Denim designers had California on their minds when crafting the latest cuts, but more as a blissed-out '70s state of mind than any actual representation of the Golden State. Channeling the sun-bleached styles of Laurel Canyon folk rockers, the carefree surfers and skaters of Malibu, and jiggle TV shows like Charlie's Angels, FRAME, MOTHER and PAIGE made high waists, flared legs and vintage washes feel totally fresh.
"There's always a nostalgia and sentimentality to everything that Tim designs," says MOTHER founder Lela Becker about her creative director and cofounder, Tim Kaeding. For spring '19, Kaeding played with cuts that directly drew from the disco decade, but the results are more SoCal than Studio 54. "The beautiful thing about pants these days is that any silhouette goes—skinny, flares, wide legs," Kaeding says.
"Which has been really nice as denim makers," Becker picks up. "You can do anything you want. High waist obviously rules everything. It's almost like the rise is specific, but the hem and leg openings are all over the place."
"This was a little like Dazed and Confused," says Kaeding about the spring styles. "They're all getting out of school," he narrates about the models in his looks. The aesthetic calls to mind the kind of '70s kids, like skater Steve Alba, who were kicking it in Cali swimming pools—not in their suits but with their boards. "Flood lengths with frays are pretty big for us, in tennis-shoe lengths," says Becker. "We did a lot of light blue and brighter blue. We've got some pink, reds and light blues," Kaeding explains of the palette.
"Jane Birkin and Lauren Hutton are our forever muses," says Erik Torstensson, cofounder of FRAME. "It's this '70s woman that we're obsessed with." The LA-based denim brand often looks to the lanky and sophisticated stars of '70s cinema for inspiration. But this spring, the looks are a bit chiller, as though plucked from the California coastline, not from the silver screen. "It's a style that's comfortable but commanding. It's really broken in, vintage—like you lived in Malibu for 20 years, you found your mother's old jeans and she was a painter and you pull them on and ride down the beach on your bike."
"The California jean is the main thing we are doing for spring," Torstensson continues. "It's a super-wide jean. It's an aesthetic that's very easy, not so tight. You can wear it from the beach to evening, from Malibu to Beverly Hills to Brentwood. It's super-relaxed, chic, with a vintage feel," he describes. "Because the silhouette is wide, it needs something tight on top, very simple, a T-shirt. And if you need something more, a denim jacket—a total Canadian tuxedo look. I think it's fantastic. The wash is so beautiful. I think it's the most gorgeous when it's just with a white '70s T-shirt. For evening, just switch out the denim jacket for one of our blazers."
Founder Paige Adams-Geller describes one of her themes for spring 2019 as Kodachrome. "This is like looking through vintage glasses," she says. "Faded, warm colors, floral prints, that kind of have that sepia filter, like looking at old '70s photographs." In addition to rosy hues, soft purples and bluebird denim, her looks include a lot of flared legs and cute wide-leg culottes, like the Nellie, in shades such as Blossom Pink Stripe and Lavender Fog. Adams-Geller's designs are always undeniably feminine but not at all prescriptive, and there's something for every jean queen this spring.
"Flare is making a big comeback," she says about her current collection. She gestures to her Genevieve wide-leg jeans, made in PAIGE's trademark Transcend Vintage denim, which doesn't stretch but still hugs all your curves. "These '70s-style flared silhouettes in our Transcend Vintage cloth are so comfortable," says Adams-Geller. A Sutton style offers a dressier trouser option in a sky-blue wash for streamlined looks that are a bit more Shelley Hack than Farrah Fawcett. But for those who aren't into wide legs, the Hoxton style still comes in a decade-inspired high waist and vintage wash but is cropped and skinny, which may flatter more petite frames.
Wear PAIGE jeans with the brand's flowy blouses for an easy outfit that'll carry you to any occasion. "Shiny satins are juxtaposed with georgette florals," says Adams-Geller about her top offerings. "These pieces easily transition from day to night."