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How Premium Denim Brand Agolde Challenges Industry Norms

There’s more to Agolde’s cool girl ‘It’ factor.

On the surface, the Los Angeles-based brand’s trendy high rises and popular silhouettes indicate that it’s an Instagram favorite—and with 115,000 followers, it’s joined the ranks of the denim elite. But venture beyond the surface and into the roots and you’ll find superior construction that mimics that of the classics: rigid material, vintage washes and confident simplicity.

It comes as no surprise to denim heads, then, that Agolde was co-founded by the “godfather of denim” himself, Adriano Goldschmied, and Ron Herman. Founded in 1993, the brand was a trailblazer at the time, considered rebellious for its lack of loyalty to the standard five-pocket jean invented by Levi’s over a century prior and copied by major designers ever since.

In the early ’90s, established brands had a monopoly on denim, and while Agolde—named A. Gold E. at the time—was the brainchild of denim royalty, it served as a creative incubator for the denim masters to branch out while honoring their roots.

Nearly 30 years later, the brand has held true to that concept and considers itself “the standard for advanced, directional denim” while “continually seeking inspiration from the past.”

As the brand’s design director, Erin Meehan is responsible for honoring this aesthetic while pushing it forward—consider her the human embodiment of the Warrior II yoga pose, in which one arm extends far back to the past and the other to the future, resulting in a perfect, unwavering balance in the present.

To that point, it’s fitting that Meehan’s background is in ballet, an art that requires a mix of rigid precision and flexible, creative interpretation. Growing up in Florida and studying at prestigious ballet schools, Meehan would obsess over fashion in her free time, but didn’t think it could ever become her life.

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It wasn’t until a friend extended her a job on the denim team at Gap Inc. that the doors to the fashion world opened. “I think when something is so innately a part of who you are, it will find you,” she told Rivet.

Premium denim brand Agolde has the Instagram following of a trendy denim brand and the precise construction of the classics.
Agolde denim Courtesy

That’s a philosophy commonly shared by the people of Los Angeles, where Agdole is based. And it’s the same philosophy that’s likely helped the brand roll with the punches of leadership changes it’s experienced over the past decade.

In 2014, denim aficionado Jerome Dahan took ownership of the brand and relaunched it, focusing on high-profile partnerships that grabbed the attention of A-listers, who are now some of the brand’s biggest fans. Under Dahan’s leadership, Agolde worked with A$AP Ferg, Opening Ceremony, Aritzia and others on exclusive collaborations before executives of Citizens of Humanity, LLC—which owns Goldsign and Citizens of Humanity—took over ownership of its brands in 2017. Dahan remains on the team as a consultant.

To keep the brand moving forward, Meehan focuses her energy on innovating, and does this by turning to art.

“I try to go to galleries and museums as frequently as I can to keep the creative wheels turning,” she said. “As a designer, it’s important to explore art beyond the realm of clothing. Developing a strong visual language is key to the development of any new collection.”

For Spring 2020, Meehan noted that washed black denim will serve as an “elevated” complement to the array of colors that come with the season. “Spring will be about transitional color for tonal dressing, reworked fashion detailing and expanding our shape offer,” she said. “The ’90s are still a focus, with a slight nod to the ’70s.”

Case in point: Agolde’s bestsellers consist of a ’90s mid-rise loose fit, $198, in a light-denim wash with light tears at the knees and hem; the Riley, $198, a high-rise straight cropped leg with a raw-cut hem in a light wash; and the crisscross upsized jean, $188, a classic loose-fitting dad jean with an asymmetrical waist.

“We’re taking the authenticity of the past but reimagining it for the future,” Meehan said.