CREATIVE DIRECTOR 7 FOR ALL MANKIND
The LA-based label sets trends. Not just in denim but in eco fashion. They also reveal the must-have fall 2012 essential. One word: Sexy
Fall is one of the most exciting times of the year, especially for all the fashion mavens around the world. Perhaps one of the most identifiable pieces that link everyone together is a pair of jeans. For those who try to be a contender in the denim game, Seven For All Mankind has a leg up (no pun intended!) on the competition as they not only push the envelope with their unique style but also with their creativity in using fabrics, fits and finishes. For this fall season, they have released the coolest of cool snakeskin heat transfer jeans, coated and leather-like skinnies and a slim illusion colour program that is designed to make you feel a size skinnier. And if that’s not enough for those denim junkies, 7FAM is constantly pushing for sustainable approaches in constructing their products by finding ways to use less chemicals, water and energy. We caught up with Creative Director, Michelle Manz, to get her take on what sets 7FAM apart from other denim brands, what inspires their collections and why they chose actor James Franco to direct their ad campaigns.
IF YOU COULD DESCRIBE 7FAM’S PHILOSPHY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
MM: I think what we’re really about is an understated, sexy, casual vibe which is so much a part of what the LA woman is all about. I think it’s about trying to get that across to the rest of the world – that kind of understated sexiness
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT THE 7FAM GIRL IS ALL ABOUT?
MM: She's definitely feminine, she's got a sexy edge to her and she's cool. I think what is great about this brand is that we're a premium denim brand so there’s definitely that air of sophistication to her. She likes to dress up her denim. She can wear it with heels, she can wear it out in the evening. She’s sophisticated but sexy, and in an understated way, I think would describe our customer.
WHAT KEY WARDROBE ESSENTIALS DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR THE LA GAL?
MM: Practically every girl that I see walking around, if they’re not in a dress, they’re usually in a pair of jeans or cut-off shorts. I would say jeans are the foundation of the LA woman’s wardrobe. Definitely a skinny – you can wear it with flats or with a heel. Dress it up and go out in the evening.
WHERE DO YOU GO TO GET YOUR INSPIRATION FOR EACH NEW COLLECTION?
MM: I would say I’m heavily influenced by vintage so I do a lot of vintage shopping and looking at vintage magazines. I love looking at iconic girls – my favorites never change. It’s always Jane Birkin, Charlotte Rampling, Maryann Faithful, Jean Schrimpton, Bianca Jagger, Talita Getty - girls who really kind of set the tone back in the 60’s and 70’s – so I find those girls really inspiring.
IT’S SO CRAZY HOW EVEN TEN YEARS AGO YOU COULD JUST BUY REGULAR JEANS AND NOW IT’S TAKEN OFF INTO A NEW WORLD.
MM: Yea, and I think that’s why it’s actually become so interesting working within a denim brand because you really can reinvent the five-pocket skinny every single season. For fall/winter 2012, we’ve got the most amazing snakeskin heat transfer program. It’s constantly evolving, it’s never boring, and it’s something that they’re so easy to wear and so easy to style into your wardrobe.
I’VE BEEN TAKING A PERSONAL SURVEY WITH DESIGNERS AND ASKING – IS THE SKINNY A FAD OR IS IT HERE TO STAY?
MM: Definitely here to stay, without a shadow of a doubt. Absolutely…especially now, I think as a brand, it’s up to us to constantly reinvent and give the customer something new. If I think about how many jeans I have in my wardrobe now since I’ve been working at 7FAM, it’s crazy but I never get bored. I think we’ve got six or seven colors of the snake coming in the fall and I don’t really want to have to choose between them. You can’t ever get enough of them and it’s really about what the new color IS, what’s the new pattern, what’s the new technique – is it croc? Does it have a zipper up the ankle? Does it have a zipper up the thigh? Does it have a little bit of a kick-out?
The other thing that is interesting is that we’re pushing the technology so we now have jeans that have this amazing recovery so you’re not only comfortable throughout the day but you actually look good throughout the day. You know when you go home with baggy knees and sagging parts of your jeans, the jeans stay as good as when you put them on in the morning. What I’m really excited about is the new slim illusion program which are in stores right now.
WITH LA BEING THE DENIM CAPITAL NOW, WHAT MAKES 7FAM STAND OUT AMONG THE COMPETITION?
MM: Being first to market all the latest techniques and trends and really building it into more of a lifestyle brand that’s not just about denim. You know, when I look at most of the denim brands, it’s really about denim and a t-shirt. I think we’re so much more than that already so hopefully everyone else is seeing that change.
WHY DID 7FAM CHOOSE JAMES FRANCO TO DIRECT THEIR AD CAMPAIGNS?
MM: What we wanted to do was capture really beautiful moments in time, really try and capture that LA lifestyle and spirit and obviously the natural choice would be someone like James Franco because he’s born and bred in California. He’s an actor, artist, director, as everyone keeps calling him the Renaissance Man. He’s really got all these different qualities to his personality, which we were really intrigued by.
When David Lippman suggested using James Franco to shoot the campaign, and to actually direct a movie around it, we just thought it was the most genius idea because not only would James bring his point of view of LA that he obviously knows so well but we’d also get the most amazing movie and stills from the movie out of it. So, I think it just happened very organically.
SO, THE SOUTHER CALIFORNIA LIFESTYLE REALLY DOES HAVE A HUGE IMPACT ON THE BRAND, RIGHT?
MM: Yes, definitely. When I think back to fall of last year, we were looking at the landscape in California. We kind of, in our minds, did a mood board of a road trip from LA up to San Francisco along the coast and all the different kind of sights and images along the way. They really inspired so many of our washes whether Pebble Beach inspired our pebble wash…we were inspired by paint peeling off of old wooden huts to create these kind of layers of color. In men’s denim, we had these beautiful colored denims and even the glosses were inspired by the rain as you move further up to the northern part of California into San Francisco. We’re really inspired by the landscape, the ocean, even going down to Palm Springs – the rusty shades from the spring were inspired by those images.
IN 2007, 7FAM WAS SOLD TO THE HEAVY-HITTER VF CORPORATION. HOW HAS THAT IMPACTED THE COMPANY AND THE DIRECTION THAT YOU’RE GOING IN?
MM: VF is a massive, massive corporation – it owns North Face, Splendid, Timberland, brands like that. Very highly regarded global brand and I think that by us being a part of them it obviously gives us amazing support services. We really understand who are customer is. We have amazing resources in terms of innovation and technology.
I think what I find interesting is that they really do push innovation and sustainability. We’re not only looking to be innovative in terms of creating new product but innovative in terms of how we use less water, use less energy, make things more sustainable. I think that’s really been an interesting part of being under the VF umbrella.
SO, BECOMING MORE ECO-CONSCIOUS…?
MM: Yes…we’ve now managed to produce denim that you take off the loom and already has a soft feel and there’s no need to wash it. The customer can wear it immediately and it’s quite comfortable. So, it’s things like that – it’s a small step but it’s definitely important in terms of using less chemicals, less water and less energy…I think our consumers are interested in that aspect of being more sustainable, green and eco-friendly. It’s obviously difficult for a denim brand to ever be 100% sustainable but maybe down that road and offering a certain part of our product to be that way is really a positive step for us.
7FAM DOESN’T JUST DO DENIM, BUT YOU’VE EXPANDED TO MEN’S, NOW KIDS, SPORTSWEAR, HANDBAGS AND FOOTWEAR. WHEW! WHAT’S NEXT?
MM: We’ve actually got a lot of things in the pipeline but none of which I’m allowed to say. [laughs] I wish I could tell you but we definitely are moving into becoming more of a lifestyle brand. But whatever comes with that – you can imagine.
—by Lorna Umphrey
Photos: Courtesy of 7FAM