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Markt & Twigs’ Michelle Branch Makes a Strong Case for ‘70s Denim

Throwback photos stir up laughs, memories and—for denim heads—a wealth of vintage denim inspiration. This weekly column on Rivet asks individuals in the denim industry to take a look back and reminisce about a denim moment in time captured on film.

This week, Michelle Branch of Markt & Twigs reflects on not one, but two photos from her past that highlight very different denim looks. Her love for jeans was first documented in the ’70s when she and her friends would draw on one another’s pants—a hobby that may have predict the painted and embellished denim trends that would follow.

It also foreshadowed Branch’s career in denim, which began at juniors denim brand Vintage Blue and eventually led to Levi Strauss & Co., where she was the men’s bottoms merchant for the silverTab label. Branch also served as a buyer for retailers like Express and a creative director for mills such as Arvind and Jeanologia before ultimately launching her own denim marketing business, Markt & Twigs Inc.

Michelle Branch, Markt & Twigs, Inc. creative director

These photos were taken about three years apart in almost the exact same spot. The difference between the two images signifies both how quickly the denim industry changes and just how much they remain the same.

The 14-year-old me (on the left) wore a metal studded tee, a bandana over cornrows and totally destroyed, hand-bleached-in-the-sink, “customized” jeans—scribbling on friends’ jeans was popular in suburban New York.

Just three years later, the 17-year-old me (on the right) was cleaned up a bit, wearing a classic black turtleneck and raw jeans that were probably worn to the level of rinsed. But, now I had a little brother (in tiny denim coveralls), and those braids were set free! Today, it’s likely that you’d see me in a modern version of either of these looks (hair aside) on any given day.

The difference is that these shots were taken in the ’70s before our industry inflicted any real damage on the environment. It was a time when jeans were worn-in naturally on a human body to a variety of shade levels via time. These images remind me of the dichotomies in our industry as well as the similarities—of how far we’ve come and how much is still left to do.