Earlier this month, the ultimate intersection of early-aughts nostalgia and the indomitable athleisure craze occured: Juicy Couture announced the reissue of its fitted velour tracksuits. Juicy's founders, Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor are still at it, two decades after starting the brand (which they sold over a dozen years ago). In 2014, they launched Pam & Gela, sticking close to the comfortable staples that made them famous. Now they purvey grown-up versions of their iconic outfits — velour, sweats, T-shirts — some of which bring to mind that beloved Juicy pant that most (but not all) of us have had stashed away, deep in the recesses of our childhood bedrooms, for a decade.
Many aspects of Pam & Gela, like the styling, color palette, and, yes, price points are Juicy-plus. “We’re still into what we were always into," Nash-Taylor told Refinery29 of the Pam & Gela aesthetic. "Velour flares, a T-shirt, ripped-up sweatshirt, Adidas sneakers, and a fur — that’s my uniform, whether I’m on the plane, shopping around, or at dinner." Skaist-Levy and Nash-Taylor have always been pushing a comfort-focused approach to fashion, long before athleisure and upscale streetwear infiltrated the runways and store shelves. "What made Juicy a phenomenon is this idea of crazy comfort," Nash-Taylor said. "If you work in an office with a dress code, what’s the first thing you do when you get home? Get out of your work clothes and change into sweats." The duo sold Juicy to Liz Claiborne in 2003, but things went south and the companies parted ways, quite rockily, in 2010. "We were on a non-compete [when Juicy was sold] — we always say, it was like being in ‘fashion jail’; it was hell, and that's when we launched Skaist Taylor." The line had RTW price tags ranging from $300 to $2,000, and "it was everything we wanted to do with that kind of Ossie Clark, Ungaro-inspired dressing," she recalled.
The idea for Pam & Gela emerged shortly after: "When we tried to buy Juicy back for a minute [in 2013] — thank god we didn’t get it — we were thinking about what the modern-day Juicy would look like," Nash-Taylor said. "Your taste level changes." Pam & Gela revolves around velour, fleece, French terry, and cotton jersey, as Juicy did; the "four seasonless materials that we use over and over again," Nash-Taylor explained. There's also "crazy outerwear," with faux and real fur (knitted Mongolian wool and rabbit) and some leather pieces. There are quite a few details found on Pam & Gela velour pants, like these, that you didn’t have on your Juicys: For starters, expect faux double-welt pockets and a back yoke “to make your butt look extra good,” plus a fake zipper placket. “The idea is to look like more of a finished pant than a track pant you just throw on,” Nash-Taylor said. The rise is at least two inches higher than Juicy’s early-aughts iteration, which came about when ultra low-rise "bumster" styles were in (despite the perpetual threat of indecent exposure). But they're not that much higher: “A velour pant can’t be high-waisted; it has to fit a few inches below your belly button,” Nash-Taylor said. The waistband has evolved, as well. Juicy's classic ribbed-knit iteration is replaced by one lined in jersey for comfort and wrapped in velour, so it blends in with the pants for “a longer, leaner, more sophisticated look." Oh, and the velour pants come sans drawstring (you’ll find it on other styles, though), to make them more fancy-feeling. “The velour styles are meant for day-to-night dressing, and it’s not a very sporty pant, so a drawstring didn’t belong there,” Nash-Taylor said.
The palette is also a huge contrast point: Pam & Gela’s polished sweats come primarily in neutral hues, with lots of black, while Juicy’s color scheme “was formulaic, and it was about many, many shades of the same thing, and that just feels wrong now,” Nash-Taylor said. Another major difference: Pam & Gela hoodies don’t have a signature zipper pull of any sort. “It felt chicer to not do anything heavily branded with Pam & Gela; when we came up with the ‘J’ pull, we wanted to put it on everything — that’s how we work, we’re very whimsical.” But an instantly identifiable hardware detail isn’t entirely out of the question. “It doesn’t mean that in a day or two we won’t think of something that we want to put on everything; we reserve the right to change our minds!” The pants probably feel different, too: “The fabric is nicer now,” she said. As for fit, the Gela skinny flare is a favorite of the designers: “Both of us are obsessed with flares, and always have been,” Nash-Taylor said, and their version involves double seams in the back, a “really cool design detail that accentuates the flare in just the right way,” and a tight fit through the thighs, all the way to the knees. “But they aren’t for everybody — some girls would never be caught dead in flares,” Nash-Taylor explained, so the brand makes a few other styles, like a “fitted, pajama-bottom like pant” in cropped and full lengths, plus a bootcut that’s the most similar to the Juicy sweats of yesteryear. (New velour styles in the fall '16 collection, including those pictured here, hit stores next month.)
While the designer-BFFs moved on from the empire they built, they're savvily staying in the Juicy conversation. They're currently writing scripts for a Mila Kunis-produced TV show adaptation of their 2015 memoir, The Glitter Plan: How We Started Juicy Couture for $200 and Turned It into a Global Brand. (The premiere date hasn't yet been announced.) "The thing about the book that Mila loved is that it’s a story about two best friends who love each other, and are happy people. It’s not like one is the ‘bad guy’," Nash-Taylor said. And now, after all this time, there's a very real possibility of spotting some freshly acquired Juicy tracksuits out and about, since the once fiercely beloved brand is forging a comeback. "Juicy was visceral: It really hit girls [emotionally], and people had intense feelings about the brand," she recalled. What remains to be seen is if Pam & Gela's grown-up velours (and much more) will have the same effect on the early-aughts Juicy fangirls who hung up their tracksuits years ago.