Workwear is often a man’s world, but gardener Taylor Johnston is changing this stereotype one dungaree at a time. She is the creator and designer behind the online women’s workwear label Gamine Workwear.
The word ‘gamine’ is a French name for a female with boyish charm, which complements the brand’s objective to offers ethically made clothing that is both durable and evokes feminine sensibilities.
Gamine Workwear doesn’t follow the fashion standards placed on women, rather the brand offers pieces that answer the needs of its working customers, including things like larger pockets, reinforced knees that are opened on the bottom to prevent blowout debris, and a buckle in the rear to prevent sagging during wear.
The brand sells clothing for the entire wardrobe, which ranges from fisherman smocks to vegetable-dyed tie bandanas. A mainstay for Gamine is the slim, slouch denim dungaree, which forgoes stretch for 100 percent cotton that molds to the wearer’s body.
“Probably our No. 1 feedback…was ‘please don’t stop making 100 percent bottoms,’” Johnston said.
The jeans are offered in three fits: ‘straight’ for women who have less definition between their hips and waists, ‘demi’ for women with a smaller waist; and ‘bold’ for hourglass silhouettes.
The inspiration for Gamine Workwear came to Johnston after an encounter with fashion royalty, the late photographer Bill Cunningham. While working as a gardener, she was featured in Cunningham’s famous New York Times column and wasn’t too fond of her outfit.
“It was sorta like, okay, I kind of feel like I need to find the clothes that make me look like I take my clothes seriously and my work seriously,” she said.
Johnston didn’t have a background in design, but she surrounded herself with friends working in the fashion and business industries. With this help, she was able to create a brand that quickly gained a customer base.
And she followed this initial success with caution.
“We didn’t want to grow super quickly as a business…we were kind of trying to figure out the best way to bring a niche product to the market in a way that allowed us to fit a number of body types and sizes that exist in this community, which is no easy task,” she said.
Vintage meets modern
The aesthetic of the brand is based on Johnston’s research on the history of female workwear during the 1950s. “It was like an archaeological project,” she said. For jeans, Johnston based the style “as close to the old miner pair that they are pulling out of mines and into museums.”
The dungarees are made from a 13 oz. selvedge denim from the now-shuttered White Oak Mill, which had a legacy that appealed to Johnston for its connection to early American workwear. Gamine still has enough fabric to do at least one more run, though for future denim pieces, Johnston the plan is to work with Mount Vernon Mills.
Gamine Workwear works with two manufacturers both located in the United States. One is located in a small town in Tennessee, and the other is Dickies 1922 in Texas. The latter allows the company to search Dickies’ archives and patterns for inspiration and modify patterns to create modern takes on classic styles.
As evident through its partnerships with local mills and factories, ethics play a large part in Gamine Workwear’s value system.
“We are a sustainable company in the sense that we try to use all natural textiles. We don’t use plastic in our packaging. We try really hard to use electronic correspondence and avoid the need for paper,” Johnston said. The brand also encourages consumers to think about repair. “We encourage people to think about mending and are working behind the scenes to kind of promote that idea.”
Gamine Workwear will be expanding its offering with new tops, bottoms, accessories and overalls. The brand is also creating a guide to buying jeans online.
“We’ve kind of worked out a system that works unbelievably well. So, whether you’re shopping with us or any other store, this is what you need to know,” Johnston said.
As the brand grows, Johnston will still be focused on filling the women’s workwear niche.
“My core objective isn’t to appear cool to other people in the denim world. My core objective is to serve a community of women that aren’t currently being served,” she said. “Their validation and support means everything to me. And I guess my cup is overflowed with that.”