Denim is in the DNA of Chloe Lonsdale, founder of M.i.h Jeans. She talks to Janet Christie about her collection and her take on the family philosophy
Ten years ago Chloe Lonsdale launched M.i.h Jeans, building on the Made in Heaven brand started by her godfather and inspired by her father, who founded the Jean Machine stores. Throw in a mother who was the label’s first model and is still its muse and you can see why 35-year-old Lonsdale has spent a lifetime in jeans.
To celebrate a decade of denim, London-based M.i.h has revisited its archives and launched The Cult Denim Project, a capsule collection of its most popular sellers. From the iconic 70s dress to the versatile shirt and Topanga jeans, these are designs that embody the brand’s four-decade heritage and continued sense of modernity. Because denim never goes out of style.
Founder and chief creative officer, M.i.h Jeans
Q: Why did you choose these designs?
A: The ten-piece capsule collection is made up of the bestselling denim pieces from the past ten years. It was obvious which pieces would make up the collection; they were all real game-changers for us when they were first released; pieces that encapsulate the spirit of denim and the carefree attitude we love.
Which is the most popular from this collection?
The 70s Denim Dress was our best ever selling piece, it sold out three times over within days. The design was taken from an original 70s cut and perfectly encapsulates the spirit we strive for. It became one of the most recognisable pieces we’ve ever made. It’s easy to wear, fun, playful and it feels uniquely M.i.h.
Which is the most representative of the brand?
The Denim Shirt. For me, an authentic heavyweight denim shirt is what everyone needs when they want to bring denim into their wardrobe in a way that’s not necessarily jeans. It is the most versatile piece you can own; wear over a silk slip dress in the summer or over a polo neck in winter. It reminds me of my father who is always in a denim shirt.
Which ones do you wear/like most yourself?
Topanga Jeans. It’s a cropped wide leg flare jean with a mid-rise in 11oz stonewash denim with real retro authenticity. We originally made it in Autumn/Winter 2013 and it still feels just as current today.
Why did you decide to set up the company?
I grew up surrounded by denim – my dad founded the Jean Machine stores and my godfather started M.i.h in 1969. My mother was a denim model and my sisters and I as kids used to go through the old trunks of jeans in the attic and cut them into skirts to sell to school friends. I always knew I wanted to be a part of the fashion industry and denim was the natural direction for me. We have such an amazing archive of 70s M.i.h Jeans that it would have been a shame not to bring it back into production.
What is your aim now?
I’d love for M.i.h to be known as an authority on denim internationally, possessed of a very clear vision of how denim can be cool, universal and have a true luxury quality. I’d be particularly proud if people think of us as one of the brands that define the style of London, a bit vintage, a bit dressed up, a bit dressed down, in the same way that you might identify Acne with Stockholm style.
What’s different about your product?
Being a British business already separates M.i.h Jeans from the rest. I’m a trained designer with a background in denim, with a family in denim, and when you combine the two with being London-based [the traditional base for the denim manufacturing industry is Italy or Los Angeles], it makes for something special. We have a passion for beautiful product and specialise in denim in vintage fits and authentic washes.
Describe the M.i.h woman.
She’s a real 70s denim girl. She loves vintage cuts and authentic non-stretch denims. She styles her clothes with a mix of designer and vintage but her energy focuses around her denim spirit.
How has it evolved?
When I started M.i.h Jeans all I wanted to do was create the perfect pair of authentic jeans, with minimal detailing in flattering cuts and authentic washes. Over the years we have introduced more ready-to-wear which now makes up 50 per cent of the business and completes the denim girl’s dream wardrobe. We are stocked in more than 500 global retailers and growing.
What have you learned?
Every problem can be solved, every obstacle is there to be overcome, and what you learn with every challenge will take you to the next level.
What’s your style philosophy?
Less is more, always.
Where are your products made?
We buy all our fabrics from Japan and Europe, and our denims from Italy, Japan and Turkey. For our denims, we work exclusively with six mills really closely to select denims that deliver the perfect look and fit for each jean. We also develop denims specifically for our jeans. For fabric sourcing, we visit fairs in London and Paris, and again have a handful of mills who develop fabrics just for us.
Who has influenced your style?
My mum, who was the original model for the brand in the 70s, continues to be my muse. No woman looks better in jeans and a t-shirt than her – it’s a look at the core of what we do.
What is your inspiration?
London. It’s my home and the way girls dress here is in my blood. It inspires me to always trust what I love and try things out rather than playing it too safe. It’s a real denim city, in surprising ways. There’s a particular mixing of old and new, casual and elegant, vintage and designer, that’s unique to British style. Growing up in Britain gives you a certain irreverence for the rules of fashion and the freedom to mix these different influences. Denim is an unpretentious fabric, it can reach up to designer and down to vintage and casual, so it really reflects that British way of mixing high and low style.
My upbringing, both in the country and in London, definitely affects our collections and aesthetic; the vintage fashion that the design team and I loved as teenagers in Portobello, Camden and east London; our memories of British style in the 70s, 80s and 90s; we always look backwards as well as forwards – and with denim there is always a bit of nostalgia mixed in with current influences.
I have been known to bring in little fisherman sweaters and denim skirts that I wore as a child as inspiration, as well as multiple pairs of my mum and dad’s old jeans.
• The Cult Denim Project collection starts from £165, Stockists: Selfridges, Net-a-Porter.com and Mih-Jeans.com