Check me out, striking a pose at the Selfridges #DenimLovers party, wearing... well, not a single patch of denim. Check Steve out v-signing it up, also not wearing a smidge of denim. Double denim doh! To drown my embarrassment for not partaking in what in theory is a ridiculously easy-to-participate sartorial themed party, I downed lethal margherita slush puppies instead and used the Say Fromage! photobooth one too many times. We were gathered in the suitably derelicte Selfridges Hotel to celebrate the denim onslaught that has flooded the department store, in lieu of the opening of its Denim Studio - a denim department like no other. Selfridges really doesn't scrimp on celebratory showmanship and so photographer Tom Craig oversaw proceedings in what was to be the first ever composite co-created fashion campaign featuring Jordan Dunn and Rosie Tapner. A photo studio was set up at the venue, and whilst Craig was shooting the campaign, we, the audience were encouraged to snap away as well on our phones, and to submit the images so that they would form a composite image with every submission credited and linked up. It descended into selfie mania with Jordan and Rosie being papped from every angle and the stages flooded with eager iPhone/Android welding people, ready to get a snap of themselves with the models. For better or for worse, Selfridges and Craig's concept for the #DenimLovers campaign summed up 21st century photo sharing culture perfectly and the results at the very least give credit to everyone who happily and excitedly participated.
Well now I have a place to remedy my denim deficiencies. The New Denim Studio at Selfridges is a triumph that would convert even the hardiest of denim shirkers. It's a triumph that deserves a two month celebration, starting with a denim makeover that even the famous Josephine Baker statue in the central atrium can't escape. You might have noticed that the summer sale windows were up for only a week as the windows have also been completely denimified to reflect the seven tribes (Superskinnies, Workwearers, Fashion Fanatics, Tough Lovers, Tom Boys, Retrovists and Extremists), which loosely informed the buy for the new department. Whilst I'm not generally a fan of pigeon-holed categories, the windows do reflect quite recognisable styles, particularly the girl and boy workwearers or tough lovers, and interesting to see that denim as a singular material has developed to the point where every aesthetic has their own lifestyle connotations. On a side note, what fun for the Selfridges visual merchandising and styling teams to get stuck into creating these characters and getting every nitty gritty detail spot on in the windows spot on, down to a scuzzy half drunk mug of tea belonging to one particular male punked n' ripped-up denim wearing tough lover.
Up on the third floor, the 26,000 sq foot Denim Studio awaits your perusal and I say this as a former denim-ditherer, it's 100% worth your time. I'm no longer someone who shirks away from denim, especially since discovering the joys of J Brand's boyfriend fit jeans and being thoroughly addicted to a customised Levi's jacket by Joe Duke, but I do remember a time when I would walk into denim departments and be instantly put off by the uniformity of jeans and confused by the associated jargon. And that's even before we have touched the thorny issue of sizing. The Denim Studio rectifies those sore spots and more.
First off the buying and creative team have addressed the idea that the Selfridges customer is price point flexible. Like their shoe department which spans the breadth from high street to high end, the Denim Studio sells everything from £11 jeans from Primark complete with supermarket style self checkout machines (about the only redeeming thing I can commend Primark for alas...) to diamond embellished £11,000 Paige jeans.
Everything in the middle is where they have gone denim mad with a mixed up and unexpected brand composition. The established likes of J Brand, one of Selfridges' top selling brands, of course gets top billing with a dedicated shop in shop. The usual suspects such as Citizens of Humanity, Current Elliot and Levi's also in there. Selfridges have secured many an exclusive so that immediately your attention shifts from the normal black, white and blue stacks of jeans the Hudson's digital printed denim or Paige's paisley patterns or wrinkled effect denim. On the cult denim front, they've scoured LA and New York for a clever mix which includes Tripp NYC (the folks who made Julia Roberts ho-ho-cut-out dress from Pretty Woman), 3X1, Kill City and The Laundry Room, with whom you can customise denim cut-offs with printed patch pockets for an extra pound. They will also be pulling in all the denim offerings from Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Victoria Beckham and Junya Watanabe to further boost this department.
Where it gets even more interesting is the DIY and thrift element that truly adds another dimension to what could have easily been a standardised and safely glossy denim department. East End Thrift Store have come in to set up a denim by kilo store, where you can buy vintage denim floral-patched shirts, shearling jackets, dungarees, ripped up waistcoats and of course piles of jeans, all for £25 a kilo. British denim also gets a shout out with MiH styles on offer for the first time in Selfridges and new customised denim label Hyena, who cover their jackets and cut-off shorts with badges and studs. This strand of denim will be supported by a programme of in-store events encouraging people to sew over, paint and rip up their denim.
Sizing should be a joy rather than a headache with the in-store Denim Tailor who can do two hour alterations across every single brand to ensure every pair you buy will fit like a dream. I've never seen so many head-to-toe denim dressed sales staff roaming around ready to pounce on anyone who walked into the eighteen fitting room suite. Apparently there are thirty of them on the team, manned with specific denim expertise.
My favourite part of the Denim Studio was the "Jeanius Bar", an interactive table scrolling with denim brand videos, street style images (all tirelessly photographed by GarçonJon), facts and figures and general denim inspiration images for you to drag across the bar and enlarge on the screen. It's a clever diversion for the other halves and kids tagging along on denim shopping excursions as well as being genuinely informative.
What I found particularly useful was the shifting and separation of casualwear away from contemporary brands. For example Markus Lupfer makes great sweaters that could well go with the jeans that you're buying and so Selfridges have united these elements with their denim offering to create a casualwear shopping experience. Same goes for moving tee brands like James Perse, Play by Comme des Garcons and Cecile and the more casual elements of Christopher Kane and Proenza Schouler's collections to the Denim Studio.
What's a celebration at Selfridges without some product exclusives? In the past they've painted things yellow, created 'no-branded' product and so it is that their denim-themed exclusives include oddities such as a special pack of blue Tic-Tacs as well as a slew of fashion product that have been denimified. This certainly isn't lazily conceived product either. Especially when it comes to pieces like the Maison Martin Margiela spray-painted denim print top and leggings or the embroidered Maison Michel headgear. J.W. Anderson, Richard Nicoll and Erdem have dived head first into the indigo with their exclusive dresses. On the shoe front, Robert Clergerie's flatform shoes, Toga's Cuban-heeled boots and Sophia Webster's neon polka fest are the definite highlights. Even the prim n' proper Belgian luxury brand Delvaux have dipped their iconic Brilliant bag in white and blue denim, illustrated playfully below.