It isn’t a prerequisite that the people who make jeans look outstanding wearing them, but if ever there were a denim designer who does, it’d be Larissa Noble, the women’s design director for Gap 1969. Within minutes of meeting Noble at Gap’s headquarters in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood we found ourselves plotting our next trip to the American mainstay for exactly what she had on: optic-white boyfriend jeans and a matching jacket – so simple, and yet on her, so effective. At doing what, exactly? Arousing envy, for one. Larissa, in the denim pieces that she herself designed, made wearing white, matching jean with jacket, and dressing simply all look so easy (when we know from experience that it is not). Really, what’s not to want?
Born in Philadelphia, PA Noble was the women’s design director of denim at Seven For All Mankind before joining the team at Gap in August of last year. “It feels great to work for a company with such a cool connection to the history of jeans in America,” she says. “At Gap, denim really has a voice, which is a denim designers dream. Rebekka [Bay, Gap’s creative director] expects denim to show up in the collection with a point of view. I can’t just think about the jeans, I have to consider the whole look.”
For summer, now trickling into stores, that look includes Noble’s perfect, all-white jean suit along with a button-front dress, a shadow-pocket shirt, and pastels – all of which you can shop for below, should you feel as strongly about owning what Larissa’s wearing and making as we do.
Do you have any early memories of Gap growing up? Did you wear it as a kid?
My hippie mom dressed me in hand-me-downs, until I was able to save my babysitting money and go to the mall and buy new clothes. Gap was my destination because I could get well-made, classic, versatile pieces there. And yes, I was thinking about quality and versatility at age 12! When I graduated from design school and was in my first job in New York, I would go to the Gap in Times Square, and buy shrunken baseball tees and rinsed jeans in the long length. Simple pieces, in multiples. There was always such comfort in Gap’s simplicity.
When did your love affair with denim begin?
I’ve always loved jeans. I was never a skirt, dress, or trousers girl. But my real love affair with jeans began when I took my first job designing them, and started seeing and touching raw, unwashed denim, and working with the laundries in Los Angeles. The real craft of making jeans blew my mind – the business of replicating years of wear, or creating new, original washes and whisker patterns. It seemed almost mad. The level of detail and the science behind making jeans was so interesting. But it was the passion and genuine love of the craft of everyone who touched the jeans had that hooked me.
Describe the jeans you wear in one word.
What do you need your jeans to be, always?
Emotional and resilient.
If they could talk, what would they say about you?
That I’m a traveler.
What’s your favorite place to be in jeans?
On sunset drives along the beach in Santa Monica.
What’s the weirdest place you’ve been in jeans?
Hmmmm… on a swamp walk at summer camp as a girl. We waded up to our necks through the swamp, and I remember I wore my favorite jeans at the time. Afterward, the counselor hosed us off, and my mud-soaked jeans washed out as good as new. I’ve always been in love with the heartiness of denim. Jeans are survivors.
Was there ever a pair you had that got away? When? How?
I gave my sister a chic pair of jean trousers that I always covet when I see her rocking them now.
Was there a pair you should have broken up with sooner?
My first pair of low-rise, rinsed bootcuts! I loved them so much that over the course of six years, I had them turned into straight-legs and then skinnys in an effort to hold on to them. The fabric and the wear over time was stunning… but the rise – yikes – too low!
Do you own a pair that only you could love?
My bleached, blue-and-white, bold buffalo-plaid skinnys. I love them with an amazing blazer or with a worn out sweatshirt.
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What are your Top Three jeans of all time? When did you get them? And what do you love most about each?
1. A vintage 80s, non-stretch, army-green, high-rise, pegged, side-zipped pair. I was in seventh grade and did a trade for them. I loved that they were not indigo and such a chic color. 2. My Gap rinsed, long-length, slim jeans. They were my uniform when I first started on 7th Avenue. I would wear them with a Gap baseball ¾-sleeve shrunken tee. 3. My 70s men’s high-rise flares. Finding a vintage jean that fits you perfectly is the best.
Who besides you has worn your jeans?
When I left L.A. for New York, I got rid of most of my possessions. I donated 14 big garbage bags of jeans to Out of the Closet on Hollywood Blvd. I always hope I’ll see someone wearing a pair on day.
Is there a one your still own – and wear? – from a previous life?
I have a 90s rinsed jean with silver studs around the waistband. I bought them in the juniors department at Macy’s when I was at Parsons [School of Design]. There is no way I will ever in this lifetime fit into them but I heart them. Great mix of tough and clean.
What do you love most about the Gap ones you wore for our shoot?
I love that they have a modern-vintage look. They have an almost graphic appearance because of the crisp, optic white, but then the destruction gives them a worn-in appeal.
What do your jeans reveal about the way that you live on a daily basis?
I’m on the floor a lot during the day – touching and feeling fabrics and textures, and analyzing washes. I always put a hole in my right knee from getting up and down off the floor all day.
Is there something you do only in your jeans?
I wear jeans everyday for all occasions. The question is, What don’t I do in my jeans? Weddings and funerals.
If you had to replace all of the jeans you wear with something else – what would it be?
I love this question. I’ve actually given this a lot of thought over the years…Sweat pants. In the right fit and fabric, they can be so chic!
Finish this sentence: Without my jeans, I am…
In my jeans, I feel…