Amo Denim

Designer Diaries

May 27th, 2015

“Finding that balance—how to make vintage denim modern and feminine—that’s the question we continue to ask ourselves when designing.”

The perfect pair of jeans…do they even exist? If you’re like us, you’ve been desperately scouring over-priced vintage stores, eBay, and your dad’s closet for the perfect pair, but even after scoring the right wash, you can’t for the love of all things denim get the tailor to have it fit just the way you want. But now, those fantasy vintage Levi’s and your most comfortable skinny jean just found their match: AMO denim.

The LA-based brand, named after the Latin word for love, began with two denim industry veterans who still couldn’t find a pair of a jeans they loved—or that loved them back—so they set out to create the ultimate pair. Considered down to the fully-cast buttons and perfectly frayed, let-out hem, these jeans capture classic washes and ideal signs of wear but feel like a (denim) dream with a uniquely developed “vintage stretch” fabric. With their inaugural season already selling out on our sales floors, we asked AMO co-founders Kelly and Misty about their love of denim, how they got their start, and what it means to stay true to a design philosophy even in the face of skinny-jean market saturation. The girls also share a passion for community beyond perfecting hemlines and back pockets and donate a portion of their profits to an LA animal welfare organization. Denim wizards and dog lovers—these girls have Bird’s vote for women of the year.

Tell us a little about your background and how you got into designing.

We met in our early 20s back in 2004 while working together at an up-and-coming, Los Angeles-based denim brand. It was back when the premium denim market was really starting to take off and it was an exciting time to work in denim. Our co-worker relationship quickly blossomed into a friendship and we found we not only shared a love for denim, but a desire to do even greater things. We’d spend our lunch breaks conceptualizing and dreaming of starting our own company one day (although we weren’t sure what exactly that entailed at the time!). It wasn’t until several years later after we’d both taken other jobs that we revisited the idea of doing something on our own. The timing felt right, and we were ready to bring our unique vision to women’s denim.

Can you explain what was most important to you when you set out to create the new product and line?

We simply couldn’t find the jeans we wanted to wear in the market, which is what inspired us to launch AMO. As saturated as the denim market was at the time, we noticed this big gap between stretchy skinnies and heavy, 100% cotton vintage jeans. We desperately wanted jeans that felt real, something that looked authentic but also modern and feminine at the same time—isn’t that what we all want?

During development, we focused intently on fit, fabric, and details. A great fit is something that we felt crucial in designing denim, but is often overlooked or rushed during the development process. As women and as designers, we knew exactly what we wanted in terms of fit for our jeans. We would both try on each fit and make sure the proportions and details were flattering on both of our different body types; anything can look good on a fit model, so this was the real test. We also searched relentlessly to find the perfect fabric: one that looked authentic but that had a hint of stretch for ideal comfort. With our detail-oriented tendencies, we relished in getting all the nuances just right, designing minimal but thoughtful branding, and hidden details (take a peek at the front pockets from the inside!). It was important to us that the branding be modern and discreet, but also recognizable.

 

What do you love to wear and where do you look for inspiration? Vintage will always be a big source of inspiration for us. We absolutely love rummaging through piles of old jeans to find one with a unique wash pattern or interesting sewing detail. But what truly inspires us is how women want to wear denim. Finding that balance—how to make vintage denim modern and feminine?—that’s the question we continue to ask ourselves when designing. It inspires a melding of concepts and ideas, which ultimately is where our best ideas come from. What do you love about living and working in Los Angeles? What other locales have been influential in your history? We love living and working in Los Angeles. It’s where we grew up and it’s a city we feel deeply connected to. All of our denim is made in Los Angeles, which allows us to work very closely with our manufactures. There are a many hands that touch the product as it goes through its production stages, and we feel thankful to know the people that personally that make our product. We are also very inspired by Vernon, an industrial city that lies just outside of downtown LA and home to many of the top denim brands and manufactures. We spend a lot of our time there visiting our wash houses and factories but it’s also a city with an unfortunate problem: an overwhelming number of stray dogs roaming the streets every day. As passionate animal lovers and dog owners, it hard not to pull over for every stray dog we see (we’ve done many rescues!). Inspired by our desire to help in a bigger way, we have partnered with SNP LA, the largest non-profit spay and neuter animal welfare organization in Los Angeles whose mission is to substantially reduce animal shelter intake by providing high quality, low-cost spay and neuter services to underserved communities in the Los Angeles area. By dedicating a portion of our profits to the program, we hope to help save the lives of countless animals through SNP LA’s many programs.

What has been the most challenging part of your business so far? And the most successful?

Like most small start-ups, we have the challenge of performing more than just one role within the company. The creative process of course comes very naturally to both of us, but just knowing how to conceptually design a great pair of jeans isn’t enough. We’ve had to really dive into the more technical areas of design & production, meaning anything from creating a tech pack to building a production calendar. We have our hands in every step of the process, from that first initial sketch to the final end product. Finding that balance between the business side and creative side can be challenging since we are both creative at heart.

Our biggest success is staying true to our original vision and why we initially launched AMO. It can be very easy to get distracted along the way and it takes a great deal of effort and determination to stay focused and not simply do things to please everyone. We’d set out to offer this curated and very edited denim collection of what we felt were the essentials that every women needed in her closet. In future seasons as we grow AMO, we plan to build on that concept but stay true to our original, focused design philosophy. It can be challenging to keep your confidence at times (we’ve had people tell us that we’re crazy for offering such an edited line and not having a super stretchy legging in the collection), but that’s when having two of us really helps. We give each other pep talks and remind one another every day of our vision and why we’re here. We decided early on that it’s okay to not be everything to everyone. We’ve found having one distinct point of view can be a really good thing and has ultimately worked in our favor to set us apart from other denim brands in a positive way. We don’t do anything that we don’t believe in 100% and we’re really proud of that.

Name one thing you’ve always wanted to learn but haven’t tried yet.

We’ve always wanted to try original denim washes: taking raw, untreated denim and creating a wash from scratch. We are very involved in every wash we develop, but we haven’t actually washed a pair of jeans with our own hands yet. The wash technicians that we work with have been training for years; they are extremely detailed and talented. You need a certain eye and hand to make a wash look natural and authentic since it’s a very involved process. Still, we can’t wait to get our hand on some sandpaper and give it a try…it’s only matter of time!

What is next for the line? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

Yes! We’re so excited about black denim for fall and our new “Pop” jacket which is just the perfect everyday denim jacket (and coming soon to a Bird near you!). Of course we’re always developing new fits and testing out new fabrics for future seasons, but there are also a couple new and exciting silhouettes for spring 2016 that we can’t talk about just yet…

AMO denim is available at all three Bird locations and online.