What I learnt at the Selfridges Disneyrollergirl denim workshop

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Selfridges is the undisputed leader of innovation when it comes to London’s department stores. While Liberty may be the go-to for a great edit and unexpected finds, Harrods for ultimate luxury and Harvey Nichols for the newest labels, Selfridges is the retail risk-taker and rule-breaker.

This summer’s big takeover has been all about denim, from the newly-opened £6 million Denim Studios on the third floor, to the fantastic windows depicting the nuances of every denim tribe you can think of. Here’s what I learnt from the personal shoppers and alterations team at my recent Disneyrollergirl Denim Workshop.

Modern denim is about fashion, not just jeans. These days, denim coats, cocktail dresses, jumpsuits, rabbit-ear headbands and even couture denim (hello Maison Martin Margiela) are as desirable as the original five-pocket jean. At Selfridges, denim dungarees are flying out of the store although curiously there’s less demand for denim skirts. (Maybe the denim mom short has taken over?) And money is seemingly no object. While the Denim Studio has its own Primark corner (with a self service checkout if you’re after the fastest of fast fashion), there’s plenty of demand for denim around the £200 mark. For the hard-to-please affluent overseas customer who is all about the exclusives, there’s even a bespoke £11,000 Paige Denim jean with diamond-bejewelled zip pulls. Just try on the sample sizes and yours will be made especially, to be ready in 3-4 weeks.

£11K jeans aside, Selfridges is making a big effort to balance the premium offer from J Brand, MIH and Hudson with affordable denim from Levi’s, Lee and Tripp NYC. Even better is the pop-up space that’s currently dedicated to the East End Thrift Shop. Here there’s all the nineties-flavoured reworked vintage denim you could wish for, including its quirky ‘Denim by the Kilo’ concept (all-you-can-eat denim at £25 a kilo). This was a bit of a risk for Selfridges, but creative director Alannah Weston decided to ‘just give it a go’ and by all accounts the feedback has been worth it. ‘Denim’ now also encompasses everything that goes with it, so J Brand’s RTW sweats, tees and leathers are as important as its Little Black Jeans. Ditto with COS and American Apparel whose jeans and casualwear now sit in the denim space.

According to product specialist Ben, while the fashion forward customer may be over skinnies, 90% of sales are still super-stretchy, skinny jeans. (J Brand’s 811 and 910 are top sellers.) Boyfriend jeans are also doing a brisk trade and there’s an emerging trend for unisex shopping, with men often shopping for jeans in the women’s department for more interesting styles. As the market for brights, neons, pastels and print denim becomes somewhat saturated, Ben predicts a return to true classic blues. I’ve been hearing this quite a bit in denim circles and am ready for the return to rigid, dry selvedge denim. For now though, the punchy neons and bold graphics are brightening up the shop floor.

Selfridges does experiential and personalised retail really well so here’s a great new service you need to know about. Buy a pair of jeans at the Denim Studio and you can get them altered on the spot in as little as 20 minutes. At the moment this is limited to tapering, shortening and waist alterations but later we’re promised other options. In fact, Robin, one of the Denim Studio’s alterations tailors told me that even though it’s a somewhat tricksy fabric, there are literally no limits to what you can do to remodel denim. On the personalisation side, the Denim Studio offers on the spot customisation which is a fun way to add a spontaneous twist to your purchases. The customers I saw were loving watching the process in action (check here for days and times in August).

We all know that buying jeans is Not Fun. Selfridges eases the pain with its highly specialised personal shoppers and sales staff, not to mention a very plush changing area. Did I mention they have eight different styles of shoe for you to try on with your jeans so you can get the length exactly right? There’s also the hi-tech Jeanius Bar (see what they did there?) which is like the most amazing giant iPad full of inspirational denim imagery and photos of every jean they sell – which naturally, you can email to friends for a second opinion. Now this is how you makes jeans shopping fun!

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The Jeanius Bar in action…
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Maison Martin Margiela exclusive…
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What’s your denim tribe?
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Maison Michel denim ears
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Denim by the kilo from the East End Thrift Shop…
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Christopher Kane…
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