The Denim Collab That Will Revive Your Spring Wardrobe

Now, more than ever, fashion is churned out and consumed at an incessant rate and we're inundated with incongruous collaborations between ill-matched brands, created for commercial gain. So it's refreshing to come across a collaborative collection, thoughtfully developed over two years, painstakingly made by hand, and consisting of just 150 pieces in total, for a project that is not driven by volume but instead by artistic integrity. This spring, London-based design favourite Faustine Steinmetz has teamed up with cult Swedish denim brand Cheap Monday for a covetable capsule collection made up of eight items, including jackets, jeans, T-shirts and a backpack, all of which are unisex and focus on two main concepts: merino wool felting, carefully crafted in Germany, and fabric pulling. The unique pulled weave pieces were handmade in the Stockholm Cheap Monday office by two artisans over a period of four weeks and the fabric can be further pulled by hand to make your own individual shape. Talk about the opposite of disposable, thoughtless, fast fashion – and we couldn't be more into it. With this Cheap Monday collaboration, Steinmetz was particularly excited to tap into a slightly new audience with a more accessible collection that will touch people who can't quite afford her eponymous label but as the quantity of pieces is so limited, you better hotfoot it to the checkout fast. We caught up with Steinmetz and Cheap Monday's Carl Malmgren to find out how it came to fruition and the inspiration behind the line.
Faustine, you wore Cheap Mondays as a teen but when did your love of denim begin?
Faustine: I started working with denim when I was about 14, I was a skater, a terrible skater! So I made a skateboard in denim with a pocket that was for my pet rat. He hated skateboarding so he never went in the pocket. I think that’s the first thing I did in denim. Then I would cut up denim which is where it all really started, however, I didn’t wear denim for about six years until I started getting into the Baby Rocker scene, which is when I began to wear Cheap Monday. Baby Rocker is like a Parisian Mod, very '60s, with brogues, Cheap Monday jeans and Aviator jackets. They were called Baby Rockers because everyone was about 16 but dressed like a '60s Mod. There were a few bands in the scene and we would meet every Friday at 6.30pm in Republique in Paris, and we were all dressed in Cheap Monday. That’s how my love for denim continued. And then I went to fashion school and I started to work with denim again and never stopped.

How did the collaboration come about and what was the starting point for the collection?
Faustine: It came very naturally, because when I was doing my Masters at Central St Martins, a few of the students worked for Cheap Monday in the jewellery, accessories and womenswear departments, so they showed my work to Carl who was interested in collaborating. I then received a message on Facebook asking what I thought and it all started from there. Very natural and organic. We knew we wanted the collection to be inspired by subcultures and music. To me that’s what Cheap Monday represents – this perfect osmosis between the music scene and clothing. From there we were influenced by metal, in particular that beautiful Norwegian black metal book and documentary about the Mayhem kids.

Denim is really having a moment in fashion with brands like yourself and Vetements transforming it from wardrobe staple to luxury, directional piece. Are you concerned by how 'trendy' denim is at the moment and do you feel pressure being labelled one of the 'hottest designers du jour'?
Faustine: I don’t get scared about other brands, but I do get worried when I see it in really mainstream publications as in trend pieces like ‘the item of the season is grunge denim’ and I see my clothes there. I don’t like that, and I never see denim as a 'trend' because when you look around, no matter what country, what year, 90% of people are wearing denim and I really see it as a very classic thing. For other brands, you can see denim items popping up in their collections but for me, you’ll see the difference, it's my basic. Carl are you concerned?

No because it's not a new thing, it’s been around for 150 years. It’s a textile that everyone knows and regardless of whether it's on the catwalk or not, people buy it all the time. It doesn’t disappear.
With such a focus on craftsmanship and an ethical approach, do you find it difficult working in an industry that is so fast and driven by disposable consumerism?
Faustine: Yes but I think that the industry is driven by the consumer. The customers are the ones that have to change and show the industry that they care about an ethical approach. If they buy leather, designers will continue to make leather products. If they start to move away from leather items due to ethical reasons, then believe me the buyer will go back to the designer and say 'hey this is what's happening' and there will be a change. So I don’t think it's about the industry being fast, it's because people want to buy a T-shirt a day and then throw it away. I think this collaboration shows that the industry is ready to move on, and I feel that Cheap Monday and the huge audience they have completely share that belief – that sometimes stuff has to be made by hand and sometimes it's okay to invest and buy a piece that is more expensive and you keep it forever.

We never want to see people buy a pair of jeans and discard them. We are working hard on creating those jeans that people will wear for 10 years. I think the aspect of this collaboration is that you buy a piece you cherish, and it holds so much value because a lot of time has gone into it.

Carl, can you tell us a bit about the process of finding and working with Faustine? Why was she the perfect fit for the brand?
Carl: Faustine’s expression and the way she works with denim really blew me away. Being a denim enthusiast and very passionate about it, traditionally denim is very much about recreating what happened in the past, and that has never been my angle on it, I am more interested in the everyday wearing of denim, subcultures and doing something new with it. When I started to see pictures of Faustine’s work everywhere I felt compelled to get in touch and see if we could meet as we are on opposite sides of the industry and I wanted to see if there was a middle ground.
Cheap Monday launched over a decade ago. What do you think has been the key to its success?
Carl: This project is about trying to find new ways and not to be too comfortable, to constantly look forward. I feel very inspired by this project and part of our success story as Cheap Monday is about always looking towards the future but also making garments for your friends. I don’t aim for a certain celebrity or personality which is where a democratic aspect comes in; it's totally wearable and I’m most happy when I see my friends wearing stuff that I make, that’s the benefit for me. With denim, if you can find a fit you like, you constantly come back to it and never take it off. I buy a pair of jeans and then I wear them until I can't wear them anymore. I think that’s what’s interesting with denim – you can have a real love affair with it.

And you only really have that with denim. I think it's because – if you want to – you can wear the same pair of jeans over and over again and style with anything.

Who, of anyone in fashion history, past or present, do you think wears denim best?
Carl: I like when you watch a show and the designer comes out after all the beautiful creations have appeared on the catwalk and he or she is wearing just a sloppy tee and jeans. I don’t have a particular muse or icon... it would be more the music scene and the subcultures coming from there. Maybe Andy Warhol, he was always wearing black denim. Follow Cheap Monday on Instagram @cheapmonday
Follow Faustine Steinmetz @faustinesteinmetz

The collection is available now at Cheap Monday as well as K3 in Japan and Opening Ceremony in New York. Prices range from £72 for a printed T-shirt to £450 for a denim jacket.

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