Jeffrey Rudes, the founder of L’AGENCE, has been in the fashion industry for 43 years. At just 17 years old, under the direction of his father, he started selling denim to brands. The process drew him to the manufacturing side of the business, and in 1979, he created his first jean brand named Paris 2000.
26 years later, in 2005, Rudes established another denim label—J Brand. Recognized for his sophisticated jeans, Rudes took the Los Angeles lifestyle to new heights with skinny jeans and enough flare fit for the modern day. Just three years later, in 2008, Rudes launched L’AGENCE—a brand that’s garnered attention for its dazzling rock-and-roll energy. In February we caught the label’s latest presentation at the Bowery Hotel, which featured loose-fitting suit sets, belted dresses paired with boots, and metal chain bralettes peeking out from under silk tops.
Most recently, L’AGENCE collaborated with The Bert Stern Trust for a collaborative collection. Launched last week are 24 pieces featuring photos of Marilyn Monroe from “The Last Sitting” series. These prized images were taken by Stern just weeks before Monroe’s death, and are given new life in a capsule collection of tops, ties, jackets, and more.
Whitewall spoke with Rudes to hear more about this partnership, and why his relationship with art and fashion is found in an amalgamation of time and place.
WHITEWALL: In an interview, you mentioned growing up watching your mother try on clothes and that it was your first look into women’s fashion. How did that ultimately impact you?
JEFFREY RUDES: My mother was an exceptionally beautiful woman and having her try something on, whether it be Pucci or Valentino, was like I was watching Grace Kelly try on clothes. I learned about elegance, sophistication, and beauty by my mother.
WW: How would you define your personal style?
JR: I keep it simple with a capital “S.” I usually go for a rock-and-roll vibe, but can also be as classic as Cary Grant.
WW: Your work has primarily been in the world of denim. You’ve perfected a good cut and silhouette for jeans, but also sharpened your knife creating a brand. Tell us a bit about the alchemy here, and what your special sauce is for creating an aesthetic.
JR: Knowing a lot about our customer is the most important part of the process. We design for her. What we make is timeless, sophisticated, and wearable. We do not make runway or tricky pieces that are one-offs for one season or two wears. At L’AGENCE, we make clothing for real people.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about what the brand embodies, and how you pull inspiration from French and Californian lifestyles?
JR: The French and Cali vibe emphasizes the term “easy-chic”. California represents the “easy” and “chic” embodies the French attitude. Our clothing symbolizes soft and easy dressing that is not too serious and has a great point of view. This is how we incorporate both locations into our collections.
WW: Tell us a bit about your Spring/Summer 2020 collection.
JR: The Spring/Summer 2020 collection embraces a new decade with an inspired 21st century collection referencing a continued love affair with the Mediterranean. The collection is a diverse, travel-ready wardrobe that meets all the needs of the L’AGENCE woman’s home, work, and social lives through empowering silhouettes and emotional signature prints. Elements of couture-inspired tailoring and luxury fabrics make for wardrobe pieces that are both opulent and practical in featuring ultra-wearable cuts, including our bias evening cowlneck and spaghetti strap dresses.
WW: Tell us a bit about your Fall/Winter 2020 collection, which we saw in person during New York Fashion Week.
JR: For Fall/Winter 2020, suiting plays a central role in the wardrobe of the L’AGENCE woman. The blazers pair effortlessly with signature denim that has become a cornerstone of the L’AGENCE range. Silk separates and dynamic prints convey an elevated ease and a savoir-faire sentiment that bridges a West Coast attitude and Parisian flair, both of which are elemental DNA of the brand history. The collection places an emphasis on sophisticated suiting with a feminine attitude.
WW: Last week, L’AGENCE launched a collaborative collection with the Bert Stern trust. It pays tribute to Stern’s iconic “The Last Sitting” photo series of Marilyn Monroe—the last portrait series before her death. Tell us a bit about why this is special, and why L’Agence is choosing to feature its photographs.
JR: L’AGENCE is partnering with Bert Stern Trust to debut a limited-edition capsule collection that pays tribute to Bert Stern’s iconic photo series of Marilyn Monroe’s “The Last Sitting”—the last of Monroe before her untimely demise weeks later. The 24-piece collection evinces the women’s contemporary label’s intertwine with Hollywood’s glamour and energy while paying homage to the legendary Marilyn Monroe and the late Bert Stern.
The partnership with Bert Stern is a natural fit for our first foray into a brand collaboration at L’AGENCE. Stern’s iconic imagery pairs perfectly with the L’AGENCE lifestyle that’s so rooted in Los Angeles, and we believe the collectable pieces produced from this partnership further solidify the iconic legacy of Marilyn, Bert Stern, and of course, L’AGENCE.
WW: Photography is such a beautiful extension of art. Can you tell us about your relationship with art?
JR: Art is another creation of something beautiful that has a strong emotional expression. When a painting gets my attention, I stop and get seduced by it.