From politics and tech, to the entertainment and hospitality sectors, few industries have gone unscathed by reports and accusations of sexual harassment and inequality in the workplace—including denim.
In an interview with the New York Times last month, Marta Goldschmied, denim designer and the daughter of “the godfather of denim” Adriano Goldschmied, recounted the events that led to her departure of the very company she helped create, Made Gold.
According to Goldschmied, she left after Gary Brifil, the majority owner of the business, propositioned and inappropriately touched her. On June 8, she filed a lawsuit against Brifil in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging sexual assault and fraud.
This event served as the catalyst for We Wear The Pants, the three-piece limited-edition collection co-designed by Goldschmied and Gabriella “Gabby” Meyer of the custom upcycled denim line, Denimcratic. The focal points of the collection are a pair of skinny jeans and a matching jean jacket laser printed with approximately 30 news reports about sexual harassment in the workplace from major U.S. newspapers.
For the two denim designers, laser printed jeans are a platform to speak out and express support for the #MeToo movement. The collection is not intended to “call out” the denim industry, rather, Goldschmied said she wants the collection to spark change and to continue the conversation “so that the issue won’t be swept under the rug.”
“We are just using the fabric of denim to continue a conversation that unfortunately has been too predominant in the news. This issue goes beyond denim, beyond the fashion industry even. It’s a worldwide issue women have to face day in and day out. The goal for this capsule collaboration is to use denim as our blank canvas and tell a real story about what is going on with women today,” she explained.
“I think initially we felt compelled to jump on this project right away, but really this is a movement, not a trend. We don’t see this dissipating as a topic of conversation anytime in the near future,” Meyer said. “We are promoting change and offering support. I think steps are being taken in the right direction, but in context to gender roles, women, for centuries, have always been the underdog. It is not going to happen overnight.”
Adding to that, Meyer siad the collection is not only thought-provoking, but it also underscores the importance of complete transparency.
“We discuss our process, our manufacturers, and ultimately, we want to also be discussing sexual harassment and gender inequality in an open book manner. It has been a taboo subject for a long time, and we want to change that,” she said.
Key players in the denim supply chain stepped up to assist the designers with their mission. Isko produce the garments and finessed the designs with Goldschmied and Meyer at their Creative Room in Italy. (Isko is also providing the financial backing for several We Wear The Pants pop-ups across the U.S. this summer.) Trims company Metalbottoni and finishing technology specialist Tonello also donated their time and effort to the collection.
“We are so fortunate to have these companies, that are the best in their industries, supporting this project. These companies as a whole, not just individuals, are preaching that they support women, hire women, and treat them as equals. It’s pretty fantastic,” Meyer said.
The decision to use newspaper clippings to reinforce statements about inequality and sexual harassment was a given. Meyer used laser newspaper prints in her Denimcratic collection from the onset, primarily to shine a spotlight on Trump’s America. “I think over time, us as readers, start to become desensitized to the media, and we are really trying to combat that with this collection,” she said.
Meyer herself has developed somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the news as of late. In the last couple of years she said she went from being someone who looked forward to reading the news every day, to someone who hated reading the news. “There are so many personal accounts and stories being printed, that point to larger institutional issues like gender inequality and hostile work environments,” she added.
Goldschmied and Meyer connected at the inaugural New York Denim Days last fall, where Meyer had an outside booth to tout her Denimcratic collection of denim bikinis, upcycled puffer coats and custom laser denim. “I think [Marta] took a liking to the fact that Denimcratic is very politically driven and that I was one of few women running a booth at this event,” she said.
“Denim is predominantly male dominated, so it sparked my interest right away seeing another female running the show at her booth,” Goldschmied said. “Gabby is incredibly talented and has found a way to make and mark history with her laser pieces. Denim has always been the fabric of a revolution and I found her take on denim to not only be extremely fresh but I loved the idea of incorporating current events into fashion as a way to keep the conversation going.”
The collection is available online and will be sold at several pop-ups this fall. A New York City pop-up is confirmed for Sept. 7-9, followed by a pop-up in Los Angeles and a third in Milan. Retail prices are $58 for the T-shirt, $250 for the jean jacket and $375 for jeans. We Wear The Pants donates 10 percent of each sale towards the Legal Defense Fund, a fund that initiated by the Time’s Up Movement, in partnership with the National Women’s Law Center.
“My goal is to give back to the National Women’s Law Center and directly help women who are stuck in compromising positions at work get the proper legal care,” Goldschmied added.
Since it launched as a capsule collection, Meyer said quantity and size breakdown is limited. (Jean sizes 25-30 are available.) However, she and Goldschmied are looking to expand, given the overwhelming amount of support and feedback they have received on this project.
“I have been extremely overwhelmed by the amount of support and love I have received not only from the denim industry but the fashion industry as a whole. Growing up in the denim community I had the chance to grow up with the indigo giants and I can proudly say that they have all reached out with so many kind words of support, asking what they can do to help me and some even offering help with my legal situation, which has brought me to tears,” Goldschmied said.
That level of support has renewed Goldschmied’s creative energy. “Losing my first company almost felt like I lost myself,” she said. “I had to do a lot of healing to have the courage to come back in an industry that left me traumatized, but I am so proud to say I am launching a new project [this fall] and I am ready to get back to making jeans that make women feel good, because after all, our clothes are our armor against the world.”