Few women will rap about denim the way that Kelly Connor does. As the Vogue editor in charge of all things indigo, she not only has a unique and holistic perspective on the market, she also genuinely loves jeans as much as we do. Plus, as our story attests, she can slip into pretty much any pair – beat-up boy-skinny or raspberry bell, for example – like it’s second skin. Which mean she’s probably worn them all at some point. Trend and tips? She’s got those down, too.
Let’s be clear: Kelly does not have a single favorite pair of jeans, or even two favorite pairs of jeans. When your job is to be up-to-date on everything denim, it’s hard to commit to one true love forever (trust us). If we had to come to a conclusion, we’d say that the jeans that Kelly wore for this story are those that got her attention for being a little bit out-of-the-box: the Nudies because they’d been pre-worn and so beautifully broken-in by someone else (who is the guy that first owned these jeans and gave them their character, she wonders? As do we); the Gap bell-bottoms because they are an odd but elegant color, and they fit Kelly, who hovers around six feet, in an equally odd but elegant way. At the apartment she shares with her fiancé and his family in midtown Manhattan, we talked to the editor about why being different – in jeans and in life – can be the best thing.
You are the jeans person at American Vogue. Can you tell us a bit about what you do there?
I am a market editor, the denim editor for the magazine, and I oversee the fashion for Vogue.com. In terms of denim, I work on “Jeanius,” the website’s video series about jeans, and I travel to all of the trade shows and visit showrooms. I see all of the new brands and collections, which is a humongous undertaking because there are so many, and which is a lot of fun for me because I really like where denim is going. I’m sort of falling in love with old jeans again, hence my Nudie jeans today.
Were you into denim before you got this job?
You know, I’m actually not a jeans girl, or wasn’t. I would wear jeans just for riding horses, which was a big part of my life growing up. It literally was the only thing I cared about or did until I was 18. I grew up in Rancho Santa Fe, in San Diego, California, and I’d ride there. I started riding when I was three, and I would compete around the world, traveling to shows and doing show jumping. And then I went to college and sold my horse and took a break, and I’ve missed it every day since.
What was your horse’s name?
Orlando. I’m convinced that someday – because I know the girl who bought him – I’m going to buy him back. He’s probably 12 now. He’s got another 15 years. And if I can’t get him back, I definitely see myself on a farm one day with other retired horses.
What did you love most about riding?
Honestly, I feel like it taught me everything that I know now. I missed every party in high school. I missed out on all of that stuff teenagers do. Instead of doing that, I was waking up at four in the morning and going to ride in the freezing cold in who-knows-where all over the United States to show. I really learned how to manage my time. I missed a lot of school and would do extra credit to make it up. I learned how to manage myself, because my parents said that if I started doing poorly in school then I couldn’t keep riding.
For riding, I would wear jeans all of the time. I loved when you’d get off a horse your jeans would have molded to you. When you’re in a saddle and your legs are wrapped around the horse…the leather and the denim, it just creates this softness. It really breaks the denim in a lot faster, I guess. That’s how I wore denim growing up.
Now jeans are my uniform. I think figuring out that there was more to denim than a skinny jean and a tight jean is what made me start wearing jeans more regularly – in my job, and not just when riding. You can wear a mom jean and an old pair of Levi’s and feel good in them. You can wear something different. I’m just not a skinny jean person, I’m not a tight jean person. That never felt very me. But these Nudies are just heaven. These and my Gap jeans. In them I feel like myself.
Click on a picture to see the slideshow
Tell me about these Nudie jeans you’re wearing. It looks like they’ve been through a lot!
Well, these have been pre-loved by someone who was much more dedicated than I am to breaking in jeans, because I picked them up when they were already broken-in. I called them in for a “Jeanius” story we were working on, and as soon as they came in I was like, Whoa, what are these? They’re so soft and flimsy that as soon as I put them on, I was like, I don’t care how dirty or whoever wore these, I need these! I would have offered any price for these.
Nudie uses all-organic denim and all the jeans are unisex. And they have a program where they’ll re-patch them – you can bring your ripped Nudies to one of their concept shops, and they’ll repair them for you.
I just can’t imagine parting with your jeans like this guy did. They probably have quite a story that I’d love to know more about…
We’ll try and track him down for you.
Yes, for sure. So, what about these pretty pink jeans you have?
I do love a flare – and I love these Gap ones. I got these not that recently. They’re just a funny raspberry color. I love it. And at first I thought they were too short, because they are supposed to be a flare that you can wear with heels, but then I put them on and I realized that they were kind of fantastic. You’ll see, they’re, like, ankle length. It reminds me of Brigitte Bardot, who would wear those sexy jeans, super tight, and she would be barefoot on the beach and the hem would hit at the ankle like these do on me. And I wear them with boots in the winter and sandals in the summer and it’s great. I don’t like colored jeans most of the time, but this color is not even a color, you can wear it like a gray or a blue.
Click on a picture to see the slideshow
You said that you really like where denim is going now. Can you tell us where exactly that is?
You know, authentic denim has really taken off. There was this whole printed thing and colored thing. There are so many new brands, and in the past year or two we’ve really gone back to blue jeans, and raw jeans, and Japanese denim, and selvedge, and all of the things that I’m into. And it’s just so great to go back to real, true blue.
Since posting this story, we found the person who pre-loved Kelly’s Nudies. Read Josh Pikersgill-Brown’s story here.