I love hearing all about our subjects’ vintage denim – perhaps a pair of jeans they’ve had since college, or ones they scored at a flea market, or were given by a good friend…But I also delight in some good old, straight up fashion. Which is why I was tickled pink (sorry, couldn’t resist) when Esther Adams Achara came down to the lobby of her SoHo apartment building wearing J Brand + Simone Rocha’s blush-hued, ruffled jean jacket, a coat from New York up-and-comer Sandy Liang (more pink!), some very cool Zara overalls, and Céline shoes. It was so fun, giving off great personality (especially on that gray January day) – just like Esther herself.
Esther is Teen Vogue‘s fashion news director, so she gets to wear this sort of look – and lots of other denim – to work, lucky her. But her more relaxed style is also as chic (read more about it below). Back at home in Soho, she put on a pair of rip-knee Frame Denim Le Skinny Satines with a perfectly oversized Uniqlo men’s shirt – for weekends, hanging out with her husband Chidi and adorable daughter Inez, who makes a cameo here in the cutest Baby Gap patched jeans and – what else? – pink sweater. I was taking notes. And then I had a lot of questions, because I wanted to know exactly how Esther thinks about denin and fashion. We can’t all pull off her signature bangs (or “fringe;” she’s from the UK), and we don’t all have her big, sparkling smile. But J Brand + Simone Rocha, Zara, Frame? Can do.
You have a job that allows you to wear denim to the office!
I probably wear denim around 75% of the week. Like most people, it’s something I grew up wearing. I look back at toddler photos and I’m in Osh Kosh denim overalls with a pair of black patent Mary Janes. I obviously style them differently today, but I have always felt most myself, and most at ease in denim.
How do you make it work appropriate?
How I wear it for work depends on the piece, but I’ll usually add a pair of heels. Recently, I’ve been wearing a white turtleneck, black Theory blazer and Céline shoes with those Zara overalls – and topping it all off with an Hermès scarf. They are pretty much a work-only piece; I don’t wear overalls on the weekend…with a toddler in tow, they are too high maintenance. Another example would be the slash-knee Frame Denim Le Skinny, which I live in on weekends with Stan Smith sneaker’s, a Breton stripe tee and long-line camel Alexander Wang coat, or Isabel Marant fleece-lined coat. But I’ll wear that same pair of jeans to work with Proenza Schouler or Givenchy heels, a fitted, crisp white Alexander Wang dress shirt and long line blazer. It’s fairly classic, but with a touch of irreverence.
Do you wear more denim now that you are at Teen Vogue, as apposed to “Big” Vogue?
I’ve always worn a lot of denim. Even at British Vogue, as the editor’s assistant. I was big on 80s mom jeans then. Actually, I think it might be a British or European thing, to some extent. Over there, no one wants to look like they’ve spent too much time in front of the mirror; they’d rather be caught doing something else.
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What made you want these Zara overalls?
The fit, mainly. But the price, was good, too. The fact they were right there on the rack was also a bonus, because overalls are tricky once you’re out of your twenties. I definitely needed to try them on. I didn’t want to be vacuum packed into a skinny pair, but nor did I want super-slouchy, construction worker-style overalls without any shape. Also, this pair were made out of thick, proper denim – not that stretchy jegging-y material. They were just perfect, basically. As soon as I put them on, it was like, yes, this is the pair.
When did you buy them? (It must be nice to live so close to the shops.)
I think it was around four months ago, when I was passing Zara one Saturday afternoon. Since I live in SoHo, Broadway can easily be worked into almost any route home!
What do you love most about them?
They’re a nice alternative to a pair of jeans or denim jacket. I am probably over-thinking this now, but mentally, they are a little like wearing a dress because there’s no waistband. And the lack of waistband means they fall nicely, in a really flattering way – I hope! If I’m honest, I can feel too girly in anything traditionally feminine and this way, I sort of get the comfort of a dress, but with a slighter tougher look.
What else do you wear them with besides the J Brand + Simone Rocha?
A black Theory blazer and Hermès scarf is a regular combo. I’d never wear overalls without some kind of jacket because the rear view feels too young and not hugely flattering. I just like the fit and the additional detail of the apron-like top, which you still see with a blazer or jacket. I guess a piece of pink denim goes against everything I said earlier, but the Simone Rocha x J Brand denim jacket felt like a nice alternative to a blazer. Sometimes I’ll wear that, or an oversize frayed collar one from Marques’ Almeida, with a structured skirt and platforms for a work appropriate, denim look. I’m not always in a pair of jeans.
And the black Frame jeans – what attracted you to them?
I loved how they were classic, but a little irreverent at the same time.
What do you love most about them?
Whatever material they use is super flattering, which is a big plus point. Also, they are comfortable beyond words, which is why they are a weekend go-to. They are my denim pajamas. In fact, Frame should probably do a sleepwear sideline.
What else do you wear with them besides the Uniqlo shirt?
The Alexander Wang shirt I mentioned above, a Proenza Schouler perforated top… I often wear them with a Breton stripe Theory t-shirt on weekends, with Stan Smiths and either a long Alexander Wang coat, or Isabel Marant fleece-lined biker.
Who else do you think would look good in the Frames?
Anyone and everyone; Frame Denim probably shot them on a model, who rocked them better than I did.
What are your top three jeans of all time?
Calvin Klein on Brooke Shields, Levi’s Red Tab 501s, and today, anything by Marques Almeida.
How many pairs do you own?
I just did a big clear out and am left with one pair of overalls, two denim jackets and 21 pairs of jeans of varying fits. There’s an oversize denim shirt dress in there, too.
Do you shop for vintage jeans ever?
Not anymore; I don’t like how they’ve already molded to someone else’s body; I prefer to have a blank canvas to start off with. Plus with a toddler, I don’t have the time to dedicate to finding them.
Where do you buy your new jeans?
Matchesfashion.com, Zara, Topshop. But I’d buy them anywhere I found a good pair.
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Has your denim style changed since you moved here from London?
I’ve been here for five and a half years now and I’d definitely say my denim style had changed, or at least been tweaked since then. Part of it is age, part of it is New York. I think I went on a denim fast my first six months here and then slowly worked it back in. I still have a pair of mom jeans, but these ones are sleeker and more grown up than the last pair, which were a little more Madonna circa 1980.
What’s the biggest difference between London and NYC when it comes to how people wear denim?
There’s probably a lot more cross over now, but I still think people are probably more daring with it in the UK. Marques’ Almeida started their London business based on it. But these are all generalizations; there are sub groups everywhere.
What are your other favorite brands right now?
Saint Laurent, Christopher Kane, Marques’ Almeida, J Brand.
What other denim excites you right now?
The pink denim J Brand + Simone Rocha jacket and the straight-leg jeans with the ruffled hem. I love Christopher Kane’s neon embroidered jeans from resort and Marques’ Almeida’s frayed spring pieces (and clogs!). I love seeing denim push the boundaries and be a viable look of its own, that’s not so mainstream.
Any denim regrets, or trend you can’t believe you wore?
I lived in a pair of slim-fitting River Island jeans covered in patches when I was 11. They had little ankle zips. I remember going through a stage for a long time thinking, what was that? But now, post 3.1 Phillip Lim, they’d probably look cool again. I think the ‘bumsters’ stage in the 90s [look it up, if you need to]was a shameful moment for us all, but I even think fondly of a former pair of mom jeans with a pleated waistline and questionable side zip-up. It was the early 00s, I lived in Shoreditch, London, it was a thing.
Fill in the blank: Without my jeans, I am ___________.
Probably in pajamas.
In my jeans, I am ___________.
Relaxed and ready for the day.