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For CQY, Former AG Jeans Designer Views Authentic Denim Through a Modern Lens

CQY is quite literally a new generation of denim.

The “timelessly designed” brand is the brainchild of Samuel Ku, the son of denim manufacturer and AG Jeans co-founder Yul Ku. For 16 years, the younger Ku worked for his father’s company, starting in the weeds and eventually working his way up to president and creative director.

Ku’s deep roots in premium denim have conditioned him to keep a razor-sharp focus on authenticity, quality and local production—characteristics that tick virtually every box on the list of what today’s consumers are vying for.

“Authentic denim viewed through a modern lens,” Ku said of his brand. “This is the standard that guides what we create.”

Pulling inspiration from art, design and “everyday life,” the brand launched in Spring ’19 with styles that celebrate denim’s rich heritage while weaving in bits of contemporary flair. To design CQY pieces, Ku culls inspiration from the past, making frequent trips to flea markets and calling on vintage dealers who have become so intertwined in his business that, he jokes, “they save all the good stuff for us to check out first.”

Despite Ku’s lifetime of experience—and notable career accomplishments like quadrupling sales during his tenure at AG—CQY, pronounced “coy,” is exactly how he and his team are playing it. “I can’t say that we’ve evolved in any big way just yet, but every day we’re figuring out ways to do what we do just a little better,” he told Rivet.

Made up almost entirely of Japanese denim, each piece in the collection is cut, sewn, washed and finished in Los Angeles. Ku created the line under this philosophy in response to other denim brands moving their production and supply bases outside of the city to cut costs—a trend he said disturbed him, considering their fiscal savings have come at the expense of quality.

“It was important to me to create the best quality product possible, as so many so-called premium brands have cheapened their product as of late,” he said. “We’re doing what we can to support the amazing manufacturing resources we have right here in our own backyard.”

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CQY Denim
CQY Courtesy

And the race to produce, as most commonly seen in fast-fashion brands, is becoming less of a priority in the industry, as global sustainability efforts are changing the way many companies operate. While CQY may not boast sustainability efforts as loudly as other brands, it moves intentionally and delivers on consumers’ calls for quality over quantity.

“Timeless design and exceptional quality are concepts that have shaped the CQY collection. We wanted it to be everything you need denim-wise in your closet, and nothing you don’t,” said Ku. “Every woman needs a skinny, a straight leg, a 501-inspired jean, a boot-cut crop… there are so many.”

Currently, the two bestselling styles are the Friend-Moment, a $260 cropped high-rise cigarette leg, and the Palme-Sentiment, a $260 high-rise skinny. Next up for CQY are styles featuring military-inspired fashion and more colorful bottoms for Spring 2020.

While the collection only features women’s jeans at the moment, a men’s line is on the way. “The women’s denim market is ever-changing and so dynamic. Women are always looking for the next thing, be it a brand or a fit. It’s the most exciting category to be a part of in our industry,” said Ku. “We have plans to eventually launch a men’s collection when the timing is right.”

CQY is available in sizes 23-32 and sold online and in select stores, including Barney’s New York and American Rag.