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The denim cut the fash­ion set is into now: high-waisted, faded, and not skinny.

On the fi­nal day of Paris Fash­ion Week last Oc­to­ber, art direc­tor Sofia Sanchez Barrenechea wore what she had ha­bit­u­ally re­ferred to as her “crappy jeans” – old Levi’s, which she bought at a vin­tage store. Some­how, that day, they felt crappy no more. Pair­ing them with a struc­tured crop top, low-heeled boots and a pol­ished hand­bag, she achieved a look that could sur­vive even the French fash­ion gaunt­let. “I started feel­ing like I could pull them off ,” she says.

No doubt. In the past few months, many women on the lead­ing edge of the fash­ion curve have been seek­ing out vin­tage (or vin­tage-look­ing) denim that’s de­rived largely from Levi’s iconic straight-leg, long-rise and pale-wash 501 style – last popular in the 1990s. Even Vogue Paris edi­tor Em­manuelle Alt re­cently wore looser, straight-leg, faded jeans – a shift away from her sig­na­ture skinny crop.

“It does feel new af­ter a decade of skinny jeans,” says Lau­rie Trott, fash­ion ed­i­to­rial direc­tor of e-com­merce site Piper­lime, who’s been living in a pair of vin­tage Levi’s 505s – a straight-leg fit with a slightly lower rise than 501s – that she had ta­pered by a tai­lor. She wears them with Thom Browne for Brooks Broth­ers but­ton-downs and lowheeled san­dals. With such an oth­er­wise tomboy­ish look, she says: “I like a high­waisted sil­hou­ette. It shows I have a waist and hips.”

The new di­rec­tion is part of the nat­u­ral cy­cle of fash­ion, when the pen­du­lum in­evitably swings away from a supremely popular style. Florence Kane and Jane Her­man Bishop, founders of the New York­based denim blog Jean Sto­ries, think the pref­er­ence for the newly chic clas­sic jeans over the ubiq­ui­tous “jeg­ging” lies in in­di­vid­u­al­ity. “You don’t want to wear the same black skinny as ev­ery­one else in your of­fice or all of your friends,” says Her­man Bishop, whose fa­vorite jeans are cur­rently an old Ja­panese pair she found at Los An­ge­les vin­tage shop Mis­ter Free­dom and had al­tered at jean re­con­struc­tion com­pany Denim Re­vival.

In Sin­ga­pore, the look is gain­ing trac­tion too. Chelsea Scott-Black­hall, founder of home-grown denim brand Dzo­jchen, says she’s seen the trend grow in the past three sea­sons: “We be­lieve it’ll re­main strong. The era of the skinny may be tak­ing a break.”

And if adopt­ing the look means turn­ing to cloth­ing that once be­longed to some­body else, so be it. “Each (vin­tage) pair has a story be­cause some­one be­fore you has worn them in a cer­tain way or tai­lored them in a cer­tain way,” says Amer­i­can stylist Vanessa Traina Snow, who has a few pairs of vin­tage jeans, in­clud­ing her mother Danielle Steel’s old 501s. (“I mean, they re­ally are ‘mum jeans,’ ” she jokes.) She wears them el­e­gantly with an over­sized Ce­line sweater and pointy Manolo Blah­nik pumps.

Since few women have the pa­tience to sift through piles of used clothes, peo­ple like Traina Snow are do­ing it for them. Re­cently, The Line, the US e-com­merce site she co­founded, part­nered with Man­hat­tan vin­tage shop What Goes Around Comes Around to of­fer a se­lec­tion of vin­tage jeans. The on­line in­ven­tory of Levi’s 501s was quickly snatched up, but you can find a sim­i­lar faded, five-pocket style by 6397, a two-year-old Amer­i­can denim brand, on the site.

At the more main­stream end of the re­tail spec­trum, Amer­i­can fash­ion life­style chain Ur­ban Out­fit­ters’ Ur­ban Re­newal web­site fea­tures decades-old denim se­lected from dead stock by its buy­ers. A pair of gen­er­ously cut French work­wear jeans is US$398 (S$526), for in­stance, but Jean Sto­ries’ Kane re­cently snagged a pair of Levi’s 517s – a high-rise, boot-cut style – on the site at a more ac­ces­si­ble price. “I’m a very lazy vin­tage jeans shop­per,” says Kane. She wears her 517s with black pumps for meet­ings or flat loafers for a ca­su­ally chic Amer­i­can sports­wear feel.

Levi’s has shrewdly taken note of the kicked-up de­mand for th­ese styles. For F/W ’14, it re­leased a dis­tressed 501 style in Sin­ga­pore. Ac­cord­ing to its lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tive, the cut tra­di­tion­ally doesn’t sell as well as skin­nies or straight styles but this time, it nearly sold out. And as part of its main col­lec­tion, it de­buted the 501CT with a slightly nar­rowed – but not skinny – leg (from $169.90) in stores here. “Ta­per­ing was the sec­ond most re­quested al­ter­ation, sec­ond only to short­en­ing,” says Levi’s se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of global de­sign, Jonathan Che­ung. “It’s al­most as if we crowd­funded the de­sign.”

Oth­ers are also look­ing to fill the need. Denim be­he­moth Cit­i­zens Of Hu­man­ity has a faux-old Pre­mium Vin­tage col­lec­tion whose slouchy boyfriend fits might please a 501-fix­ated shop­per. Top­shop has been steadily ex­pand­ing its denim line from last year to re­flect trends and has since made its high-waisted, loose-fit, vin­tage-wash Mom and Hay­den styles reg­u­lars. And early this month, Alexander Wang de­buts his denim line in­spired by his fe­male friends’ love for vin­tage jeans.

Up­starts are get­ting in on the ac­tion too. AMO, a Los An­ge­les-based la­bel launch­ing this sea­son, started by in­dus­try vets Kelly Ur­ban and Misty Zol­lars, will of­fer five old-school styles with up­dated touches like a pitched-for­ward side seam that slims and length­ens the leg. “We wanted to cre­ate some­thing that didn’t ex­ist – some­thing that looked vin­tage and cool, but fit a woman’s body,” says Zol­lars. “We picked the fab­ric be­cause it lit­er­ally looks like the Levi’s 501s we’re ob­sessed with. It’s an open weave with beau­ti­ful twill and a shade of pure indigo.”

In Sin­ga­pore, Dzo­jchen has made its straight-legged Clas­sic Blue Jean a sta­ple since its 2012 de­but. This Fall/Win­ter, it’ll launch a style sim­i­lar to Levi’s 501s in washes like black, grey and vin­tage indigo.

Mean­while, Re/Dun, an­other Los An­ge­leno brand started by Sean Bar­ron (who co-founded ca­sual wear la­bel Joie) and Jamie Mazur (who founded denim flash sale com­pany Un­der­ground Denim), also strikes a bal­ance be­tween vin­tage and new. Both source old jeans from pri­vate deal­ers – any­thing with paint splat­ters and dis­tinc­tive nicks or fades ranks highly – then re­sew the fab­ric into one of three con­tem­po­rary (read: not quite so retro and high-waisted) sil­hou­ettes: “re­laxed skinny”, “re­laxed straight” and “re­paired,” which “look like some­one’s grand­mother mended them at home with an­other piece of denim, thread and a nee­dle,” says Bar­ron.

For all that work, the jeans are still priced about the same as your skinny, span­dex­boosted Ac­nes and J Brands – be­tween US$200 (S$264) and US$300 (S$396), but 100 per cent cot­ton jeans like Re/Dun’s or great vin­tage scores may be a bet­ter buy. Stretch denim will even­tu­ally sag, and any tears will curl up, not art­fully shred and fray. And with a high waist and looser leg, you don’t nec­es­sar­ily re­quire that body-hug­ging, stickto-your-hips stretch fac­tor.

“The skinny was de­signed to de-ac­cen­tu­ate the butt, to make it look smaller and nar­rower,” says Jean Sto­ries’ Kane. “I think women now are not afraid to ac­cen­tu­ate their be­hinds, and real denim is go­ing to do that. It’s a re­ally nice change.”

New brands do­ing the vin­tage denim look: Alexander Wang, & Levi’s with its 501CT style, and & Top­shop

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