- Cressida Meale
It is rare that a denim brand can boast style mavens such as Kate Moss, Rachel Bilson and Victoria Beckham as fans whilst still in its infancy, but Siwy jeans are more than just your run of the mill basics. We caught up with Michelle Siwy, whose namesake designs are adorning the creme de la creme of derrieres worldwide, to see just what makes this extraordinary young woman tick...
What prompted you to start designing?
When I was a child, I was crushed by a car into an iron fence, which lead to many surgeries, long hospital stays and I was confined to wheelchairs/crutches and bed. My mother, who was a sewer in a factory, taught me how to sew and use a machine. I could still sit up and have use of my right leg to hold the sewing machine’s presser foot down. Then I remember developing an obsession with lingering in bookstores and libraries where they would have craft books and international magazines – this is where I’d get ideas. I used to get such a rush re-constructing my mother and father’s old clothing to fit me in a modern way. This is where it all began.
Who is the Siwy customer?
There really isn’t a particular age range. It’s a fashionable, confident girl or woman who knows what she wants. She has an appreciation for beauty and imperfection.
What is your greatest denim ‘fashion moment’?
I know I was the very first American brand to offer skinny jeans that cropped at the ankle and cut-off shorts in 2004. I remember worrying that people might not understand the designs straight away, but knew that if I styled them correctly, they soon would. It worked out very well and once I got the OK from some amazing stores it gave me the confidence to keep going. At that point denim was still very classic with boot cuts, so being completely unknown and trying something so off-the-cuff was a massive risk.
Biggest denim 'faux pas'?
The biggest denim faux pas would be wearing denim that does not fit correctly. There are so many amazing lines out there, there is no reason not to find your perfect fit.
Why do you find denim so inspiring?
I love that denim can change over time. Indigo denim starts off deep and rich. After it’s purchased at the store, the customer takes it home and it changes with them and their body chemistry. Denim is unique to you and changes over time. It’s comparable to your very own perfume fragrance. It ages beautifully when worn in a way that can’t be produced in a factory.
Is there anything/anyone that influences your work?
There is not one particular person, but there are people I know or have met, that have a certain personality and appreciation about life - happy people with great spirit.
Who would you like to see wearing your designs?
I feel like I have most of the influential celebrities wearing my jeans already. Maybe someone unexpected, like the Queen of England!
What is your favourite piece from SS11 collection?
I love the Anita flare jeans. When I wear them I feel longer, leaner and the perfect blend of rock n’ roll and beachy. I love how they look with a beat up, old T-shirt.
What were your first pair of jeans like?
My very first pair were by Diesel and that was in 1988. I bought them at Urban Outfitters in Harvard Square. I was on a mission to get there. I took all of my birthday money, told my parents I was going to my friends to watch TV and took a bus to Boston, then a train to Harvard. They were super wide leg and kind of cropped. Those were the days when I was hitting up the raves in Boston, so they were perfect. I wore them for years…
Do you know of anyone that is obsessive about or collects your jeans?
I know that Kate Moss always gets multiples of the same jeans in black and grey.
What has been your greatest accomplishment so far in life?
Being asked to be the key note speaker at the high school I went to. It’s a huge responsibility to inspire the children to dream.
How does the way people wear jeans differ between the east and west coasts?
On the west coast, it’s totally more relaxed. You actually feel a little ridiculous and over dressed in LA. In NYC, you have to be fashionable and functional.
Is there anything you would love to explore further in life, irrespective of money?
I’d like to start travelling more, again. It’s important.
Which festival would be an ideal match for some of your shorts?
In regards to the age-old debate: should you, or should you not wash your denim?
If you want it to be beautiful and unique to you, don’t wash. Spot clean and freshen up once in a while by washing inside out, using delicate soap and line dry.