Nostalgia is a feeling that shapes the millennial generation. It’s also at the core of Rolla’s Jeans aesthetic.
That could be why young adults are drawn to the Australian denim label, which launched in 2012 and has since become a global apparel brand. Everything about Rolla’s—from its vintage-inspired marketing campaigns to its signature high waisted pants that give wearers the illusion of supermodel limbs—is rooted in the past.
And understandably so, when one considers the history of cofounder and designer Sarah Gilsenan. As the daughter of a dressmaker, Gilsenan was heavily influenced by the industry and essentially grew up in what would become her current office. Her idea of a playground had fewer slides and monkey bars and more patterns and sewing machines.
“I used to play with the fabrics as a child, which grew into making clothes,” Gilsenan told Rivet. “As a teen, I combined this with thrift shopping for things I couldn’t make like denim, corduroy jeans and cool knits.”
From there, she became a buyer for a local denim store and worked her way up. She started in retail, moved to wholesale and then honed in on product development before ultimately moving into design.
“It’s been a really well-rounded and hands-on way to learn many facets of the industry which ultimately informs what I do today,” she said.
That influence is almost tangible in Rolla’s collections, which feature key pieces like the Eastcoast Flare, an 11-inch rise that falls into a full bell bottom, and a vintage-inspired stone washed rigid denim that offers an authentic ’80s look. The flare is available in a multitude of fabrics and colors, and ranges in price from $99-$149.95, and the rigid denim sells for $99.
It’s not just Gilsenan’s past that lays the groundwork for Rolla’s collections. Her team also looks to everyday life experiences—another millennial catchphrase—to guide the brand’s designs.
“We find inspiration in road trips, live band shows, art and more recently ’80s photographers and décor,” she said. “I love old architecture and interior design books, as they usually have great color palettes and materials.”
One facet of the business that’s not rooted in history is its alternative payment methods. The brand uses Afterpay technology, which allows shoppers to buy now and pay later in a series of four installments. It promotes financial flexibility and brand trust—two qualities millennial consumers especially value.
“The next generation of denim designers needs to know their customer and have a clear focus around this to ensure relevance in a saturated and competitive global market,” she said. “And I think a focus on sustainability is key.”
Up next for Rolla’s Jeans is exactly that. While the brand is already employing sustainable methods such as using recycled materials for jeans’ pockets and working with ethical suppliers, the brand is doubling down on efforts for the upcoming seasons. It’s currently working with suppliers on ways to incorporate circularity and organic washed denim into its processes.
“We look for ethics and sustainable practices in our suppliers,” Gilsenan said. “They need to have a willingness to work collaboratively and grow together.”