“Most of the denim industry is based in Los Angeles,” says Chris Kay, founder of Scottsdale-based jeans company Diego Milano.”We decided we were going to make it work here.”
And he has. While most people in Phoenix trying to make headway in the fashion world might be inclined to move shop to the U.S. fashion capital of New York City, Kay went the opposite route. After founding Diego Milano in NYC in August, 2012 and successfully getting his edgy, rock 'n' roll-style jeans on runways and in stores, Kay moved his business to Scottsdale, opening a showroom back in April near Scottsdale Airpark. We recently caught up with Kay to discuss denim, his proudest moments as a designer, and his dream jeans models.
Why did you establish Diego Milano?
I got frustrated with the denim market in general, and I met a designer for a company I really liked called Robin’s Jean, and I said, “Hey, can you make me some jeans?” And we got along real good, so he was like, “Sure.” And basically, just trying to make a couple one-off pairs of jeans turned into creating a company. Because I literally got so frustrated; I was like “OK, I can’t find what I’m looking for,” and it bothered me so much, I said “I’ll just make it.” And it snowballed into where we opened up a studio workspace in the garment district in New York, in the fashion district, and we started producing the jeans.
How would you describe Diego Milano jeans?
At Diego Milano, we break the mold. We’re rebellious. We’re weird. I guess that reflects my personality (laughs). We’re trying to do things differently. We say, “Why does all denim have to be indigo and have five pockets?” And if [other designers] want to be a little innovative, they may distress it, like Diesel does, or Guess. That’s great – I love those brands – but we said, “Hey, let’s make it different colors. Let’s put special treatments on them. Instead of a five-pocket product, let’s add zippers.” We started using things like pin tucks way before Balmain and those companies did… we’ve got a little bit of momentum going with our brand because we’re a lot different than a lot of the things that are out there right now.
What have been some of your proudest moments as a designer so far?
I think my proudest moments are really on a basic level. I was in SoHo yesterday and walking around New York, hanging out with some friends and shopping, and I literally had three people walk up and say “Where did you get those jeans? They’re awesome!” And they were just people on the street… I think those are my proudest moments. We’re delighted that people like Lady Gaga have taken notice of us, and that [retailers are submitting orders]. We’re delighted they’re making orders, but truthfully, my proudest moments are when I’m wearing the jeans and people walk up and say, “Oh my god, where did you get them?” That’s what it’s all about.
If you could pick anybody to model your jeans, who would it be?
Oh, that's a good question. I've never been asked that before. You know, the body’s got to be right for denim. A lot of famous people – they’re too skinny, sometimes. So it’s kind of a hard question. I think probably Lady Gaga or Gwen Stefani would be my two dream [models]. Or Rihanna. I don’t know. Do I have to pick one?
Editor's note: This blog was updated on August 19 to omit embargoed information regarding retailers.
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