Trends catch like colds in our office. That’s certainly been the case with paint-covered jeans, which I think I noticed on Lucky accessories editor Melissa Lum first—or maybe it was Hayley Phelan, our fashion features editor? Either way it wasn’t long until I saw Jenna Gottlieb, our senior fashion writer, in a pair too, followed by the web team’s executive editor Verena von Pfetten. And since she’s wearing hers about ten feet away from me right now, all I can focus on is how I want to go right home and take a tube of acrylic to my Levi’s.
"I think you actually need to use special paint or something," Verena explains to me when I express a need to go Jackson Pollock on my pants. "I had the same idea, but then it seemed too complicated, so I ordered mine from the Rialto Jean Project." This, she explains, is a line of re-purposed vintage jeans, each hand-painted in Venice, California. At around $200 a pop, the styles don’t come cheap, but aren’t overpriced either. In fact, when you consider that a lot of premium, albiet non-customized denim costs way more than that, it sounds more and more like a deal. Another compelling argument: a portion of each sale goes to a children’s art therapy charity. I’m nearly sold.
Still, before pulling the trigger, I’d like to know just how much work a DIY job entails. Verena points me in the direction of Melissa, who’s become so good at splattering denim she’s taking orders from other editors in the office. "I like them to look like an actual painter’s pair of pants," she tells me while scrolling though Instagram for a good example of her handiwork. "I try to make it look natural." So how does that work when she’s dealing with a really dark, crisp pair of jeans? "Well, I start with white wash—acrylic house paint diluted with water—put plastic gloves on, and drag my hands as if I was just wiping my hands on my pants. It’s better than bleach because bleach sometimes breaks the jeans." After the prepping the pants, she’ll start layering in the colors, one at a time, flicking each on with a brush and letting it drip naturally. "Sometimes it helps to shake it." The key is not to worry too much about perfection. "If it smears," she advices, "just let it smear."
Back at my desk, I casually start Googling painted jeans, and am surprised at the variety of results I encounter. Along with a plentiful amount of detailed tutorials (no one else seems to know about Melissa’s genius "white wash" method, though!), there are tons of ready-made styles available from both small, independent online-only shops, and big brand e-tailers. I still haven’t decided which of these routes to take yet, if any of them. You see, I’m moving in a few months, and suddenly have new motivation to paint the walls.
Click through for painted denim inspiration—and to shop a few pairs online!