This decade was when designer denim was truly born. A 15-year-old Brooke Shields starred in a Calvin Klein commercial chuckling, “Nothing comes between me and my Calvin’s,” bringing denim to the forefront of every fashion designer’s attention. The 80’s was a period in which designer labels were completely valued and were true status symbols. Although name brands were expensive, most people were more than willing to save their money.
Ripped jeans, stonewash and acid wash were some of the trendiest looks, along with skinny leg cuts that were narrowing at the ankle. However, the trend of acid wash jeans didn’t become popular until the mid to late 80s and quickly faded 4-5 years later before the 90’s rolled around.
To give jeans an acid wash look chemicals were used to strip of the color of the top layer therefore leaving the white fabric exposed. The faded look was due to the fact that the color remained in the lower levels of the material. Acid washing was done 1 of 2 ways: overall or made to look splotchy.
Calvin Klein. At the young age of 15, Brooke Shields became the face and body of Calvin Klein jeans. Her commercials were both scandalous and memorable which lead to a successful advertising campaign and helped Calvin Klein more identical with youthful, edgy sex appeal. The popular brand eventually branched out into not only clothing, but also underwear and perfume.
Gloria Vanderbilt. Gloria Vanderbilt’s were the ultimate designer jeans during the early/mid 1980s. Gloria Vanderbilt, the designer herself, was the epitome of a fancy high society woman whom most women wanted to emulate. Her jeans tended to be a dark, rich blue or even black with white topstitching. Each pair was topped off with that Vanderbilt swan stitch onto the back pocket. Although her dark washed were most popular, Gloria Vanderbilt’s came in a variety of colors.
Jordache. Dark wash denim, the windblown horse, that’s “the Jordache LOOK”. Just like Gloria Vanderbilt’s, Jordache had white topstitching on top of the dark denim. As a brand, Jordache began to invest over $100 million in commercial advertisements and print campaigns. The demand for Jordache jeans only grew larger as the early 90’s were approaching. Jordache was quickly turned into one of the most recognizable and pursued jean brand in the US.
Guess. The first major brand to hit on the style of “stonewashed” denim. This led to acid washing, shredding and other styles that had that fabulous distressed look. Modern colors and ankle zippers also became a popular trend for this designer. Guess typically used young, beautiful models for their advertisements, which was a real career boost for most of them.
Bloomingdale’s was the first department store to welcome the brand by ordering two dozen pairs of jeans. They vanished from the shelves in just hours. This was just the beginning of a long success story.
In March of 1989, a bitter legal dispute between two of the largest jeans makers in the country was finally put to rest. In 1983 Jordache Enterprises Inc. bought half of Guess? Inc. The brothers who ran Guess? Inc. accused the brothers of Jordache of providing false representations about the deal with the intent to defraud them. Jordache was found guilty of fraud.
The trial between these to major companies was not the only scandal in the fashion industry in the year of 89. Several months later, in October, David Warren who had been president of the Calvin Klein men’s division filled the vacant position of president in Jordache Inc. jeans division. While his explanation for transferring was brief, he did mention, “signing with Jordache meant moving into a bigger job.”