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Talking to the mad genius behind Topshop’s WTF jeans

For $100, you could get a pair of Topshop “jeans” that are made of transparent vinyl. You might laugh or tweet something snarky (many have), but…those “jeans” are sold out.

And this isn’t the only pair of out-there denim Topshop has churned out in recent months. Remember the clear-knee “mom” jeans the internet had a field day with? Or the ones with a full tulle skirt attached?

There’s one woman behind this denim madness, and her name is Mo Riach. She’s Topshop’s head of design. And she is loving the conversation, no matter how snarky it gets.

“We want to disrupt. We want to do something that will get people talking,” she says. “It’s a positive thing. Debate and discussion is a positive thing, and we have our customers coming to our site as a result of that.” She continued, “We love to give people a reason to buy something new in this saturated market. We know we are confident and only go forward with things we believe in and we know our customers will adopt, so we don’t question it too much.”

For Topshop’s design team, there’s no such thing as going too far, though Riach agrees “a clear jean is as far as we pushed it” and “we will push it as far as it needs to with reason without it becoming fancy dress [costume].” She says the design team mainly takes inspiration from street style blogs and vintage shopping. Here, she shares the stories behind some of Topshop’s most recent head-turning denim designs.

On the clear-knee jeans


“It evolved from the rips of distressed jeans and looking for new ways of doing that. Obviously, there was great success with those kind of extreme rips, and it went from rips on the knees to rips right down the leg and then it began more than rip, it became a cutout, so there wash a lot of flesh on show, a lot of exposure of the leg. Then we started playing around with fabrication. I suppose it comes from the idea of patching your jeans, but instead of patching it with another denim we patched it with vinyl. Vinyl as a fabrication has been a focus for us and we always like to infiltrate all the trends that are going on into denim anywhere possible.

Vinyl was in a lot of the runway shows. The one that comes to mind are Louis Vuitton–there were a lot of vinyl pants, and Sandro had a lot of vinyl pants. There’s almost a little bit of a punk kind of feel coming through for the season. The vinyl skinny leg trouser is the foundation of that kind of punk look. The foundations are these vinyl skinny leg trousers, so that I guess is where they came from.”


On the completely clear jeans

“That came from the success of the vinyl and just pushing that as far as it could go, really. We have done a lot of clear mattes in the past and they’ve been really successful, so it’s like taking those trends and trying them out with denim. Our customers are very early adopters who like to experiment, and we like to give them things they can experiment with. It was just a small limited edition run for the kind of early adopters we want to appeal to.”


On the tulle skirt-jeans

“We have a lot of hybrid products, like a two-in-one garment. So, you can buy a [sweater] with a shirt underneath and it’s attached. That is quite a big focus for us as a brand. Tulle skirts were what, we thought, were a really big trend for spring and summer. We worked quite heavily into that, inspired by the kind of dance aesthetics, and the ballerina tulle skirts were really where it came from. Again, the denim team love to experiment. They love to take a trend that’s not necessarily directly aimed at denim and see what they can do with it and have a bit more fun. That’s what they did with the tulle skirt over the jeans–I would say it’s a bit of a ’90s thing.”


On reworked denim jeans

“It’s about taking a product and making it unique by changing it, taking them apart and putting them back together all in the aim of generating some original ideas again in the crowded marketplace. That’s what we own. We have a great design team that have the skills to create really original products. We take garments and literally take them apart and put them back together. Our teams are really hands-on with products—with that kind of design the only way you can do it is to get hands-on, literally cut about and make it up again.”