In Conversation: M.i.h Jeans
This season cult womenswear label M.i.h Jeans have collaborated with iconic stylist Bay Garnett on an exclusive capsule collection, celebrating London's eclectic style and vintage heritage. Exploring their shared love of the capital's idiosyncratic fashion, Bay and the brand's founder, Chloe Lonsdale, handpicked vintage treasures from Bay's extensive collection and reimagined them for the modern wardrobe.
With an unparalleled reputation in denim, M.i.h Jeans has pioneered the wearable, everyday pair of jeans. Building on the brand's own heritage (the Jane Birkin wearing Made In Heaven was originally founded in the 1969 by Chloe's godfather), Chloe has nurtured a brand with a distinctly inclusive, free-thinking blue jean spirit. As our pick of the Golborne Road designs arrive in store, we spoke to Chloe to unravel the story behind the collection, tell us more about her own understanding of vintage and pin down what she believes makes the denim centric brand so beloved to modern women.
Above Lorelle Rayner in the Turner Dress, shot by the infamous Tom Craig
For those who are not in the know, can we start with a round up of how you started M.i.h Jeans?
I grew up surrounded by denim – my Dad founded the Jean Machine stores and my Godfather originally started M.i.h in 1969. My mother was a denim model, and even my sisters and I as kids used to go through the old trunks of jeans in the attic and cut them into skirts to sell to our school friends. I always knew I wanted to be a part of the fashion industry and denim was the natural direction for me to take. We have such an amazing archive of 70s M.i.h Jeans that it would have been a shame not to bring it back into production.
Can you pin down what makes the brand so recognisable?
I think being a British brand already separates M.i.h Jeans from the rest. I’m a designer with a background in denim, with a family in denim and when you combine the two alongside being London-based; a hub for creativity and unique influences really makes for something very different. We specialise in vintage inspired fits and authentic washes. It’s not just about making a pair of jeans…it’s about bringing to life the girl, her attitude and way of dressing.
Above Another shot by Tom Craig from the Golborne Road campaign
A notoriously tricky item to buy, how do you streamline the process of finding the perfect pair of jeans?
Think about what you want your jeans for, work or play, formal or chilling. This really dictates the wash and finish. Normally, a faded more vintage vibe suits informal and a darker or black wash suits smarter wear. For style, there are key denim trends that are fun to try but don’t force yourself into a fit that doesn’t work. What makes a pair of jeans great is when they make the wearer feel great - nothing matters until that is right.
You consistently champion other women as a brand; can you say why you chose to do this collaborative capsule collection?
I only do things that feel good with people of business I respect and admire – it just seems to happen that the connection is with many wonderfully talented women but it’s been a very natural thing, not a strategy. Bay is an awesome stylist, an inspiration from way back when I was a fashion student. She created in essence, what we know as street style today. She had some amazing vintage denim and we bonded over what we could do with it!
Above The Tiger Camo Shirt from the Golborne Road collection
What do you think is the overall message of the Golborne Road collection?
It’s really about capturing the spirit of the area in the 90’s. As a Central Saint Martins student back then, we all wanted to live just off the Portobello Road and were inspired by the burgeoning style scene coming out of West London. It was a decade, which introduced a new way of dressing, mixing high and low, vintage and designer, something old and something new. London girls raided their Mum’s wardrobes and went thrifting at market stalls styling denim with vintage to create a unique street style. Together we wanted this collection to tell the story of London style then and now.
Above Lorelle Rayner in the Tiger Camo Shirt
Can you tell us about the first time you met Bay Garnett?
Bay would always come to our press days as a contributor to British Vogue. Full of enthusiasm and great comments but at the end of it all she always said – "I must show you my vintage denim . . .” after a while I said ok then – lets do it!
Sifting through an archive like Bay’s surely qualifies as a fashion lover’s dream, can you talk us through the process of choosing each item?
It was a privilege and a lot of fun but it was also bizarrely simple. The pieces just stood out. The capsule was all based around the hero jean, the Bay Jean and then each piece was built around that to create an eclectic but perfectly formed wardrobe. A day in the life of our Golborne Girl. Every garment has a strong memory and personal connection to Bay and the pieces we ran with were the most emotional to her and the strongest to us.
Above The Turner Dress from the Golborne Road collection
We cherry picked both the Tiger Camo Shirt and the powder pink Turner Dress for the store, what are the stories behind each of these pieces?
I love the fact each piece from this collection has a real history and tells a story. The pink Turner Dress Bay discovered in one of her favourite shops on Portobello Road and bought it specifically for a British Vogue shoot styling Grace Hartzel a few years ago. I also know the Tiger Camo Shirt is one of Bay’s favourite pieces from the collection because you can style it with so much. It was an original deadstock piece, crisp, simple and authentic.
What was the art direction behind the campaign shot by Tom Craig? Why Lorelle Rayner?
The creative approach was lo-fi, naturalistic and spontaneous to really give an authentic sense of the Golborne Road girl. Tom Craig, who is a brilliant photographer, shot on film and with a super-16 camera for a retrospective lens on the clothes and locations.
Lorelle is cool, beautiful and talented. She is British and has an awesome sense of humour, oozes attitude and she happens to look great in our jeans. She turned up to the shoot and laughed because she’d walked just 10 minutes! Her flat is on the corner of Golborne Rd and we hadn’t even known it!
Above Lorelle Rayner in her own neighbourhood in the Tiger Camo Shirt
Can you tell us more about your own experience of London’s idiosyncratic heritage in fashion?
I think there’s a particular mixing of old and new, casual and elegant, vintage and designer, that’s unique to British style. Growing up in Britain gives you a certain irreverence for the rules of fashion and allows you the freedom to mix these different influences. Denim is an unpretentious fabric, it can reach up to designer and down to vintage and casual, so it really reflects that British way of mixing high and low style.
How do you see vintage within a modern woman’s wardrobe?
Vintage brings memories, personality and a level of craftsmanship not always seen in clothes today. It takes away the just bought ‘out of a box' look and gives you more layers to your style. It’s a natural way to dress and also sustainable. Each woman will find her own unique way of mixing vintage into her wardrobe, for any one of the reasons mentioned, or all of them!
Above Take a bow. A perfect final shot by Tom Craig from the Golborne Road campaign
As a brand that is constantly reinventing its approach what comes next for M.i.h Jeans?
As the London girl’s denim brand of choice and an industry insiders favourite, the next step is to really cement our identity and amplify our message through innovative marketing projects, inspiring collaborations, retail concepts (digitally and bricks and mortar) and select global distribution. I have many things I’d love to do beyond this with other product categories, lifestyle etc . . . but I try to go one step at a time.