In a way, designer Brett Heyman’s Edie Parker acrylic handbags are the antithesis of jeans. “They don’t show wear,” Brett said when we met her at her Upper East Side studio last week. But they do look great with denim, we thought, watching Brett hold her clutches (plural) for our pictures while wearing a pair of paint-splashed vintage Levi’s from Rialto Jean Project. If a boyfriend resembling a Jackson Pollock sounds like a challenging jean to accessorize, watch Brett. Not only does she make it seem easy, she makes it look endlessly fun.
A quick note about Rialto Jean Project jeans: RJP is a line dreamed up and fueled by designer Erin Feniger in Los Angeles. A portion of all of RJP’s proceeds go to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’s innovative art therapy programs. “Denim Doing Good” is Erin’s M.O., and her painted one-of-a-kind RJPs are having a moment – everyone, from Brett to editors at Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, to Gisele Bündchen are wearing them right now.
But back to Edie Parker and Brett, who was just nominated as a finalist for this year’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award (cheers, Brett!). Turns out, her plastic-bag-plus-blue-jeans formula is an old love. “I grew up in L.A., and every weekend when I was in junior high I would get dropped off on Melrose and I would go shopping for vintage jeans and vintage handbags,” she said. “I’d buy used Levi’s and bags, and eventually a lot of the bags disintegrated or broke. But not the acrylic ones. Those I kept.” And those, she said, always got people’s attention. “There’s a nostalgia to them. People remember the ones their grandmothers and mothers had. They’re saved, they’re passed down,” she explained. Which actually sounds a lot like something else we know.
Tell us when you got the RJP’s you’re wearing.
Probably a little over a year ago.
How did you first discover them?
I saw a picture of them somewhere, I don’t remember where, but somewhere kind of obscure, and so I looked it up. I really loved the art therapy component of the company. I love that most of the jeans that [the designer] Erin paints are vintage Levi’s, and I love that they’re painted, aesthetically, but the art therapy component just totally thrilled me. So I ended up ordering a few pairs, meeting Erin, and now we’re constantly in touch. Right now I’m in a Jane Birkin-bell bottom phase, so I have her keeping an eye out for a perfect pair of those to paint for me.
Do you only wear vintage Levi’s?
I don’t. I wear old Current/Elliots, and I have some flares from Mother, too.
What do you love most about the RJP’s you’re wearing?
The colors. I love the pinks and purples. And I love that they are unique. All RJP jeans are one-of-a-kind. I love that. And I really love a baggy jean. I’m tall so I feel like I can wear baggy jeans with more ease. On me, I think it’s relaxed and looks cool. And it feels good.
Do you always wear them cuffed?
Yes, because they’re a funny length uncuffed, and wider at the bottom.
And your belt?
I don’t know, it’s vintage. Old.
And your jewelry…
All vintage. I really like whimsical jewelry, I like jewelry that spells stuff. I have a lot of jewelry that says LOVE from the 70s, it’s a very 70s look. And I love rings that spell out words in stones. My rings are all antique.
It’s very expressive, everything that you do and everything that you wear…
I am expressive. Normally I’m in a daytime sequin, too [laughs].
Click on a pic for more of Brett’s story…
Describe your jeans for us in one word.
What do you need your jeans to be, always?
If the pair you’re wearing could talk, what would they say?
What’s the most memorable place they’ve been?
In the cockpit of an Air France flight during landing…?
Really? What were you doing there?
So, the airline didn’t honor our seats we had for our flight, and I got very upset, but in a really rational way. The captain came out and he was this very debonnaire Frenchman, and he asked if we wanted to wait and take the next flight, and I said No, and I sat down and I was very calm. And then 45 minutes before we landed, one of the flight attendants came out and said, Would you like to sit with the captain? And we did, of course. It was a Boeing 777 from Europe going into Kennedy airport. I mean, totally illegal, but I guess Air France didn’t care. We sat in the jump seats in the cockpit and just landed that plane. And it was amazing.
Was it nighttime or daytime?
Daytime. It was awesome. I liked it. And I remember wearing these jeans.
What’s the weirdest place they’ve been?
Can I give the same answer?
Totally. Next question: Was there ever a pair that got away?
There was this guy named Yossi and he used to work at What Goes Around Comes Around in New York in, like, 2003. He had the greatest pair of broken-in jeans, and I wanted them so badly. He was considering selling them to me, but then he moved to Israel, and now I think about those jeans constantly. They were the perfect pair of vintage jeans. It’s not that they were expensive, but they were his, and he wouldn’t sell them to me.
Do you own a pair that only you could love?
I think most of my jeans are that.
And you have approximately 15 pairs – of RJP’s alone?
But, so, to find that many pairs of what are, essentially, vintage jeans that fit…
I tailor them. I have an amazing lady named Carmen who comes to my apartment. She does the waist if it needs to be dropped, and she’ll also take them in along the leg.
HOLD IT Brett’s Instagram followers love her for her big, always-excited-by-a-bag smile. Here, she shows us how it’s done. Follow @edie_parker. Edie Parker Flavia ‘Hold It’ clutch, $1,495; go to edie-parker.com.
Do you remember your very first pair of jeans?
I don’t. But I remember not liking jeans when I was younger. I think because they were uncomfortable.
Who besides you has worn your jeans?
Who has worn RJPs? Gisele Bündchen and we wear them exactly the same. In fact, I look a little bit better in them [laughs].
How many pairs of jeans do you need to feel satisfied and like you have enough?
Too many. It’s embarrassing. Thirty at any given time, in rotation. But I don’t buy pants, if that makes you feel better.
How do jeans help you do what you need to do on a daily basis?
I can move in jeans. I can think in them. I feel comfortable and I feel cool in them. These just allow me to exist and go and be with my kids and come to work. They don’t feel serious. And they’re happy.
Is there something you do only in your RJPs?
Everything? Almost everything.
If you had to replace them all with something else, what would that be?
Finish this sentence: Without my jeans, I am…
And: In my jeans, I am…