ALL POSTS Interviews POP-IN@Nordstrom Style

Denim on Denim with vale and Cartel | Pop-In@Nordstrom New Classics

As you’ve probably heard, we’ve been rounding up our favorite versions of iconic life essentials for Pop-In@Nordstrom New Classics, and really, what’s more timeless than denim?

Vale denim skirt and shirt. Pop-In@Nordstrom New Classics.

vale denim shirt and skirt

We had the pleasure of trading missives with creative directors (and bonafide jeaniuses) over at vale and Cartel Handbags for more insight on this perennial favorite—and how these bosses are fraying the denim standard.

The Staple Pieces

Lifelong tomboy Amber D’Enett knows the simplest things are always the hardest to find. So this summer, the Sydneysider launched valeclassic styles upgraded into new, next-level pieces that you can love forever. Quality fabrics, wearable silhouettes and clever detailing (hello, fringe denim culottes) make these just-familiar-enough staples worthy of that wardrobe redo.

The Thread: We know that perpetually cool ladies like Jane Birkin, Patsy Pulitzer and Charlotte Rampling are huge sources of inspiration for vale; who are some modern-day icons you can imagine sporting your pieces? 

D’Enett: Our current daydream girl list includes Jeanne Damas and Marine Vacth because they are the epitome of nonchalant French-tomboy sexiness. We’re also crushing on NYC girl Lexie Smith—she’s an incredible baker and artist who is really hands-on in her work but always looks amazing and has a penchant for vintage overalls. Her Instagram is a visual oasis.

Where is your favorite place to design and ideate? What does it look/sound/feel/smell like?

Fresh salty air and ocean views—I love renting out a little beach house an hour out of Sydney on the Northern Beaches. Being by the ocean clears my head and gets my creative brain working overtime. This landscape definitely influences my collections; I like to capture the feeling of freedom and adventure that being on the coast brings.

Vale denim dress. Pop-In@Nordstrom New Classics.

vale frayed denim minidress

What is it about denim that makes it such an enduring staple?

Denim is made for living in! It’s hardy, only gets better with age and allows freedom to the wearer—it’s not difficult or fussy and stands the test of time.

We absolutely adore the denim culottes and minidress we’re carrying in this Pop-In Shop; what led you to the fringe finish?

Each vale collection is a play on a classic—the fringing was what added detail and made classic culottes new and exciting.

Vale denim culottes. Pop-In@Nordstrom New Classics.

vale frayed denim culottes 

What sets your materials apart from the rest? 

Our dedication to our customized washing techniques. We deliver denim that’s soft and beautiful so you don’t have to do those crazy things you read about to wear them in (like sitting in a bathtub with your jeans on!). Editor’s note: don’t ever do that.

The Necessary Accessory

Denim offers endless possibilities, something Cartel knows very well. Handled with care and poise by celebs and in-the-know style hounds alike, the brand’s bags epitomize both cool versatility and masterful craftsmanship. We got the inspiration and styling lowdown from founder and Creative Director Deborah Barnet herself.


Cartel denim fringe crossbody bag and frayed denim bucket bag

The Thread: What led you to design a collection around denim?

Barnet: We love the idea of deconstruction to construct something new. With the denim fray, you are removing the woven threads to create something that was not intended to be.

What did your mood board have on it as you started this project? Were you referencing the whole denim-on-denim world, or were you thinking more about extra-pliable textiles vs. leathers and other traditional handbag materials?

For Cartel, it was definitely about the new wave in Europe of deconstruction fabrics. On our mood board were denim fibers that had been removed from the woven fabric; denim fray in ready-to-wear; paintings that contained shades of dark navy, periwinkle blue and white; and how these colors interact with denim. Our challenge with the construction of the bags was supporting the denim enough to create a crisp look that would translate well to a bag. 

How would you like to see these bags styled? 

They’re best mixed with non-denim items: crisp white shirts, black wide-leg bottoms, anything and everything navy, with an accent color such as lime green, chartreuse or red.

Any geeky textile bits you can share about the materials you work with or cool insight on how the bags are constructed?

Each bag takes so much handling to get to the final product. They are cut, sewn and washed, and in large part hand-frayed with a small comb, ironed, stitched again and ironed again. Each fringed bag takes about eight hours to complete.


Cartel frayed denim zip pouch

What are some perfect occasions for Cartel handbags?

The tote is a very sophisticated (and versatile) bag, great for anything from the farmers’ market to the beach to the office. The clutch is great for an evening out or running errands when you don’t want to carry a full bag. And the fringe shoulder bag is definitely very hip—when you want to know that you have something no one else has, this is it.

With all of this in mind, don’t you think that it’s time to get your denim on at our latest Pop-In Shop?

SHOP: Pop-In@Nordstrom New Classics

—Mona Lee & Laura Cassidy