I have recently discovered that I am a visionary. I had never expected to uncover such a quality in myself but all the available evidence suggests that I am one, at least when it comes to painted jeans.
In the Abstract
Back in the 1980's I had just left university and managed to secure a full time position at a textile company in London. This may sound quite exciting but was initially nothing of the kind as I was employed as a junior lackey to make the tea, file documents and check invoices. Within a matter of weeks, due to a rather odd chain of events, I found myself heading up the printed fabrics department which was decidedly the poor relation of the plain fabrics division. I needed to find a way to increase sales dramatically but there were several obstacles in my way. These were mainly my experience of the textile industry which was none, my knowledge of the fashion industry which was none and my managerial experience which was, well, none! I also discovered that producing new fabric designs was costly and that my purchasing budget was never going to stretch to an investment in new artwork. For reasons best known to myself I decided that the only way forward was to design my own prints.
Now this would have been quite a decent idea had I possessed any artistic talent. However, I finished bottom in art at school, not just of my class but of the entire year and my abilities roughly approximated to those of a baboon. As I couldn't paint anything even vaguely recognisable I decided that abstract was the way forward. I was fortunate in that abstract prints and geometric designs were in vogue as were naive graphics and naive was a flattering description when it came to my efforts! I availed myself of the easel, paints and paper left by my predecessor and set about throwing paint at the paper creating splat patterns and smeared abstracts together with a few naive flowers that might have been daisies but which were, frankly, rubbish. I also managed to cover myself in multiple colours of acrylic paint which made me heartily glad that I was only wearing a pair of old jeans.
My masterpieces (think Jackson Pollock meets cack handed baboon) were subsequently made into transfer prints for the fabrics and I printed some samples for the sales reps. I was mildly astonished when they started taking enormous orders for my designs and within a year the sales of printed fabrics had increased ten-fold. I basked in the glory of my achievements for a short while but only in the sure and certain knowledge that I had benefitted from a passing trend that would never see the light of day again. I was wrong! As for those paint splatted jeans, well people oddly seemed to think that they were cool! I threw them away!
A Vision Realised
In 2010 I was astounded to see that some painted jeans styles had started to emerge. These featured splat designs reminiscent of my aforementioned efforts and really quite like my accidentally painted jeans. It seemed like a trend for the "I trod on a paint pot" look was about to take off but it all seemed to stall until last autumn when painted jeans were resurrected. Now it looks like a firm trend is developing some 30 years after I was throwing paint around in the basement at work.
Small, exclusive and independent jeans labels are now producing painted denim. It is clearly not a style that lends itself to mass production! Celebrities like Jessica Alba and Rita Ora are being photographed in painted jeans so you can be pretty sure that this time they are going to take off. Some labels are taking things a little further than the simple splats and are producing jeans featuring really quite splendid artwork. Take a look at DIY by Panida who are producing customised, pop culture inspired pieces featuring superheroes. What will we see next? Banksy masterpieces on jeans, Salvador Dali works or perhaps a perfect recreation of the Sistine Chapel?
Fashion writers have been quick to seize on the trend are mainly recommending "strategic styling" with these jeans. I let out a rather cynicism laden sigh when I saw this phrase. Partly because I thought that all styling was to some extent strategic as opposed to accidental and partly because it sounds like something a politician would say about a campaign leaflet. It transpires that "strategic styling" means that you should partner the slightly scruffy, dressed down appearance of painted jeans with smart shoes and a designer handbag. This is apparently so that you don't end up looking like a decorator's mate.
Hitting the Mainstream
As with all things fashion, the high street and the big labels must respond to new trends but this one defies copying unless they are going to employ an army of workers to spend their days throwing paint around. Instead, expect to see a lot of printed abstract patterns and possibly even a few splats. Diesel's Black Gold collection has been featuring some quite radical abstract designs and the other labels are sure to follow their lead. The styles that are out there at the moment are mainly for women but why? Well perhaps this is because men wouldn't go for something so radical or maybe it is because the producers suspect that many men have already created their own versions in the aftermath of DIY projects or perhaps a good session tinkering with the car. You see there I go again being visionary. The next trend must surely be for engine oiled jeans.
Which brings me back to my artwork. As it is unlikely that interesting painted jeans are going to be available at affordable prices, why not create your own? All you need is some fabric paint, a few brushes and a baboon. Creating your own painted jeans has two fabulous advantages. Firstly your jeans will be unique or in my case uniquely awful, and secondly you can use your favourite styles as your canvas. After all we all have our favourite jeans which fit us well and suit our body shape and we all know how hard it is to track the things down in the first place. Hands up everyone who has tried dozens of pairs of jeans before settling on the Levi's, Edwin or Wrangler styles that actually work for them? Clearly, if you want to jump on the painted jeans bandwagon then DIY is the way forward. Buy a pair of your favourites from Jean Store and then ruin them, I mean decorate them, yourself.