Discussions about the triumph of athleisure wear at the expense of denim’s aching popularity from two seasons ago seem way too unrealistic now. The renaissance experienced by the blue fabric on its non-stretched version at Paris Men’s Week and Copenhagen Fashion Week this summer and the burgeoning appeal of jeans re-crafted from old vintage fabrics à la Vetements certify that alarmism wasn’t based on real consumer demand.
The craftsmanship and innovative design proposals of small independent labels also contributed to this trend. Here, we can insert the work of LA born-and-raised designer James Flemons with his label Phlemuns. Graduated with an associate’s degree in product development at FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising), Flemons decided to turn what he was doing –denim pieces created out of thrift stores’ findings or garments given to him by friends and family– into an actual brand in 2012. “As I am not working with yardage of fabric I have to look at the pattern of the garment and come up with a systematic way to assemble the patchwork in a way that's fluid and symmetric,” he explains. “I generally like to balance everything by wash, dark denims on the right and light denims on the left, or dark on the front and light on the back for fall collections and light on the front dark on the back for spring collections.” The strong character that these recycled fabrics irradiate meets then his flawless talent to play with proportions in an edgy way.
His design approach blurs gender frontiers and aims for breathtaking simplicity. His beginnings with denim were far away from feeling passionate about the blue fabric. “I initially started working with denim because I hated wearing it and wanted to find new ways to approach it that I would like.” But eventually he recognized that both denim and his design ethos –casual and easy– was actually a good match. „It's a transformative textile that to some can be appealing ripped, shredded, and frayed whether it be intentional or by wear and tear over time.”
Phlemuns fall/winter’16 collection encompasses highlights such as a patchwork denim dress with frayed edges for ladies and a two-wash jean jacket with snap fasteners and matching pants presenting extra big turn-ups. Moreover, Flemons’ savoir faire is also evident in other seasonal apparel pieces like turtleneck sweaters in colorful retro prints, knits with elongated bell sleeves and quilted plaid skirts. “I generally take design elements from different era's and find ways in balancing them together. I'm also big on taking things people tend to turn their nose up at and make them love it,” he says.
Phlemuns is currently stocked in Opening Ceremony’s retail locations in New York and LA and online at Homecoming Intl and Radd Lounge. In the pipeline there are more creative collaborations and a denim capsule collection.