Gamine Workwear: Your New Favorite Jeans
Posted on October 22, 2014
Taylor Johnston is a professional horticulturist at the beautiful Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. She is also the founder of Gamine Workwear Co. Taylor designs jeans. It is actually because of her gardening career that she founded this trade-inspired collection of workwear goods for women.
What compelled Taylor Johnston to take on a second (some may even say contradictory) career? Well there was this one day. This one photo. This one inspiration. I’ll let her explain it:
“During my first year on the job at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum– on a very important, physically demanding day– I came to work in my trusty uniform of ill-fitting, tattered work duds borrowed from the men’s rack. A $5 disposable sweatshirt featured prominently in this outfit. Unfortunately for me, I did not know that Bill Cunningham of the New York Times would be there, photographing us as we installed the 25+ foot long Nasturtium vines over the balconies of the third floor galleries.
I was pretty mortified when Bill’s photos, featuring yours truly, showed up in his “On the Street” column in the New York Times. Seeing myself in print made me realize that in some important ways, I was not actively building upon the proud tradition of my predecessors in the field of Horticulture.”
That’s how it all started. So how’s Gamine doing these days? Well, there’s a wait list. A wait list for pre-orders. For women’s workwear jeans.
And this is what I have come to learn. When you make something with purpose, to fill a need. When you do so in a way that distinguishes the buyer. Whether you are filling your own need or someone else’s. There will be a market. There is a market for the most global of needs. There is a market for the most mundane of details. Whether the purpose you intended becomes the purpose it ultimately fills, it does not matter. Your respect for a need, whatever that need is, gives buyers the opportunity to treasure the purposeful ways they use their bodies. This is the power of an item made with integrity.
There are very few items that bring out the child on Christmas morning in me. My Gamine purchase feels like a gift in this way. (I celebrate Christmas, please feel free to substitute with a special day of your choosing.) The only other item I can recall feeling this way about in my adulthood was the discovery of my purple cane. I feel as though these items were made solely for me, even though I don’t use either of them as intended. I actually use my cane incorrectly. Instead of leaning on it for support, I use it to propel myself forward (a common occurrence in people with drop foot). And my jeans? I live in NYC. I won’t be sifting dirt. But I will be on my bike.
So if workwear fills a global need, what are some mundane details? Let’s start with the pockets.
“I took the pocket design in our dungarees as an opportunity to make a statement-big patch pockets aren’t something you see nowadays. But more importantly, I really wanted to create a pocket where form follows function. The size/shape came about in thinking about all the crap I stuff in my pockets at work–phone, tools, maps, seeds, keys, and my actual hands!”
And the fit?
“In keeping with the outstanding tradition of American-made workwear, the collection highlights American utility and construction, tailored silhouettes, and natural fabrics that define graceful, good-humored beauties who work with their hands.”
In my very first fashion related post, I asked why Commuter Jeans don’t exist for women. I quickly learned that they do exist, though in every case the woman’s option was designed after the initial release of a men’s commuter. There does not exist a pair of women’s commuters that have the same amount and quality of features as the original men’s version.
Taylor’s outlook gives me a lot of hope. She is “trying to disrupt the idea that workwear for women should be a slightly modified version of what the guys wear”. I was telling her about my views on women’s commuter jeans when she told me about the recent history of Carhartt. For years Carhartt received hundreds of letters from women asking when they would release women’s workwear. They said they decided to do a children’s line before a women’s line because “they’re a very conservative company. culturally.”
What I am learning is that we have made great strides in how we perceive women and the physical activities that women perform. The change has been especially profound over the last decade. I believe we’re on the cusp of a collective shift in how we perceive the garments women wear while performing those activities. So when something comes along that matches form and function, I’m going to notice. You see, I write about the stigma of disability and the stigma of assistive devices. I believe that equality in fashion is no different than my fight for inclusion in retail.
You have every right to ask (and I hope you do ask), what does this girl with a purple cane know? And I’ll admit, I don’t know much. But this is what I’m learning: The market is a field of dreams. And if you build it, they will come.
To get on the Gamine wait list, go here.
To help me change the world, go here.