Ai Ly, Jeans Designer

Photo: Jake Chessum

What do you do?
I design jeans for Ralph Lauren. Personally, though, I like vintage jeans. It’s really hard to make them look authentic these days. You have people wearing jeans with too much stretch and jeans with a weird white stripe down the center, which I think looks really awful. Ideally, people should get rigid, unwashed jeans and wear them in themselves.

How do you describe your style?
Right now I’m really into a mix of fifties with a little bit of the Native American–esque. I saw that movie The New World, and the beaded bags and fringes were interesting. That will be cool for spring—like, feathers. My last look was more Art Deco, very decadent, a lot of metallics, and dark, dark colors.

Do you have favorite designers?
For men, Hedi Slimane. For women, I liked the latest Marc Jacobs show. And I like Lanvin, and Rochas. Ralph is a good fit for me because he’s interested in heritage.

Where did you get this outfit?
I made the black dress as a weekend project. I don’t really shop, I just go to fabric stores—my favorite is Mood on West 37th. The boots are vintage: I got them at Atomic Passion.

Why is vintage such a big trend?
It’s so much more well made, I think. You can mix it with something new, and it has a story behind it. I have garments with stains on them, and sometimes they’re, like, bloodstains, and you’re like, What happened here? It’s so personal, especially with jeans. How they’re worn says a lot about whether the owner was a farmer or he worked in a factory.

What do your jeans say?
Well, I never wash them, so maybe they say that I’m a ragamuffin.

Ai Ly, Jeans Designer