While there's been a boom in the raw selvedge denim market recently, there are still very limited style options for women—particularly those whose jobs ask a lot of their jeans. When Taylor Johnston, a horticulturist at New England's treasured Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, couldn't find work clothes that were both beautiful and functional, she decided to make them herself. Launched this summer is Boston-based Gamine Co., and their inaugural product—a pair of dungarees—represents the new brand's dedication to quality, transparency and utility.
"Before I started Gamine, I saw there being two broad categories of womenʼs workwear: One, the high-end knockoffs that look like workwear, but donʼt stand up to the abuse—also, way too often made of distressed denim. Two, the industrial workwear options that fit terribly, and unlike their historic precedents, are made of brown cotton duck," Johnston tells CH. Thus, she confronted the questionable status quo of cotton duck and unflattering fits head-on and started from scratch. "I went through everything I thought was necessary and removed all the excess—no branding, no excess pockets, no slick stitching. Just super classic, stripped-down American workwear. It was really important to me that our dungarees didnʼt merely imitate what was done during the heyday of womenʼs workwear, but built on that tradition. I didnʼt want to feel like I was wearing a costume—I wanted it to feel native, yet modern."
Poring over each of the details shows how much thought has been put into the final product. The lack of any branding is a refreshing look and, unlike most typical jeans, the deep front and back pockets are patched on externally, meaning over time there's less chance of ripping. The knees have also been reinforced with another layer of denim to prevent blowouts. Meanwhile, a cinch strap helps create a tailored fit. "We hated how saggy our jeans felt after wearing them daily and washing infrequently," Johnston explains. Made from White Oak's 13 oz. raw, redline selvage denim, the dungarees are manufactured on "incredible antique machines" that family-owned L.C. King have been using to make workwear for over 100 years. As a testament to their quality work and integrity, the Tennessee-based cut-and-sew factory will repair Gamine Co. dungarees free of charge—a lifetime guarantee.
"Iʼm really inspired by those around me who buy less, but buy better," says Johnston. "I have the privilege of working around Bill Cunningham at the Gardner Museum—he famously wears a uniform of khaki pants, white T-shirts, and blue French workwear jackets. Thereʼs something so appealing about having a uniform that feels like you can bypass all the cool and just dig in directly to what a person is about. Itʼs humbling to be around people who strip things down to this idea of just getting up every day to try to do great work."
Next up for Gamine Co. will be the dungarees in another fit—for women with fuller hips—and developing more sizes and different inseams, Johnston reveals. As the cooler months approach, she hints that some "special" cold weather-appropriate gear is also in the works. No matter the product, however, there are two key principles that will firmly guide the brand's decisions. "First: donʼt add to the waste pile—make things that donʼt exist, but do it in a way that treads lightly and empowers people," says Johnston. "Second: go natural. I have this memory of living in Denmark and getting ready to ride my bike to a friendʼs house—it was snowing super-hard so I wore my waterproof, tech jacket. I was a total black sheep—everyone was wearing long wool coats. So elegant, but also functional. It really made an impression and itʼs why we work so hard to use natural materials in everything we do."
Purchase a pair of Gamine Co. Dungarees for $150 by visiting their online shop. Some sizes are sold out but restocking is in the works.
Lifestyle images courtesy of Winston Macdonald, studio images by Cool Hunting