I have been wanting to describe the wonders of this essential, not-to-be-missed pant for ages… over a year now, I think. But every time I start to write something, my team tells me that it is sold out and that we should wait as not to frustrate anyone with low stock. That cycle ends today – and now I am glad I waited. Inventory levels aside, who could have known that the state of the world would make this an even more perfect time for these pants (if that is even possible)?
The Faye Cropped Flare Pants are brilliant. "Minimal, clean and quietly chic" is what we have in the item copy on the website. A perfect description (which I can say because I didn't write it.) They are all of those things. But the MOST important part of these pants, is that they are a stretchy, pull-on style with an elastic waist, and they flatter E V E R Y woman who puts them on. Truly. No lie. Imagine you are in yoga pants (which I do really love for weekend grocery runs) but you are NOT in yoga pants. You are in REAL clothes! Whatever that means to you. The point is that they are polished but next-level comfortable. You could wear them in an office. You could wear the knit version on a transatlantic flight, and still look fresh when you get off the plane. You could wear them to the market. You could even wear the sateen to a black tie event with a smoking jacket or silk blouse on top and heels. I have fallen asleep in them on the couch. We even make them in a fantastic vegan suede that you can throw in the washing machine that could work for any of these activities. Wherever you can imagine, pandemic times or not.
Twenty years ago, I would never have imagined elastic-waist pants could look so chic. Sid tells this story from his early days at Lands' End when he was posted as Head of Design with the directive to "add style, but not too much." At the time they had something called the 7-Day Pant that struck him as dowdy - so he voted to drop it from the line. Customers EXPLODED. There was an enormous outcry. He had no idea of the ease and brilliance (and sales volume) of an elastic-waist pant. I never owned a pair of my own, but I am pretty sure that they did not hold you as tightly, or flatter you as nicely, as these do. Stretch fabrics have evolved and improved so much since the late 90s. So this is the year of the Faye… for more reasons than one.
You need these. I promise promise promise. If you are as old as me, and you remember Danskins – the little elastic sets that just hugged your body – you will love them all the more. And if you are on the younger side, you probably know that the current of-the-moment equivalent is bike shorts, as I learned in Sunday Styles this weekend. But those are all just comparisons. In my mind, the genius of these pants comes from Azzedine Alaïa, the Tunisian designer from Paris who was known as the "King of Cling" in the 80s. He was famous for his thick, stretchy, body-squeezing styles and his keen understanding of a woman's form.. My first "wow" was seeing the accessories editor at Vogue in one of his bodycon dresses. She was broad and shapely and probably 6 feet tall and to me, she looked like a superhero. Now the reference would be Kim Kardashian, but this was 1985 and Madeline Parrish was from Richmond and had gone to Miss Porters and then Rhode Island School of Design. She was a real artist and clearly an early adopter, although a few trend cycles ahead of Kim. (Another thing I got to observe from the corner was the great internal culture of embracing what you had - gray hair, wrinkles, asymmetrical nose, full bosom or backside…) But this Alaïa dress, on Madeline, looked so NEW. I know it is just clothing, but it felt almost revolutionary. It was BIG news, and lots of women who considered themselves BIG were grateful. They weren't being guided to cover up their bodies or wear loose-fitting things to "de-emphasize" or camouflage their figures, as I vividly remember Seventeen Magazine advising once upon a time. This was the opposite. The word 'empowering' comes to mind.
I speak of him familiarly, but my closest brush with Alaïa is more personal than fashion. I never even owned one of his pieces. But I was working as an assistant when he blew up on the scene, and my boss was gone for the month. I had met Sid a few weeks before this and was already crazy about him. I was tipped off that Natalia Makarova was dancing "The Blue Angel" at the Met. Never mind that I had no idea who Natalia Makarova was, and knew even less about the ballet itself (based on a novel by Heinrich Mann? who???) But Isabella, the zany English assistant across the hall who worked for Andre Leon Talley, assured me it would be just the thing to impress my new boyfriend.
So tickets were bought and I was set for the evening.. but at 1pm I was given the assignment to ride in a town car to JFK to pick up Azzedine Alaïa who was flying in from Paris. I quickly did the math in my head. Flight lands at 3 – customs clearance at least an hour – 45 minutes to get back into the city, tops – I would be safely back by 6 with enough time to grab Sid and head to our sophisticated date. You can tell where this is going. The flight was delayed and customs was a fiasco and at 5pm I was still in the idling towncar at JFK, squirming in the backseat and ready to jump out of my skin by the time the newly-famous Azzedine finally arrived with his young assistant. A pfffft and a nod gave me the hint to hop in the front seat with the driver. After the MOST awkward trip through rush hour traffic – neither of them spoke a word of English and they were clearly behind schedule – we dropped them off at the hotel and I had to zoom back to the Conde Nast offices to wait for the guards. There were furs in the trunk of the town car so I couldn't just split… another hiccup that took another 30 minutes (plus a few millimeters off of my fingernails.) In the end, I have no idea what time we made it to the ballet. I vaguely remember seeing Makarova dance – but what I remember more was the rush of picking Sid up in that same town car and riding to the Met together. The driver felt my pain after we'd spent the last five hours together, and offered to drop me off. Of course he was charging for the time, but I'm sure I pretended he was doing it to be nice so that I could justify accepting his offer. I couldn't help it.
That was a big and self-indulgent aside… but it is impossible for me to think of stretch and body-hugging clothes without thinking of Azzedine and The Blue Angel and that night. My hours in the car with the man who gave so many women the power and confidence of feeling shapely and womanly and comfortable. So somewhere between the Lands' End 7-Day Pant and Azzedine Alaïa is where our Faye sits. I think that is a pretty perfect place to be.