There’s a reason women love Paige Adams-Geller, the founder and creative director of Paige. She’s warm, she’s friendly, and she believes that jeans can – and should – make everyone look and feel their absolute best. A country girl from Alaska, Paige channeled everything she learned on the road from Anchorage to L.A. (via New York) – staring with broadcast journalism (which she studied at USC), to self-love (which she found over time), and how to fit-model for some of the world’s best bootcuts (more on that later) – into launching her own company in 2004. Now it’s one of the most successful denim brands in the country. Oh, and she’s a dog person. What’s not to love?
Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing Paige at her home in L.A.’s Pacific Palisades. It wasn’t the first time we’d talked about her life in denim, but it was the first time she explained in detail where the back pockets on a pair of jeans need to be to make butts look great. She breaks down that – and the things she picked up from legendary jeanmaker Jerome Dahan when he was fitting what would become 7 For All Mankind’s most flattering styles on her – below. It’s Aha-moment stuff, seriously.
For our shoot, Paige wore her famous Verdugo Ultra Skinny, a signature style, in a tear-and-repair wash from the line’s new heritage-inspired Legacy collection. “It looks vintage, but the fabrication has modern fit technology,” Paige said of Legacy while playing in her backyard with London, her Multipoo, and Chelsea, her Lassie-look-alike Collie. Speaking of London, it’s Paige’s favorite city, and the inspiration for much of her fall collection, specifically the galaxy coated blue metallic jeans that she designed after dying her hair red and channeling her inner David Bowie. “It was so fun!” she said of being a redhead for a year.
“That is committing to your inspiration,” I replied, thinking: OK. Legit.
“Yeah,” Paige said, smiling. “I really practice what I preach.”
First, describe the jeans you’re wearing in one word.
If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow in them, where would it be?
Hiking in Bhutan.
If your jeans could talk, what would they say?
They would say “I love being cherished and adored!”
And what would they say about you?
That I’m genuine and quirky.
If you had to pick one thing you love most about them, what would it be?
Their lived-in look.
Click on a pic to see the slideshow…
With Paige – the line – what is most important to you: fit or fabric? Or something else?
For the most part, comfort is number one on my list. I don’t want to wears jeans that I can’t wait to take off at the end of the day. But with my background as a fit model, fit – and consistency of fit – are also really important. I know how traumatic it is to try on jeans and be overwhelmed. Really, finding a jean that fits, and that feels like your best friend, like you’ve had it forever the minute you put it on, like, Oh my god these were made for me! That’s what everybody’s looking for.
Was there a jean that you remember that did that for you?
Well, what I really remember most is the trauma, actually [laughs]! Especially when I was in high school, growing up in Alaska, and everybody had to have a pair of Levi’s 501s. And for some reason, I didn’t like the way I felt in 501s. I remember trying on Guess jeans that were made from 100% cotton, no stretch, skin-tight…and I remember having such a difficult time finding jeans that I felt looked good on me. I was modeling at the time, and I ended up starving myself to get those jeans to look the way that I wanted to look in them. You know, it was hard for me. [Paige is very open about her struggles with anorexia, and has been an advocate for awareness about eating disorders.]
Were jeans a fashion statement, more than a necessity? Did you feel you had to wear them?
In Alaska? Yes. Jeans and plaids and corduroys. 501s were the thing. Guess. And before that we wore Dittos. Dittos were so much fun, I actually loved Dittos. I remember we used to stick these big combs in our back pockets, and they had sayings on them: “If you can read this, you’re standing too close.” Stuff like that. It was the biggest trend to wear those jeans with those combs!
I’m not familiar with the combs, tell me more…
Totally [laughs]. The jeans were a high rise with a wide leg, and they came in different colors. My favorites were this Frenchy blue color. I actually have a blue like that in our spring line, coming up. But these combs – they were like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever – and we’d put them in the back pockets of our Dittos jeans.
Did you use the combs? Or were they just accessories for show?
The cool guys were supposed to take the combs out of your pocket and then do the little thing through the hair. These were the Farrah Fawcett-hair days. It was a huge trend. The back pockets had little roller skates on them, or rainbows. I loved that.
And after Dittos…
I didn’t wear jeans a lot in college. But I remember when I discovered Big Star jeans at Nordstrom. I thought they were the coolest ever, and they made me want to start wearing jeans again. Then when I started working as a fit model, that’s when my passion for denim came on full force. I just loved the versatility of it. I was fascinated by it, by how in its original state it was so raw and uncomfortable, and so different from the product that hit the store floors.
Click on the pics…
What jeans where your favorites during your fit modeling days?
I was in love with the Barbie jean from A. Gold E. I loved that jean. Then I think my favorites were 7 For All Mankind’s A-Pocket and Kelly. Those were jeans that I would always go back to – the Barbie when I wanted something more relaxed; the A-Pocket when I wanted to feel a little sexy; and the Kelly was my standard boot cut.
Tell me about being a fit model. What did you like about it? How is it different from being a print model?
[Print] modeling was never my favorite thing because feeling like a commodity was difficult for me. I developed anorexia doing that; I had to get help. Fit modeling was different, though, because I had to be a healthy size in order to get work.
My mind is all about proportion. That’s what I found fascinating about fit modeling. And I learned so much about design on the spot – it was like design school 101. In fit modeling I would try clothes on and then analyze why something looked really awful, or why it looked amazing. What is it that makes something fit really well? The lines, the angles, the proportions? Is it where the side seams are? Is it where the belt loops are? Where the pockets sit? And I fell in love with this. I literally found my passion. It brings me to tears when I talk about it, because it was while going through that hardest thing that I found the gift that I have.
You were the fit model for 7 For All Mankind when Jerome Dahan created the bootcut that fit everyone, and really changed the game. What was that like?
It was game-changing. And I was proud of it. I remember traveling internationally and going into Selfridges and Harvey Nichols in London and asking “Hey, what’s your best- selling jean?” And they would say 7 and I would think, Oh my god, that’s amazing! I was a part of that.
What’s the best thing Jerome taught you about making great jeans?
I say this, and he probably wants to kill me when I say this, but Jerome would always talk about how important it was to get the butt to look like cherries or peaches, or whatever kind of fruit. He’d really pay attention to the shape of the back of a jean – give it curves, so that it looked flattering.
Did you think about that when you created Paige Denim?
Yes. The first thing I wanted to do when we created Paige was focus on the butt – and have the best butt jean in the business. So, strategically, I was thinking about the pocket shape and size; making sure that the curvature was pretty, and that there was never any butt cleavage. My favorite little saying is: “ Say no to crack” [Laughs]. You don’t want to sit down and feel like you’re offensive! Exposed! That was one of the things I learned from Jerome.
Ok, break it down for me. What’s the back pocket secret to a great-looking butt?
If you want to have a perkier butt, I usually say look for pockets that have some kind of zipper detail on top, something that might have a flap, or something interesting higher up on your butt. That draws the attention up. But ultimately, I think that in perfect pocket placement, the bottom of the pocket should hit right where you butt cheek and your thigh meet. That to me is the most flattering.
Got it. What else?
Well, if you have a wider shape, not necessarily rounder, but flatter and wider, I think you should really be careful that your pockets don’t stretch too much with your jeans. Pay attention to that. Sometimes in stretch jeans, pockets should look a little bit smaller when you hold them up, so that when you put them on, they stretch into the right place.
And what about the secret to your success in business? Pocket placement can’t be the only thing you’re doing right.
Well, I am the best when I’m just 100% myself. When I show up with that person, that’s what exudes the best light out into the world, and I succeed. I think about our brand the same way. Not that everything in the collection has to be so me, but the essence has to be me. I think Paige has a warmth and naturalness about it, and if it’s too cold, too stand off-ish, or too uptight, it’s not right for us. Also, slow and steady wins the race.
That’s my favorite saying.
It’s so true.
OK, last questions: Fill in the blank: In my jeans I am _____________.
Comfortable and confident.
Without my jeans I am _____________.
Lost and naked!