“There is just this primal disappointment when you don’t find something,” said Los Angeles jewelry designer Annie Costello Brown about shopping at thrift stores while showing me her impressive collection of denim treasures from Wrangler, Levi’s, and the lesser-known Rustler workwear brand. I knew what she meant. It’s like coming back to camp without a kill; like losing the hunt. Who wants to go hungry (hypothetically speaking, of course)?
Annie found the aforementioned Rustlers, which she wore for for our shoot, when she went out thrifting for a pair like the low-slung wide-legs from Gucci SS15 that she saw last summer in W. She was on a mission. #Accomplished. The Rustlers are so right on! And so great with not only her favorite Wrangler jacket (also a thrift store score), but with her statement-sized jewelry, too. Annie’s tip: “Stick to fabrics made of natural fibers when thrifting,” she says. To which we wonder: Was there ever one better than denim?
Shopping tricks were not the reason I visited Annie in L.A.’s Mount Washington neighborhood, where she works, paints, and lives with her husband and young son, though. Her jewelry – bold, geometric pieces made of silver, brass, and gold – and amazing, personal style led me there. And delivered. In person, ACB is gorgeous, well-made, and cool. I can see why it’s a favorite among L.A. designers like Clare Vivier and Jesse Kamm, who offer women stylish and reliable wardrobe staples. Clare sells Annie’s work on her site and in her stores; Jesse says, “Annie has some of the finest natural visual sensibility I have ever encountered. She is hands down one of the best-dresed women I know.” A kind of strength in character are what makes Annie and her pieces such a great fit for jeans. Read on, you’ll see…
Describe the denim you wore for our shoot in one word.
My jeans are thrifted. The jacket is RELIABLE.
Your jeans are a thrift store score?
I found the Rustlers the day before our shoot at Goodwill in Arcadia, CA. I had asked [the universe] for a new pair, and this is what I got. I had an image from W magazine in my head, of the Gucci jeans from last spring: low slung, oversized, boxy, cropped.
What advice would you give us about how best to wear jeans?
I often personalize my jeans, usually after I wear them a few times and figure out what they need. I might crop, dye, adjust the silhouette, or patch them. And wear clothing until it has really run the course of use.
What’s the best possible thing you could be doing in your Rustlers right now?
If you could pass your Rustlers on to anyone, dead or alive, who would you give them to?
My niece, Scarlett.
Fill in the blank: In my jeans, I am ________________________
…ready to get dirty making something or go to an opening or party. If they get ruined that’s ok.
Let’s talk about your Wrangler jacket. If you could go anywhere in the world in it tomorrow, where would you go?
What do you and your jacket have in common?
Maybe we’re both hardworking. Not precious.
What do your jewelry and jacket have in common?
With my jewelry I’m aiming for looks that are not super trendy, that hopefully will be loved season after season. In that sense, I suppose they might have something in common.
Who besides you has worn it?
My son, for sure. I think that’s it.
What does your denim say about the way you live?
Casual, low maintenance.
What’s the best possible ending you could imagine for your denim pieces?
They might get cut up for patching other jeans, or recycled into other products. Hopefully, they won’t end up in a landfill like so many clothes do. The production of denim is an ecological disaster. (Maybe we can soon get past needing faux vintage washes that use so much water, and move into creating a desire for a clean, tailored, crisp new finish that ages naturally, by the wearer, not the factory?) A good place to recycle jeans for a good cause is Blue Jeans Go Green.
What do you love about thrifting?
It’s the aesthetic negotiating that I love about thrifting. It’s more challenging an exercise than the one you get in a curated, luxury or corporate-branded store. As I sift through the racks, questions of taste, the quality of the construction, history, and aesthetic risk are all combined in the experience. There’s also a hyper-awareness of class issues upon entering a thrift store. The majority of folks thrifting do so out of necessity. Thrift stores are not curated by fashion buyers, so you are the creative authority. Oftentimes, my favorite jeans come from thrift stores.
Is there something you always look for when you’re thrifting?
I tend to like generic, androgynous styles that have quality fabric and construction. Sturdy, with no stretch. It’s important for me to be open about what I might find, though. No rules or strict parameters.
Do you have an all-time favorite pair of jeans? Tell us about them.
I’ve had many faves, among them, a pair of Christopher Nemeth jeans, from back in the day. I love perfect white 501s. I was so inspired by [Martin] Margiela’s deconstructed denim in the 90s. And I have a couple pairs of Acne jeans I love, too.
Did you ever have a pair that got away? Tell us about it and how they got lost.
I girl I picked up hitch-hiking in Santa Cruz, CA stole my favorite Wrangler denim jacket from the back seat of my car. Years later, I found the jacket I’m wearing here – it’s the same exact style – in a San Louis Obispo thrift store.
Is there a denim look or fit you think will never go out of style?
Military-made jeans or pants will never go out of style. The intent of military clothing is utility, so it doesn’t sport the trend-based novelties and silhouettes that our aesthetic eye tires of quickly. And usually the construction is sturdy. I’ve never gotten rid of my military pieces for not looking current.
If you had to wear denim every day, could you do it?
If I had too, yes, I suppose. But, I’m looking for a dress that gives me the same sense of androgynous-chic as a good pair of jeans, right now. A climate change-friendly dress a working girl can wear in Southern California year round.