It truly takes a village to craft the perfect fitting jeans collection. With so much to consider, ranging from hardware to pocket style, from leg shape to fabric development, it’s no wonder the designers at Lee are always ready to talk denim.
Whitney Neary, a merchandiser for Lee, was immediately at ease chatting with me about Lee’s philosophy for designing its renowned denim. The main point of conversation for the day: How does technology, and particularly smart phone innovation, affect the design of Lee clothing?
With the recent release of Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, one of the many hot topics was the much bigger screen size compared to older versions. The “phablet” trend certainly isn’t an entirely new one, as other tech brands have been blurring the line between “phone” and “tablet” for years now. But when Apple made the jump to dramatically larger screen sizes on the most popular smartphone of all time, well, let’s just say it turned some heads. And for someone like Whitney, one of the first things to come to mind was how it will affect the clothes we wear as consumers.
For men, the issue has remained insignificant – even the iPhone 6 fits comfortably in all four main pockets of most jeans.
For women, however, phone growth highlights what has always been one of the greater challenges in designing a flattering, and yet highly functioning, pair of jeans. Neary says the conversation about pocket size in Lee’s women’s denim collections had already started well before the release of the new iPhones. And to her, it’s only one of many elements that goes into Lee’s design philosophy.
“Making pockets bigger isn’t always the answer, but we always look at how our pockets and fabrics perform in wear tests with women using their phones in their everyday lives.” Whitney Neary
Whitney and her colleagues on the design team are constantly focused on finding that harmony between form and function, between a pleasing aesthetic and a design that is useful for the women wearing Lee’s products. This means constantly going back to the drawing board and always being willing to re-examine even the most minute elements of their denim designs.
Whitney said the process always starts by staying in touch with Lee’s loyal customers, while also addressing new users feedback. There is a great wealth of knowledge out there coming from the women that are living their lives in jeans. They can tell you what is working and what isn’t, what they like and dislike about their clothing. One thing they learned in all of this research is how much consumers want and need to be “hands free” throughout their day.
“Not everyone always wants to be carrying a bag with all their belongings in it. Often times women want to have their hands free to take care of their kids — whether they are picking them up from school or taking them to a park in the afternoons — so their jeans need to be able to carry the essentials like keys and phones,” Neary explains. “A constant focus for us is to make a highly function product that is still flattering on a woman’s body. Making pockets bigger isn’t always the answer, but we always look at how our pockets and fabrics perform in wear tests with women using their phones in their everyday lives.”
The team at Lee studies everything from the way a pair of jeans reacts to multiple washes to how it fits into its wearers lifestyle from day to night, and from weekday to weekend. “The women that wear our brand have a very keen idea of what they should expect from a pair of Lee jeans. They want a jean that is going to fit great and function for them throughout all aspects their lifestyle. But they expect to get a jean that is going to be flattering and look great both dressed up and down,” Neary notes, as she laughs. She knows the responsibility of constantly setting the bar in the women’s denim world isn’t easy, but she seems to grow more excited the longer we talk about it.
Neary often comes back to the idea that there is always something that can be learned from the different types of feedback that her team receives, and there are always things that can be done to make Lee’s products better for our customers. Whether it is developing fabrics that have the look of your favorite denim and the feel of your favorite yoga pants, or making minor tweaks to the shape of the back pockets on a pair of skinnies, Whitney and the designers at Lee are excited to accept the challenge. So as we venture further into the world of bigger screens and technology that we carry with us everywhere we go, you can rest assured that there is a devoted team of experts ready and willing to craft the perfect pair of jeans for you and your phone.