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While the whole landscape of options (or lack thereof) for plus-size shoppers can be described as problematic, denim has long been a particular pain point. There are plenty of trendy options in the $30-$40 price range from brands like Torrid, but those aren’t made to last; if you have to repair or replace $30 jeans every few months, it adds up.
According to Maggie Winter and Jac Cameron, co-founders of luxury basics brand AYR (All Year Round), this hole in the market inspired them to create the investment denim that women who wear sizes 14-22 have been missing.
“We want to consider ourselves a brand for everybody. For every age, for every size, for every cultural background,” Cameron told me at the launch party for the One Love Jeans.
“Our brand stands for great quality and we want it to last season after season, all year round,” Winter added. “We know denim, and so we thought we could extend what we’re already doing to an amazing audience who doesn’t have as much choice as she deserves.”
After deciding to make premium jeans for the plus-size market, it took a year to get the design and fit right. While AYR prides itself on the durability and quality of its products as well as understanding denim, the brand had to make sure it understood the exact needs of the curvier customer, too.
“Part of being among the first to offer it meant that we didn’t have a clue where to begin,” explained Winter. “It wasn’t like we could reference a dozen great $200 premium denim brands. We didn’t go to boutiques and shop among all the different brands, try them all on, and cherry-pick the best elements. We had to start from scratch.”
To get there, the design team worked closely with several experienced fit models who wear sizes 14 through 22. At one of the first meetings, AYR asked the models to bring in their favorite pair of jeans and explain what they liked about them. What was meant to be a love session quickly turned into a long list of grievances. “It was everything from the quality of their denim to the engineering of the fit to the details to the pitch of the back rises, construction of the waist band, and the durability of the product,” Winter explained.
So how does the One Love jean solve those issues? Winter and Cameron both explained that many tricks of the trade are consistent across straight and curvy sizes, from the stitches per inch to whisker placement on the thigh to the inclusion of a rotated side seam and narrower front panel.
But they had to add a few new tricks, too. The lengths of the front and back rise are different than AYR’s straight size jeans to help solve the problem of always yanking up the waistband. The two-piece waistband is also constructed to anchor properly for the same reason, and to accommodate both rounder and straighter types of figures.
For AYR, though, it really starts and ends with the quality of the fabric. The One Love jeans have 50 percent stretch and incredible retention, meaning they’ll hug your curves but won’t get saggy in the knees after a few wears or get that weird worn-out bubbling by the crotch after several washes.
“Investing in quality is a choice you make as a company,” Winter said. “It’s not good for your bottom line — we’re not getting rich off of this jean — but we have the chance to choose what we're making. We’re going to make a commitment to the integrity of our products.”
When I asked if they’d be offering extended sizing for the rest of the line as well as even bigger sizes in jeans, Winter and Cameron both expressed a strong desire to make the whole line inclusive. But to do it right, they’re taking it one step at a time.
You can shop AYR’s One Love Jean ($195) online and at the brand’s NYC pop-up.