The Patina and Poise of Khaite Jeans
Photographed by Hanna Tveite
Catherine Holstein knows that denim is both an art and a science, as much about finding the ideal indigo as deducing the most flattering dimensions and placement of belt loops. “As a dedicated jean shopper for roughly twenty-five years, I have agonized in many dressing rooms over the state of jeans,” she says. “I found myself on the hunt for a perfect pair and not sure if it was out there.” So the designer took matters into her own hands, combining a personal quest with an encyclopedic knowledge of denim to develop the timeless and feminine jeans that are at the heart of Khaite, launching exclusively at The Line.
For Holstein, vintage Levi’s provided a place to start. “I loved the look of the ultra-straight-hip fit from the original 501s but felt that I would prefer a bit of stretch so that it would cinch my waist,” she says. “But stretch? Like ‘jeggings’? Forget it.” She spent months searching and testing, tailoring and tweaking, before achieving her goal: “a pair of jeans that had the look and feeling of a rigid jean, but with a bit of stretch for a long, lean fit.”
I decided to make the jeans I wished I could find: a pair that has the look and feeling of a rigid jean, but with a bit of stretch for a long, lean fit.Catherine Holstein
Then there was the matter of washes. Holstein and her team work closely with a Los Angeles-based factory to ensure that distressing and sanding—dubbed “Khaite grinding” by the factory’s workers—are carried out to their exacting specifications. The nuanced and desirable results are apparent in the “Medium Crease” wash of the especially high-waisted Vanessa style.
“I think my denim developer wanted to kill me at the end,” jokes Holstein, recalling the multi-step process she created for the figure-flattering wash. “We separate the jeans by section, and it is imperative that each of those layers work in tandem to complement the aesthetic of the jean. If one is missing or not prominent enough, the whole jean falls apart—at least for me it does.”
Joining the Vanessa in the debut Khaite range are the mid-rise and slightly cropped Kassandra and the trouser-like, raw-denim Catherine. All three styles are adorned with a signature button. Made of antiqued brass and accented with black lacquer, it was inspired by Art Deco interiors and Holstein’s mother, “a beautiful, inspirational, and stylish woman” who had sworn off jeans some years ago. “I couldn’t be happier with the regal sense it has added to the jeans, like a piece of jewelry,” she says. “And my mom is happy.”
Holstein can spend hours discussing more of the details that distinguish Khaite jeans, from the spacing of the back pockets (“close enough together to make the butt look more taught”) to the application of “Khaite grinding” along the zippered fly, but in the end, it’s the cumulative effect of these obsessed-over decisions that matters most to her. “What makes a great pair of jeans is how the wearer feels in them,” she says. “Finding that perfect pair is exhilarating, and for the first time I feel particularly proud to create something that can make a woman feel empowered and more confident.”
Styling Vanessa Traina
Hair Tamara McNaughton at Management Artists
Makeup Daniel Martin at The Wall Group
Model Adrienne Jüliger
Explore another chapter in The Stories:
At Home in the Hamptons: Inside The Line – Amagansett