Redesigning Denim

Do you ever think about the counter-couture fashions of the counter-culture of the 1960s & 70s? [Or, as my professor describes it, hippie 101.] You’d love my class this quarter. We’re learning about clothing as a means of revolutionary expression through the lens of rock&roll, funk, punk, sex, drugs, war, anti-war sentiments—everything. Sidetone: It’s so interesting be learning alongside people so much younger than me. Our teacher asked everyone who’d heard of the Draft to raise their hands. Not all the hands were up! That’s wild!

This project is essentially pretending to enter Levi’s Denim Contest from back in 1974. Our job is to find something pre-existing and make it something else, indicative of ourselves by means of embroidery, painting, appliqué, additive / fusion, subtractive / cutout, etc. like the characters in our required reading, Native Funk & Flash. I’m inspired by the stories in this treasure trove. There are tales of drug-smuggling and there are winged penises. There’s also incredible millwork, if you’re a millwork-enthusiast like me.


Follow along with this project! It’ll be fun. Remake something schnazzy for yourself. You deserve it.

First, power through 50 [8 ½”x11″] sketches of ideas of possible future denim creations. This got painful after about 30, but keep at it! I drew up outlandish headdresses (that may very well be future projects wink*nudge) and more realistic ideas based on items I already own. When I hit a wall, I hit the thrift shop. I stopped in on Value Village and found this structured stretchy denim jacket with a wonderful problem: it’s too big. YASSS honey! Come home with me. We shall make beautiful fashion together.

To bridge the gap between ideation and physical creation, we take a closer look at our ideas, creating at least 5 [11″x17″] iterations. Not sure why exactly, but I took this opportunity to try digital illustration for the first time, focusing on two main ideas:

This incredible pair of shorts. They came from H&M‘s Label of Graded Goods (L.O.G.G.) line back when I worked there and I enjoyed that  fresh-off-the-truck quality check. Just by feel, you could tell something was different about these shorts. The denim is supple, but thick and has a generous stretch, they’re not just washed indigo, but also floral printed and slightly longer than your average denim shorts and also cuffed at the leg which gives us even more fabric to work with. Just pure perfection. Anyway, I wore them every (warm-enough-in-Seattle) day for two years until what some may describe as crotch blowout happened.

I don’t know if I can use that phrase, though. Sounds…weird.

But even as Spring turns to Summer I miss these shorts, so this is a perfect opportunity to attempt reinvigorating them.

Denim Drawing_1_LaceSweepSkirt

Also thought through some ideas for the jacket. My plan is to attempt both projects and whichever sucks the least will be my midterm.

What do you think? The final projects will likely be combinations of these ideas, but we’ll have to see. So far I’ve ripped the seams, so it’s truly a blank canvas.

Post your befores in the comments below and / or #wraysofsunshine on Instagram so I can see your projects! And stay tuned for the next part of this adventure, coming soon.

2016_Sunshine Signature_yellowburst

Redesigning Denim Image from Levi’s Denim Contest accessed 4/17/16Welfare (Winner: Levi’s Denim Art Contest), 1974. Photo: Sam Haskins © All Rights. The Sam Haskins Estate 2015. Native Funk & Flash. It is always my intention to link back to the original work referenced on Wrays of Sunshine. Questions about content? Use the contact page! 

Author: Brianna Wray

I'm an artist in Seattle just living the dream.


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