs, fusing-of-many-decades silhouettes, and appealingly fitted jackets she was creating. “Oh, Françoise Hardy and Jane Birkin—it’s hard to get away from them, isn’t it?” Bourbon says a bit sheepishly of two of her perennial muses. While other usual denim suspects—Brigitte, Brooke, Kate—fill her feed, more tellingly there’s Chloë Sevigny biking in cutoffs throughout New York City, Debbie Harry running around Coney Island, Fleetwood Mac half-dressed, half-under the sheets in bed. And, of course, Millicent Rogers, the heiress, fashion icon, 20th-century champion of Southwestern art, and Native American civil rights activist—when Bourbon describes her line as being for the urban cowgirl, you understand that this is what she means.
Those overalls, for instance: When I tell her how hers, with the contrast stitching and raw denim, remind me of a slim-cut version of the kind that served as my farmer grandfather’s daily uniform, she gets excited. Around the Vogue offices, the overalls get paired with one of Bourbon’s jackets by my colleague Kelly Connor—could this be the emergence of the North Carolina tuxedo? As I suspected, Bourbon sourced some of her fabric—tough enough to handle the kind of wear that allows it to take on its own story—from Cone Denim Mills, the longtime North Carolina–based denim supplier, semi-legend to those in the know, whose factories I also grew up seeing. Score another point for personal history and jeans.
She also turned to local suppliers in Los Angeles, but even in a city that’s so saturated with fledgling jeans labels it’s become Denim Central, “I’d go into these old-school places and tell them what I wanted to do and still they’d try to show me stretch fabric!” says Bourbon. “Now people will see me with my patterns and they get curious: ‘What have you got going on here?’”
And yet you could also imagine a young Cherie Currie pulling on a pair of her jeans, or Donna Summer in her dance-floor heyday. “I wanted them to also have a disco effect,” Bourbon says. That comes across not only in some of the cropped cuts—short enough to show off a pair of platforms, boots, or roller skates—but even on the simple graphics of the labels, the silver rivets. Her sister’s name, as it turns out, is the perfect inner and outer expression of the clothes. “I was trying to have a wink at the ’70s, down to the trim, but with a modern flair,” says Bourbon. “Eve is so symmetrical and fits nicely on a rivet! I wanted something that symbolizes the original authenticity I’m trying to restore in the denim world, but with a very feminine ring to it.”