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Susie Crippen

The brains behind J Brand jeans tells Lauretta Roberts how her love of dark denim contributed to the LA label’s success in a crowded market.

What prompted you to make the switch from Hollywood stylist to denim aficionado?
When my partner Jeff [J Brand co-founder Jeff Rudes] started talking about a jeans line, I started helping out and found that I loved it. From that point on I have never looked back.

The denim market has been flooded with brands, particularly from the US, but J Brand has been a big success. What makes your jeans so special?
I believe it is our simplicity. I have always loved the versatility of dark jeans ; you can wear them with anything. The denim market moved very far away from that aesthetic. Then we came along and I think women were just ready for something classic again.

J Brand pioneered the skinny jean – now a staple – but it was a radical silhouette when it first appeared. Why did women embrace them so readily?
It was radical. I think it had to do with the popularity of knee-high boots; skinnies were just so perfect to tuck into them, then they went well with ballet flats and later with ankle boots. Each look was equally fantastic.

And you followed it up with the iconic bell-bottom Love Story style, which is still going strong?
A bell-bottom jean is so flattering, it was only a matter of time before it came back. The perfect thing is now we have the option of both a skinny and a bell-bottom.

In your view, which pair of jeans should no woman be without?
A bell-bottom in a very dark, clean wash.

What are the next key cuts and washes for us to look out for?
I am very excited about our 7/8 jean, with a cropped fitted stovepipe leg. And our Heartbreaker, which is the same cut as the Love Story but with a smaller bell in the leg opening. I am becoming obsessed with a more distressed wash on a non-stretch slouchy boyfriend jean, again cropped.

Why do you think shopping for jeans is so traumatic for women?
Denim companies change styles so often that even if you find something that is perfect for you, the likelihood that it will be there next season is slim. The best thing a woman can do is teach herself what looks good on her and what does not, and the trauma will go away. I am one to talk – I’ve been looking for the perfect white T-shirt for decades.

How does the style of British women differ from US women?
I love British women’s style. They have a way of combining colour, texture and shape, all with such individuality. I think British women start many of the global trends. In the US we have a tendency to copy each other a bit. In the UK, women seem to be able to keep their own look with any trend.

How often do you visit the UK and which stores do you like to visit here?
I’ve only been to London twice since we started J Brand. I love to go to Paul Smith, he is so creative and inspiring.

Can you tell us about the men’s line you are about to launch?
J Brand Denim Co should be in stores in the next few months. It has vintage-inspired washes and three styles – straight leg, a classic bootcut and a fuller bootcut.

Do you have any plans beyond denim?
We have a few secrets up our sleeves for autumn 09 that we are excited about.

Who is your fashion icon and why?
Kelly Poe. She is a friend of mine in LA. She is an artist and enviromentalist and has the best style of any woman I know. She mixes vintage pieces with designer pieces and is very daring in her choices, yet when she puts it all together she looks great.

Kelly Poe:
Poe is a Los Angeles contemporary artist who has based much of her recent work on the time she spent with ornithologists in bird-tracking stations in the West of the US. She photographs birds when they are caught in the nets before being released.

Susie Crippen is the creator and co-founder of J Brand.

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