Denimsmith’s Creative Director, Leonie, On How To Make Great Fitting Jeans

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 2 weeks ago | Features

Image: Leonie Rutherford, creative director of Denimsmith.

Leonie Rutherford is the creative director of Denimsmith, and, with over 20 years’ experience in denim design, one of Australia’s leading denim experts, too.

We’ve just collaborated with Leonie to create the jeans of our dreams, the Nola Jeans, fairly- and locally-made in Melbourne by Denimsmith.

We decided it was perfect timing to catch up with Leonie to discuss her history with denim design and production, the science behind the perfect-fitting pair of jeans, and why it’s important to her that the jeans she designs are fairly- and locally-made.

Well Made Clothes: Tell us a little bit about your history with denim design.

Leonie Rutherford: My history with denim design spans over 24 years. I was lucky enough to make my start under designer Eugenio Zanchetta and learn from pattern makers for big brands Dsquared, Diesel  & Evisu, it was such an exciting time in Italy.

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be a designer, but it wasn’t until the late 90’s when denim crossed over into fashion, and I fell in love with denim design and chose to work in Melbourne’s denim community – yearning to learn every aspect involved in it.

WMC: What are the key factors to consider when designing the perfect jeans?

Leonie: There are four key factors in designing perfect jeans and these are the questions I commonly ask myself:
1. Pattern fit: will they cater to a lot of different body types?
2. Denim fabrication: is it durable? And equally comfortable?
3. Quality of make: will it last a lot of wears?
4. Wash: is it timeless? Will it become a wardrobe staple?

WMC: We hear designing and making jeans is extremely technical – almost a science. Can you describe some of the technical factors you have to consider when making jeans?

Leonie: Yes, it’s ironic that denim design is quite complex when it appears to have a very simple shape that hasn’t changed a great deal over the years.

There are many complex steps in the denim design process a lot can go awry: you are dealing with natural fibres that have a mind of their own; you need to calculate fabric shrinkage of different weaves; you require mathematics for engineering the pattern and chemistry for washing. Maybe that’s why the industry calls us ‘denim nerds’?

WMC: What are the key design attributes of the Nola Jeans?

Leonie: The key design attributes for the Nola Jeans are they’re made with love in our local ethical, accredited factory. The jeans have a vintage vibe with a modern silhouette.  They have an extra high rise and slim straight leg and perfectly placed back pockets for a nicely shaped booty. 

WMC: And what do you love about the Nola Jeans?

Leonie: What I love about the Nola jeans is that they are a weighty 14oz rigid denim, but on the body look weightless. Heavy denims can often look very bulky and awkward on the body, but this jean has the opposite effect and appears slender and nimble.

WMC: Why is fair and local production important to you?

Leonie: Fair, local production is everything to me!  I have a huge respect for local factory owners, this is where I was taught and grew up. The factory workers were not only my mentors but importantly friends.

The denim factory is my second home, I have always felt such comfort with the rattle and humming of the machines.  Factories are special places, they are creative, happy spaces and as workers we must feel safe and valued❤.

Shop our Nola Jeans here.



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