When Baldwin Denim opened a new store in their home base of Kansas City last year, the brand quietly soft launched a women's collection which they showcased in-store. Ever since, we've been eagerly waiting to see how their low-key, comfortable yet slim fits would translate for the female body. This SS14 season revealed, for the first time, a full women's collection that includes denim, knits, outerwear, tees and more—all produced in the USA. Eschewing the bright colors that traditionally appear around springtime in the fashion world, the collection sticks to their foundational color palette of black, white, navy and grey. Following the "less is more" brand philosophy, these minimalist pieces made from high quality textiles are meant to be closet staples, built to last seasons, if not years.
"My design aesthetic and direction has always been 'Sophisticated Casual," founder Matt Baldwin tells CH of his new collection. "It's smart in the silhouette and color palette and never over-designed. It’s for women that want a great pair of jeans and sophisticated basics." Although he founded the brand in 2009 without a women's line, Baldwin was developing it from the get-go. "I’ve learned in life and in business that timing is everything," says Baldwin. "In the case of expanding into a full women's collection, I had always had year four in my mind to firmly establish the men's and its position in the market, to then fully launch into women's." Being selected as GQ's one of four Best New Menswear Designers in America last year was also an especially sweet moment for Baldwin, as it unintentionally coincided with the soft launch of the women's collection.
The apparel choices like the Panel Sweater and Pocket Pullover are noteworthy for striking that perfect balance between relaxed and contemporary, but the jeans have always been the brand's pillars. The treatment process is the same for all jeans, but the main difference when creating the women's line was in the fabric. "While 99% of the men’s product is 100% cotton, all of our women's denim have a percentage of stretch in the fabric for a modern, tailored fit," explains Baldwin. We got an up-close look at the Rivington style; skinny, cropped jeans (named after Baldwin's daughter) and one of the brand's most popular, in a dark Missouri wash. With a blend of 98% cotton and 2% lycra, the jeans fit like a charm without sacrificing their authentic denim look; they feel sturdy and are meant to age well, unlike current offerings on the market that lean closer to the "legging" classification and permanently stretch out after a few weeks of wear.
"For years, women have asked for the beautiful, worn-in dry denim replica washes that they're accustomed to seeing in men’s denim," says Baldwin. "This is what [we] specialize in; we have an extensive library of reclaimed Baldwin denim from our customers and we base all of our washes off of these archives. The best part about it is that each wash has a backstory." The Missouri, for example, is based on a reclaimed pair of aged dry denim worn for nine months and washed only once, resulting in a smoldering dark blue. While other brands might find inspiration for washes by perusing through vintage shops, Baldwin finds it in his clients—and makes sure all of the washes are produced by hand.
Photos of jeans by Nara Shin, all other images courtesy of Ryan Strong