Artist Ian Berry uses denim to create his own blue world.

Deep Dive

Before London-based artist Ian Berry was a viral sensation, he was a creative of sorts, starting at an advertising agency and then turning to fine art full-time. Inspired by what others might consider a mess—a heap of jeans—he experimented with using the fabric as his paint, cutting up old jeans and layering the scraps to make his art. The technique was a success that led him to earn a spot in the 2013 “30 Top Artists Under 30 in the World” by Art Business News.

Today, he’s known for his melancholic depictions of city life, a play on the role of denim in urban culture. In June, he bowed Hotel California at London’s Catto Gallery, a collection of work inspired by pool scenes from the denim-loving state.

Why are you drawn to denim?   

Simply put, I portray contemporary life in my art, showing life today, and for me there is no better material than denim—the material of our time—to demonstrate that. It’s just my paint.

How can brands improve the way they communicate sustainable stories to consumers?  

I used to work in ‘Ad Land’ many years ago. I was always amazed by the people around me who were some of the best in the world at what they do. They would always strive to be original. I’m not sure if that is always the case with denim, as you see a saturated market with the same message. I think in 10 years when they are talking about the best-communicated campaign on sustainability—something that really changed the tide—it may have to be from someone who outsourced a campaign to an ad agency rather than stayed in-house. Of course, any message needs to be based on a truth and a quality product. Big ideas are key; they can be communicated through all the channels. Too often, though, people think the channels are the ideas.

What was the last denim garment you purchased?

I was in Nimes in France and visited my friend Guillaume Sagot who brought denim production back to Nimes with Ateliers de Nîmes. I love the history of denim and really believe in what he is doing there. The ADN30 Indigo Soft Selvage is such a good jean.

Which city has the most inspiring street style?   

Well I have to say London, don't I? Despite all of its recent struggles and how it may appear to the world, I find London to be a really tolerant, accepting place. It’s truly a melting pot for so many cultures, and I think that has helped its street style culture flourish. The city has many established top-quality education institutions that attract the best qualified talent from over the globe, with many of them getting specialist denim education from the likes of Mohsin Sajid, for example.

What’s exciting you about denim in 2019? 

The irony is, I’ve never seen myself as being ‘in denim.’ I think I see denim so differently than most of the others on the Rivet 50. You need not be an expert to enjoy and feel comfortable with denim. I’m really interested in how the ‘normal’ person sees it.

While everyone talks about my work being made with jeans, it’s so much more than that. It’s more about communities. And something that is exciting me is the rise of London’s denim community. When I started my work all those years ago, I couldn't really name a London denim brand. Today, there’s a wealth of excitement in the London denim community. I’m excited to see how it develops.