Denim - for people who have to try too hard

Forget 501s, only designer jeans will do, says Emma Cook

Denim may be le dernier cri on the catwalks but don't be lulled into a false sense of security. Reach for those ten-year-old black Levi's at the back of your wardrobe and you could be in danger of committing a serious fashion faux pas. Quelle embarrassment - everyone knows they're so yesterday.

Forget 501s, think designer, deep indigo, turn-ups and lemon stitching. It's in the detail. We're talking soft weave, variegated, left-hand double wring spun. After all, this is denim territory, home to the most anally retentive fashion spotters. Fraser Cooke, DJ and importer of US labels Pervert and Subware, recently sent his jeans to Japan to get the "right sort of stitching" on his turn-up. He explains: "Everything is rehashed - take something old and give it a twist." This year's twist is to take the naffer aspects of the Seventies and Eighties and tell us they're cool. Hence Alexander McQueen's patchwork flares and splash-bleached denim, Ghost's bleached jeans, woven with silver threads, and Helmut Lang's low- slung, loose-fit range, which make you look as svelte as a sack of potatoes.

But that doesn't stop them selling faster than you can say rivets. Mandi Lennard at Browns tries to explain. "That baggy look may not be flattering but, in fashion terms, that means it is. It's got that look; it's anti- fashion and that whole unisex thing." Diesel UK marketing manager, Jethro Marshall, adds: "The look is dark, rigid denim. We mix the Sixties and Seventies with a contemporary look." Best summed up as workers uniform - a look the Japanese have capitalised on with their Evisu label, which sell for around pounds 160 a pair. There's also the Evisu denim jacket, with what looks like a large, white seagull on the back. ("It's taking the piss out of Levi's back-pocket detail," decodes Cooke.) Unsurprisingly, they go down a storm. Browns sold out before their first delivery arrived.

But fashion labels and denim will never be truly compatible. "Evisu is real fashion-victim territory," sniffs Cooke. "If you're going to spend pounds 70, Lee are good and work-wearish. I prefer old jeans - the best are Levi 501 XX." Reading between the seams, we can look forward to a designer backlash by June.

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