LA is fairly synonymous with really, really good denim at this point, and edgy brand Mother stands out as a leader of the pack. Known for their super soft fabrics, amazing fits, and cool-girl silhouettes (this frayed style is a blogger fave), Mother began in 2010 as a indie label and still manages to maintain a distinctly irreverent attitude that's truly become its hallmark, despite having achieved mainstream appeal.
Founded by designer Tim Kaeding and Lela Becker, the brand is really all about having a good time while turning out a seriously awesome, LA-made product. Says Lela, "We stand for having fun, and not taking yourself too seriously." This attitude helps Mother remain a cutting-edge design boutique, and the label just released a gender-neutral 10-piece capsule collection known as Love Your Other, which is dedicated to freedom, self-expression, and the celebration of individuality.
We got an exclusive chance to step inside the airy studio (actually, the AC had broken that morning and "airy" isn't really the right word) where the magic happens to sit down with Tim and Lela and understand a bit more about what inspires them, what's behind those awesome style names they come up with, and the power of a celebrity following.
What's the story behind your brand's unique name?
Tim: We were coming off of a period (this was around 2010) of long-named brands — that was kind of the thing to do — and we wanted to just have one word. And we also liked the idea of having this dual meaning; we chose "Mother" because you could spin it so many different ways. It could be your sweet mom at the kitchen sink making you lunch or you could have the Harley guy with the "motherfucker" tattoo, so it really went in different directions.
When you would mention the name to people, they went in one of two places. It was either "mom jeans" or "rock on!" and that's why the color of the brand is really black and white and it has this dual identity. The denim was super soft and the label was hard patent leather, so the whole idea was this play on words and play on this idea of duality.
How do you pick individual style and silhouette names?
Tim: For styles specifically we went back to childhood archetypes, almost like a general idea of naughtiness, like The Runaway or The Looker (which was our first skinny fit), and the idea was to have this overarching notion of being a little bad. We had a jean at the beginning called The Drama and another called The Dropout.
I'm a huge believer in names and I always have been, and a name is incredibly powerful. It can sway a product in a good light or a bad light, and so we spend a lot of time naming things. You can play with it and it starts to tell a story. When we started the brand it was all about how can we tell the story before we make the jeans? And how can we make them exciting?
Is LA a friendly manufacturing town? And how important is it to you to keep Mother based here?
Tim: I think it boils down to the fact that we can put our eyes and hands on the first prototype of every piece here. We fit every piece here, I go to the laundry every morning, I can make changes on the spot. There's this real connection with the product because it's done right here. The guys in the back make the first samples and I can change this aspect or that and have it done in five minutes.
Lela: You're also working with laundries and sewing factories that you've been working with for over ten or twelve years, so there's a history there, too.
Tim: There's a history and they know what I'm going to like and not like. When you work outside of the US, everything just comes down to emails. How do you get an amazing fitting anything off an email? You have to physically see it and touch it and look at it every single day. So that's the difference. I've worked with the same guys for 15 years and you really get this rapport and they know what's expected and the proper way to do things.
How important is celebrity visibility to keeping your brand viable?
Lela: I don't think you can deny the power of celebrity and the press that can bring around a brand, so it raises awareness for sure.
Tim: But it was never our goal to just get things on celebrities.
Lela: But there's definitely been moments where a certain person wears a jean and you can see a lot more interest, even just for that particular fit. I think there's an edge to our brand that a lot of our competitors don't have and that people find appealing.
Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration for your new gender-neutral capsule collection?
Tim: We started this almost a year ago, and we met artist iO Tillett Wright [the founder of Self Evident Truths, to whom a portion of the proceeds are donated] and from that spawned some amazing ideas. Together, we kind of built the collection based on this idea of gender-neutrality, so that anyone can wear it. The point is that it doesn't matter if you're a boy or a girl. The beauty of it is that I've always thought that jeans are inherently gender-neutral. They were just designed as workwear. It only became a gender thing in the late '60s and '70s when it became "fashion."
Lela: Like there's a picture of Marilyn Monroe in Levi's, and those aren't women's jeans.
Tim: Right, James Dean wore the same ones. So what a perfect product to do something like this with.
Lela: Even prior to that, Tim and I were really inspired by iO's project and that was the beginning of everything. It's about the acceptance of whatever gender you are, you're choosing to be, or figuring out along your journey. And we've never made a "boyfriend" jean. That name is so specific and it never made sense.
What's the essential pair of Mother cut-offs that every LA girl needs in her closet this summer?
Lela: The Teaser fray in Disorderly.
Tim: That's been one of our faves.