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Where the Skinny Jean Was Born (And How to Meet Her Maker)

Ah, the skinny jean: beloved by many, feared by some, debated by stylists and threatened briefly by the high-rise, wide-leg blip on the fashion radar. We dare say the once-trendy denim silhouette has graduated into a staple shape in our wardrobes over the last half-decade.

Sure, no one company can exclusively lay claim to originating the skinny, but J Brand does take credit for its return. Since launching at L.A.’s Ron Herman boutique in 2005, the premium denim company has won fans for its straight and narrow leg styles and starkly plain pockets on dark jeans at a time when embellished versions seemed to be at an all-time high.

So what’s it to you? J Brand co-founder and former stylist Susie Crippen will be in town tomorrow to offer Bloomingdale’s shoppers personal denim fittings and style advice for wearing the soft, jersey dresses and tops from Riller & Fount, the company she co-founded with friend and business partner Marlena Ruiz. We caught up with Crippen recently to get the skinny on the skinny, fall’s latest denim looks and one very good reason to drive to Burlingame.

How many pairs of jeans would we find in your closet?

It’s ridiculous. I just cleaned out 15 pairs, and I must have at least 50. I also own a jean company. I don’t have all the crazy trendy stuff. I always wear the 910, the Etta or the Henderson. I wear them over and over and over again.

J Brand is often credited with igniting the skinny jeans trend. Are skinny jeans here to stay?

I think ever since the skinny came back, people have been waiting for it to disappear, but it’s really found its place. It’s become such a part of women’s staple wardrobe that I really don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.

Okay, tell us truly. Can anyone wear a skinny jean?

I don’t think there is such a think as a universal style, period. I think there are some women who shouldn’t wear a skinny jean. But if you want to, the best thing to do is to figure out how to style it so it looks great on you. The funny thing about trends is – and the funny thing about trying as a company to make everybody happy – that’s just impossible. Not every person can wear every trend. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with your body. Sometimes it has to do with your particular style.

What is J Brand’s most popular style of jean?

The most popular is the 912, the pencil leg.

We were checking out the new Oz pencil leg. It looks cool on the J Brand model, but we’re betting the tie-dye detailing on these jeans could turn into a fashion disaster in the wrong hands. What do we need to keep in mind when attempting to wear this style?


The most important thing to keep in mind is to have one piece of your outfit that is your focus. With something like the Oz, you want that to be the focus of your outfit, so everything else should work around that. You’re not going to wear your banana yellow high heel shoes that you just got. You’re going to want to wear a simple boot or a simple jacket.

Tell us about J Brand’s hottest look for fall.

For fall, it’s really all about leggings. They’re like a jean, they’re made out of denim, very lightweight material and extra stretch. It’s the same fit as our 910, but the fabric is so much lighter and you can wear them much tighter and they’re really, really comfortable.

Any favorite places on your agenda during your visit to San Francisco?

One of my favorite stores up there is Susan of Burlingame. I’m actually renting a car the day after the event to go out to her store because I love it so much.

Meet Susie Crippen and Marlena Ruiz Thursday, Sept. 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Bloomingdale’s, 845 Market St., 3rd Fl. Save 25 percent when you buy two or more pairs of regularly-priced jeans and receive a free gift with purchase (either a tote bag or scarf).