Ask any denim-loving editor, stylist, or designer where they go for vintage inspiration in L.A., and chances are they’ll say Chuck’s. Not only do owners Chuck and Madeline Harmon carry one of the city’s best selection of jeans, t-shirts, Victorian dresses, and army wear, too, but the couple, who have been in business on Melrose for fifteen years, are the ultimate experts. When it comes to vintage – and denim, especially – they know their stuff. That they don’t always recognize their customers – “Morrissey was coming in all the time, for six years, I’d help him, he just said his name was Patrick,” Madeline told me – makes them even cooler.
Now Chuck, who has worked behind the scenes doing fabric development for some of L.A’s most successful denim brands (Current/Elliot, PRPS, 7 For All Mankind), is launching his own line – a unisex collection of denimhead-worthy styles made with the very best selvedge. If you can believe it, Chuck and Madeline are wearing the same jean in these pics (“Chuck wears them from raw, I don’t,” Madeline confessed). Denim really is amazing, isn’t it?
But new jeans aside, did you think I’d meet with L.A.’s best vintage sellers and not get some advice on how to shop for old jeans? Madeline just about blew my mind when she said that fit was more important that wash (I’ve been preaching the exact opposite, on Elle.com and everywhere else). “When girls come to me I always say, ‘Do not look at the wash, just look at the fit,’” she told me. “If you’re buying vintage, you’re buying it because when you put it on your body and you zip up that jean, you’re having a moment. Your ass looks hot and whatever you’re looking for – the Jane Birkin jean, or the Cindy Crawford jean, or the Marilyn Monroe jean – whatever it is that’s in your head that you are looking for, those women that you are aspiring to look like, they never, ever considered a wash. Never. Wash didn’t exist. And that’s the purity of those women and those jeans.”
And just like that, I wanted whatever Chuck’s was selling. New or old, I’ll take it.
If Chuck’s jeans could give us a word of advice – something you’ve both learned while working with vintage, or while designing the line – what would it be?
Madeline: Design from your own inspiration.
Chuck: Stay true to what you believe in and don’t follow the masses.
What would your Chuck’s say about you if they could talk?
Madeline: That I am crazy.
Chuck: That I love denim
What’s the best thing you could be doing in your Chuck’s right now? At this very moment?
Madeline: Swimming in the ocean with my kids and my family.
Chuck: Enjoying life to the fullest.
If you could go anywhere in the world in your Chuck’s tomorrow, where would you go?
Chuck: The back roads and small towns of America
What’s the best possible ending you could imagine for your Chuck’s?
Madeline: To live forever
Chuck: To be everyone’s go-to jean.
What do your Chuck’s and you have in common? Anything?
Madeline: Both our flaws make us perfect
Chuck: Simplicity and stylishness.
What’s your favorite way to wear them?
Madeline: With cowboy boots and a vintage t-shirt
Chuck: Cuffed at the hem with vintage boots and a flannel.
How many times a week or year would you say that you wear them?
Madeline: A couple.
Chuck: Seven days a week.
If you had to give them away, whom would you give them to? Why?
Madeline: Our daughter Emma Jean so they become family heirlooms.
Chuck: To our son William, so that one day he will understand what I love to make everyday.
If you had to wear them forever, could you? Why or why not?
Madeline: Yes, because they are like second skin
Chuck: Yes, because they are the best-fitting jeans.
Fill in the blank: In my Chuck’s, I am _________.
Chuck: Fearless, focused, and driven.
Fill in the blank: My jeans are at their best when they are _________.
Chuck: Worn every day.
Fill in the blank: My Chuck’s are to me what _________ is to _________.
Madeline: A child is to a mother.
Chuck: Family is to life.