A Cut Above:
The Pared-Down Appeal of Goldsign Denim
by Thomas Sweeney
Photographed by Hanna Tveite
"I'm drawn to timelessness and ease, quiet and refined details, minimalism and non-conformity," says Karen Phelps, the British-born creative director of Goldsign, a Los Angeles–based luxury denim label she has pioneered since 2016. "Whether it's polished hardware or understated flat finishes, I approach the collection with refinement and a modern design ethos in mind."
The sleek, architectural jeans styles that Phelps has honed at Goldsign—from the stretchy, second-skin Profit to the wide-leg, waist-hugging Trouser—have earned the brand a preeminent status in the boundless expanse of premium denim. From September 22 to October 6, Goldsign will take up residency at The Line—Los Angeles—a fitting backdrop, perhaps, for a label whose creative director cites the escapist California cool of David Hockney as a perennial source of inspiration.
Phelps, a native of chilly Northeast England, earned her stripes in New York as a denim designer at Calvin Klein, Gap, and Levi's (to name just a few) prior to joining Goldsign in Los Angeles. "There has always been an underlying common thread of authenticity and honesty in the brands I have gravitated towards," she explains. "The egalitarian nature and classic functionality of American design has led me to follow a passion for denim, and Goldsign speaks to that philosophy, blending utilitarian elements with a minimalist approach to design." This keenly focused approach could include, for example, remixing a standard five-pocket jean with trompe-l'oeil trouser creasing and the label's signature ghost-set pockets, the latter of which, according to Phelps, "are incredibly difficult to execute, and not commonly associated with traditional jeans construction."
No matter how forward-thinking a design or idea is, I always have the support of a talented development team to nurture and bring it to life.
The painstaking effort required to perfect those flourishes is facilitated by way of a vertically integrated facility. "At Goldsign, we design, develop, wash, and manufacture everything in-house in Los Angeles, which is rare for a denim brand, even in L.A.," Phelps says. "I am very hands-on as a designer and involved in all areas of the design process, and our sample room and on-site pattern makers are critical in allowing the team to really push the boundaries in developing the collection." Upon joining Goldsign, Phelps took immediate advantage of her resources by reengineering every fabric, fit, and wash, quickly repositioning the label as a one-stop destination for tailored luxury denim, stripped of any branding, excess, or nods to fleeting trends.
For Goldsign's debut at The Line—Los Angeles, an edited selection of seven styles (each in a unique wash, with shades ranging from Ghost White to Marled Black) will illustrate the current chapter of the brand's evolution. They include the Balloon, a high-waist jean with a roomy leg that attenuates seamlessly above the ankle; the bodycon Semi-Fit, with a cropped inseam and a knee break that moves over the skin like liquid; and the straight-leg Benefit, Phelps's rendition of the five-pocket, subtly adorned with rose-gold-tone metal hardware. With the first signs of fall approaching, the stonewashed Morton jacket—complete with oversized, planar ghost-set patch pockets—will top off the edit.
Phelps, who test-drives each new fit and fabric herself, has a certain affinity for one particular style: the Classic jean, cut in a relaxed silhouette and artfully tracked with her trademark trompe-l'oeil creasing. "It's a contemporary take on the American straight-leg, in a versatile shape that feels fresh and modern," she says. "It's an ideal fit for The Line, which, like Goldsign, represents and embodies a new spirit and expression of design and creativity, with a unique point of difference."
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