A Match Made in Denim Heaven: Heirloom & Vintage Loves

A candid look into the latest collaborative Heirloom and FP Vintage collection.

“Ali and I forged our friendship in the pursuit of the best burger one night in NYC a few years back. We found out that we share the same passion for what we do at Free People and we are both tenacious in our pursuit to meet a challenge. I really respect Ali — she has amazing taste and a discerning eye, so her support of Heirloom since its inception means a lot to us. Vintage Loves and Heirloom share a lot of the same DNA. It was only natural that we marry our sensibilities in a dream project like this.”

This comes from our very humble and immensely talented design directors, Gianna, reminiscing on how she and Free People vintage buyer, Ali, forged their friendship. Each a fashion legend in her own right, Gi and Ali and are now collaborating on a joint project connecting FP’s artisan label Heirloom with Vintage Loves. The new collection unites the unique handmade work of Heirloom with the exclusivity of vintage denim in one-of-a-kind pieces. Vintage 501’s and 505’s Levis — all circa 70s and 80s — are classically reimagined with embroidery and patchwork and made to pair with the Heirloom collection of artisan-made hand loom cloth and naturally dyed tops. “We’re excited to be able to give our customer a really unique product. Each denim is one-of-a-kind and hand selected by Ali, each embroidery is made by a combination of handwork and hand guided embroidery machinery. For anyone who is on the eternal hunt for one-off denim — there is a perfect pair for you somewhere in this collection,” beams Gianna. Say no more, I’m in.

Catch the interview with Gianna and Ali and have a peek at the new collection below.

Sacred Sun Tank

Vintage Ringer Tee

Haliday Straw Panama Hat

Pacific Wideleg Jeans, Yes Band Tee

Gianna: How did Heirloom and Vintage come to unite? How did the conversation begin? Have the two ever collaborated on a collection before?

This is the first of hopefully more collaborations to come. We loved styling Heirloom with the denim from Vintage Loves in the past — eventually it only seemed natural to take the hand techniques we loved so much in India and marry them to vintage denim. Being able to combine new and modern elements, and hand touched detail with classic vintage denim is so exciting and opens up doors for endless possibilities.

Ali: What was it like working with the Heirloom team?

The experience of working with the Heirloom team is nothing short of amazing — what a talented group of women, who also work so well together. They care for one another. They look out for each other. They’re unselfish. They created an environment with an open dialogue which makes any collaboration with them seemingly effortless. I’m grateful to be a part of a project that makes me excited upon waking up each morning.

G: What newness can we expect from Heirloom?

Heirloom is all about reimagining your favorite details from tried and true classic silhouettes. Rather than searching for constant “newness” we are going back to our roots, and finding inspiration from hand processes that go back generations. Natural dyes from the earth, yarns spun by hand, fabrics woven by hand — none of these are new concepts, yet we are providing a platform for our customer to be able to connect with these ideas and artisans. In this collection we played with vintage denim and layered on the handwork. It is new and exciting for us to be able to work with craftsmen and makers from around the earth who have been refining their art for generations and generations. Our goal is to provide items for our FP ladies with lasting quality and style that only gets better with age.

A: Where in the world did all that denim come from?

I searched all over the country — from coast to coast — from small vintage shops to big warehouses.

G: What excites you most about this collection?

We’re excited to be able to give our customer a really unique product. Each denim is one of a kind and hand selected by Ali. Each embroidery is made by a combination of handwork and hand guided embroidery machinery. For anyone who is on the eternal hunt for one-of-a-kind denim, there is a perfect pair for you somewhere in this collection. For me — I share the same fave as Ali, the Heirloom Pacific Wideleg Jean. That piece is stunning — I would be happy to wear that with a simple tee for the rest of my days.

G: These pieces are seriously laid back and effortlessly cool — what kind of girl do you see wearing these pieces and where?

Doub, our FP creative director, and Carrie, our editorial manager, have always been sort of a muse for our projects. They have the best wardrobe and collection of vintage denim. We would come up with sketches and ideas and embroideries and silhouettes and if it was something we thought Doub or Carrie would wear, we were like “ok, done.” The great thing about being effortlessly cool is that anyone can wear these at any time. Denim transcends age, gender and passing fashion trends.

Arrowhead Skirt

Las Cruses MaxiHorsin Around Tee

Moondial Vintage Boyfriend Jeans, Wrangler Vintage Denim Button Down


G: Can you bring us through the embroidery/dying/design process? Where were the challenges?

For the denim pieces, it all begins with Ali. Ali is the master of vintage and vintage denim. She traveled across the country hand picking each pair for us. From there it was all experimentation and exploration into different patchwork and embroidery techniques like “kantha” from India and “boro” from Japan. Initially we cut up a bunch of denim, pieced them together, took them back apart, and made new shapes. Trial and error really, a labor of love. We wanted each embroidery vibe to feel different enough, so we pulled motifs from Mexican dresses, Thai textiles, and bandanas — each idea and concept was transferred to paper and literally taped to a denim piece and went straight to embroidery on denim. We made modifications to all of the pockets, while also adding interest to waistbands via a built-in belt.

As with any new process and project, there were definitely challenges. Collaborating with the vendors, they with the crafts people — showing them how to open up original seams, and piece in the right shade of denim for patchwork, learning their hand and machine limitations, then coming up with ideas on how to solve these limitations. It’s all a learning and growing process that motivates us to do more.

A: For all of the die-hard denim fans out there…what do you look for in a good pair of jeans before purchasing?

I consider several things when hunting down a killer pair of jeans. First thing — crotch check. Honestly, it’s the first place to look for holes/problem spots. If all looks in order, I’ll measure the waist size by wrapping them around my neck. (A jean will typically fit your waist if it fits around the circumference of your neck.) Next, I’ll assess their overall condition – does it boast good or bad holes? And, finally, I’ll check out the striation of the indigo, as well as the jean labels, as this will determine the denim’s age. For this particular project, I set my sights on Levis denim, USA made, from the 70s and 80s – at that time, the Levis logo had a lower case “e”.

G: The new collection was an obvious collaborative team effort. Can you give us any insight on that? Any funny stories?

I think working with a team outside your own is always a blast. I think we we just kept nerding out on each other, and exciting one another. Ali would get stoked on transformation plans for her found pieces, while she was always blowing us away with her magician tricks — finding the most amazing denim and teaching us how her trained eye selects the best of the best Levis from denim piles literally as high as the ceiling.

G + A: Using only three words, please describe the new collection.

G: Denim, spirited, reincarnation.

A: Majestic, stunning, handcrafted.

G + A: Who from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s could you see wearing the new Heirloom/Vintage?

G: Definitely Jane Birkin or a 90’s Drew Barrymore. We’d like to think Jimi Hendrix or Bruce Springsteen would have borrowed these from their girlfriends at any given point.

A: Doub Hanshaw from the 80s!

Moonstone Top

Horsin Around Tee

Top Photo: Sanctuary Crop Jean

Thank you Gianna and Ali! We look forward to another collaboration soon!

Follow Joanna on Instagram.

Free People Blog