“I wanted to make denim appropriate,” quips Phillip Lim. “We all love denim and we all love wearing it, but I wanted to remove the notion that it can be too casual.” The California-born designer is talking about the origins of his new capsule collection, a twelve-piece, wide-ranging assortment of elevated denim essentials—a single-button, fitted blazer, a deep navy elongated vest that can be transformed into a trench coat, and a cropped leather-trimmed moto jacket, for instance—meant to challenge the idea that denim means distressed cut-offs, washed-out jeans, and summer festival-weekend wear. “There is always some form of denim in each of my collections,” explains Lim. “This time, we just singled it out and highlighted it as a capsule in its own right. Each of the pieces in the capsule sits alongside any of my seasons past and future with complete ease.”

The twelve pieces are drawn from classic, non-denim traditional silhouettes. Think indigo tops made in a boxy form—more Modernist architecture-referential than Nineties CK Kate Moss-Marky Mark throwback—and ultra-polished, office-ready pencil skirts. “The shapes are classic, but in an unexpected fabrication,” suggests Lim. Color tone was important, too. “The shade of the denim was key as, for me, it makes denim work appropriate you could say,” he says in reference to his chosen deep hue. This collection is a far cry from the faded 501s that have come to define jean theory. As Lim notes, we all love denim—few materials are as imprinted with such warmth of nostalgia, as ingrained in America’s collective style consciousness—but who’s to say the summer daytime staple can’t be something more? As for the woman for Lim’s new focused collection, he says there is no one elegant blue jean muse: “I envisage everyone around me.”

The 3.1 Phillip Lim denim capsule collection is available now at 31PhillipLim.com.

Ashley Simpson writes about art, culture, and fashion for Interview, V, Style.com, and W. She grew up in Hawaii and the South and is currently based in Brooklyn.

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