Calvin Rucker: ‘Casual Couture’

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On Oct. 10, Beverly Hills boutique Gratus hosted a trunk show for Calvin Rucker, the “casual couture” collection designed by Joie Rucker and Caroline Calvin.

If you haven’t heard of Calvin Rucker yet—it launched last year—you are, no doubt, familiar with the designers’ work. Last year, I profiled the launch of line, including the concept of “casual couture” and Calvin and Rucker’s influential position in the premium denim market.

Calvin Rucker: New Collection From Designers of Joie and Levi’s 

Joie Rucker and Caroline Calvin are well-versed in the nuances of denim. As Rucker describes it, “we were raised with denim in our DNA.”

Rucker is the designer behind Joie and Rich & Skinny, and Calvin spent much of her career at Levi Strauss & Co.—both in the United States and in Europe.

The two have joined forces for a new collection targeting a new segment of the denim market, which they have dubbed “Casual Couture for the Creative Class.”

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“We’re pioneering a new market,” Rucker said, describing Casual Couture as some- thing between ready-to-wear and couture “with a heritage of casual.”

More than a denim line, Calvin Rucker features luxury European and Japanese fabrics worked into familiar shapes updated with an understated elegance, which Rucker describes as “a chic, modern way of dressing.”

Calvin Rucker’s basic T-shirt is made from French lace, the label’s denim jacket is made from printed silk chiffon, and the V-neck is silk charmeuse trimmed with raw-edge silk chiffon.

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The Spring collection is inspired by the music—and the fashion icons—of the late ’60s and early ’70s—think Bianca Jagger, Francois Hardy, and the London fashion and music scene.

“There was always a glamour of the ’70s in how they dressed on the street,” Calvin said. The Calvin Rucker collection is designed to make the wearer feel “sexy, unique and timeless.”

Made in Los Angeles, Calvin Rucker features subtle, thoughtful details such as a signature dou- ble-belt loop that allows the wearer to layer thick and thin belts. The “Love Me” jean—a boyfriend style made from Italian selvage denim—comes with a chain belt created with jeweler Rafi Oganesian, founder of Monte Cristo.

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Fabrics are sourced from France, Italy, Japan and Turkey; buttons from Italy; and Catame zippers from Los Angeles.

One of those zippers is used on a hip pocket to give “The Heart-breaker,” a clean skinny jean, a sophisticated and subtle distinction. The style is made from a Turkish denim by Isko that has strong recovery to help retain the shape and fit. “It doesn’t bag out,” Rucker said.

Couture finishing

Calvin said that in her previous positions she was always inspired by couture elements but unable to fully incorporate them into a line.

“The interesting thing about denim is it’s a lot like couture,” Rucker said. “Every element of a jean is very manual. The washing, especially, has an element of being hand-wrought—to do it well. We, in L.A., have artisans who can do things that people elsewhere can’t do.”

There’s a hand-painted and hand-tinted denim inspired by water. A jean style called “Snowy Night” has a wash of black over white denim.

The designers are working with Los Angeles wash houses to develop new finishes and treatments.

“The laundries are like, ‘Okay, let’s go!’—because we can do finishes that exceed the creative expectations.” Calvin said.

Rich history

Rucker and Calvin met 20 years ago, when both were working at Levi’s.

“We knew we wanted to do a brand together,” Calvin said. “But then we went back to work the next day.”

Calvin said even then the two saw the premium-denim market beginning to take shape. But Calvin remained at Levi’s, eventually moving to Europe to serve as creative director of Levi’s global office, while Rucker went on to co-found Joie and Rich & Skinny after a stint as vice president of design and product development for Guess Inc.

Calvin spent five years in Europe, where she launched Levi’s Red and Engineered programs. She returned to Levi’s San
Francisco headquarters as vice president of design, where she launched the Levi’s Vintage line before rising to senior vice president of global creative design. Under her direction, the denim giant stuck design collaborations with Factory, Andy Warhol; X686; artist Damien Hirst; Engineered Garments; and Macy’s Passport.

Last year, the designers reconnected at a surf session in Malibu, Calif., and began talking again about launching a line together. But this time, their vision had broadened beyond premium denim into the designer market.

The two finalized the partnership via Skype on Nov. 11, 2011—then both went surfing, Rucker in Malibu, Calvin in Costa Rica. The date resonates throughout the collection, appearing as “11/11/11” on the buttons and the copper rivets, as well as even being hand-stitched on the label inside each piece.

“We are passionate about having our pieces mean something,” Calvin said. “Even our sundries have a story behind them.”

For example, a style with a hand- stitched, cropped hem called “Lost in Love” is inspired by a pair of jeans Calvin tailored for herself. The “Hey Now” has a drop-crotch and a relaxed fit. Rucker describes it as “a girls’ girls’ jean.”

“I wear this and get compliments like crazy—from other girls,” she said. “Girls with a lot of style will understand this.”

The launch collection is slated for October delivery in a handful of key California retailers, including Ron Herman Melrose in Los Angeles, Dressed in Montecito and Guild in Venice.

Wholesale prices for tops start at $118, and wholesale prices for jeans start at $115. Special pieces, such as the “Lost

in Time” style, are priced higher. “We’re really focused on the [retailers] who have the customers that understand the product,” Rucker said. One store is planning to merchandise Calvin Rucker next to Rick Owens and Givenchy, Calvin said.

“The woman who wears couture also wears jeans,” Rucker said. “We think they’ll understand the work that goes in this.”

The Joey Showroom in the Cooper Design Space in Los Angeles is carrying the line, which is being shown at ENK Vegas during the show’s Aug. 20–22 run in Las Vegas.

For more information, visit www. calvinrucker.com.

Published Aug. 12, 2012 at ApparelNews.net