Denim Manufacturers NYC
Denim is typically reserved for the humblest of wardrobe staples. But the Los Angeles-based lifestyle brand 69 transforms the fabric into radical statements of anti-fashion: perfectly square sacks with leg- and armholes, for example, or a skull-hugging hat that covers the face with a mop of denim fringe. The garments’ oversize cuts frequently conceal indicators of age, sex or size. The pieces don’t subscribe to any particular seasonal trends — and, in fact, they’d be hard to pin to any particular decade.
Founded in 2011 by an anonymous designer-artist (who uses the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them”), 69 aims to offer a new, inclusive approach to clothing. Its collection presentations have always featured a broad range of models — of different races, sizes and physical abilities — and are never without a sense of humor. The spring 2017 show employed celebrity impersonators as models, including a very convincing Snoop Dogg and a passable Tina Turner.
“Denim, like 69, is what you want it to be,” says the brand’s designer, seated on a denim-upholstered bench in their work space, an airy loft on the 11th floor of a MacArthur Park high-rise. The high-gloss lacquered floors reflect large swathes of blue, mirroring the open skies visible through the building’s floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as the ever-present denim that covers the studio’s custom banquettes and beanbags.
Over the years, 69 has won a considerable cult following; it was stocked early on by the downtown New York boutiques Assembly and Opening Ceremony, and its pieces have been worn by Rihanna and Chloë Sevigny. But the label largely functions as a repudiation of fashion’s status quo.
“The fashion industry is still pretty Jurassic,” 69’s creator says, noting its exclusivity and often restrictive standards of beauty. The designer sometimes appears in the label’s collection campaigns, photographed wearing a black head-to-toe bodysuit beneath the season’s new denim garments. Their anonymity frees the clothes from any demographic associations, aiding the designer’s mission to make 69 a brand for anyone and everyone. The name 69 is a little “cheeky,” they allow, but turned on its side, the number calls to mind an equal sign, “and equality is what we’re all about.”
- This Saturday, a survey of the label’s work, “69: Déjà Vu,” will open at the MOCA Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.
- It’s a showcase of the brand’s greatest hits: Clothing and videos documenting past collections will sit alongside household items designed by 69 (including several of those denim-upholstered beanbag chairs) and even a tiny denim trench coat custom-made for Abigail Pickle, the designer’s beloved Mexican hairless dog.
“I was impressed by the possibilities of clothing that can be worn by anyone,” says the show’s curator, MOCA’s Lanka Tattersall, noting how the garments playfully subvert fashion norms. While most 69 pieces hide the bumps and curves that can provide clues about a wearer’s identity, a few have hidden revelations. One pair of jeans features what the designer calls “butt voids,” tearaway back pockets that expose swatches of skin; another design attaches to the wearer’s waist and ankles and only covers the front of the leg.
Meanwhile, in the studio, clad in their black nylon bodysuit and a generously proportioned denim jumpsuit, 69’s founder picks up their vacuum cleaner and gets started on some housecleaning. They’re getting the place in order for a future where nongendered clothing becomes an ordinary, unnoticeable thing.