Denim and rock 'n' roll go hand in hand, so it makes sense that indie rock goddess Jennifer Herrema would eventually come out with her own jeans collection, a series of patched-up, skinny-fit, shred-to-hell designs that blend two unlikely extremes: high-fashion and "hesher" culture (hesher being a slang term for music fans of the raggedy-haired, headbanger variety). Think Brigitte Bardot meets cult film "Heavy Metal Parking Lot," and you get the picture.
Six feet tall, with heavy blond bangs, Mick Jagger pout and more often than not a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, Herrema is a Nico for our times, an underground rock icon blessed with supermodel stats. Her look is consistent with her lifestyle — 24/7 rock 'n' roll, on and off the stage. On the L.A. music scene she's known for her distinctive style: custom deconstructed denim, which she stitches with strips of leather and fabric and whatever else catches her eye, worn with oversized Ralph Lauren plaid shirts, cowboy boots and dip-dyed foxtails that trail behind her, attached to her belt loops.
It's no surprise she's been approached in the past to affix her name to a brand. But not until self-styled "outlaw" surf skate brand Volcom came calling last year, looking for help amping up its women's division, did she take the plunge. For Volcom, the launch of Herrema's jeans this year marks the company's first time entering into a design collaboration with a musician. And the new line, released as part of Volcom's Road Tested collection, exudes the unique blend of influences that shaped Herrema, frontwoman for the band RTX.
Growing up in West Virginia, she counted as her style icons Suzi Quatro, the Runaways, Girlschool, Stevie Nicks, Marianne Faithfull, she says. On the guy side, she was inspired by Rod Stewart, Wino, Ronnie Van Zant, early Alice Cooper's Ozzy Osbourne. And "of course, Keith Richards. I've always been a tomboy, and my personal style has always reflected that — jeans, tees, boots — utilitarian, but worn with a feminine sensibility," she says. "Growing up as a kid, most of my friends were boys and they always got to wear the cool [stuff], so I appropriated that 'look' but made it my own by altering fits." Even before she knew how to sew, Herrema was customizing her clothes using rubber bands and string.
She came of age at Bad Brains, Mötley Crüe, Metallica and Megadeth shows before joining the rock 'n' roll circus herself at age 16, as half of seminal '90s rock band Royal Trux. At the height of Royal Trux's fame, Herrema was photographed by Steven Meisel for a Calvin Klein ad campaign — she's always been adept at making a white T-shirt and jeans look glamorous. After Royal Trux dissolved in 2000, Herrema moved to Huntington Beach, close to Volcom headquarters, where her present-day RTX bandmate Kurt Midness works for Volcom's record label. Living by the beach, Herrema surfs, makes music, makes collage art and produces bands in her studio while acting as Volcom's de facto women's-wear muse.
As far as Volcom is concerned, theirs is the perfect marriage. "Given her story, she was the perfect symbol for our rock 'n' roll-inspired jeans line," says Ethan Anderson, Volcom's senior vice president and creative director. "She has pedigree and authenticity ... and that's important to me."
Along with the Volcom design team, Herrema started out by creating 13 one-of-a kind prototypes made from reshaped Volcom jeans and patches from Herrema's extensive archive of denim patches. These jeans are not for sale, Anderson says, but "were purely crafted to express denim-rock-avant-garde at its finest."
But there are three styles the general public can get their hands on right now: the Dep relaxed-fit jean, Dep relaxed-fit short and the limited-edition 2x4 unisex fit with foxtail (one of Herrema's trademark looks). "The 2x4 fit [jeans] are truly unisex," Herrema says, "as they are based on one of Volcom's dudes' skate denim designs. But all of them could be unisex for dudes who love the super-skinny fits."
A bunch of Herrema's rock friends are wearing her designs, including model-actress Lizzy Jagger and Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT.
The Dep jeans and Dep shorts sold out almost immediately after launching in June and are on their second production run. Expect new designs for the fall, holiday and spring seasons — think custom-patched gray denim with black leather patches and studs, black denim skinny lace-up slingshot jeans, dip-dyed faded denim cut-offs, a flannel button-down shirt with shredded denim elbow patches and other essentials for the stylish hesherette.
"Jennifer embodies rock and roll," Anderson says. "Her style oozes it. She's effortlessly radical. Trash-glam. Heavy-duty. She has tremendous presence and personality that says much more style-wise than just the clothes she wears …. and I think that inspires people."
(Published August 2010)
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