Sometimes referred to as “Where you end up when you fall asleep on the bus,” the rough-edged and gritty region of Lower Clapton is becoming one of the most rapidly gentrified areas near London. Nestled among this breeding ground for London’s up-and-coming independent businesses is the unexpected sight of a high-end denim boutique by the name of Bad Denim. Owned and operated by Erin McQuinn, previous Production Manager at MiH Denim, this shop offers its discerning clientele the opportunity to absorb the culture of denim and gain a shopping experience unlike any other in order to discover their new favorite designers.
For McQuinn, what would become a career saturated in denim production experience didn’t begin that way. Originally from Detroit, McQuinn’s parents pushed for more reliable degrees and she studied Social History and Anthropology at the University of Michigan. It wasn’t until her internships for various fashion publications that she couldn’t ignore her craving for a career in garment styling and production. “It might have been considerably easier had I started out with degrees in fashion. I learned by doing, which was harder but more rewarding.” McQuinn’s determination to pursue garment production lead her to a four-year engagement as Production Manager at MiH jeans.
Working directly under founder Chloe Lonsdale, who comes from a long line of denim heritage, McQuinn was taken deep into the “belly of the beast” to denim houses throughout Italy and Turkey where she oversaw production for him. “That kind of travel sounds much more glamorous than it actually was. I would spend my days in windowless factories testing product.” McQuinn explains, “Because denim is a material unlike any other, it makes the production process very temperamental and unpredictable. If it shrank even the slightest amount the wrong way than we intended it was considered defective and immediately scrapped and we’d begin the process over again in order to create a quality, lasting denim product.”
Now, while overseeing development for Victoria Beckham’s line of denim, McQuinn runs Bad Denim: “It was a couple of years ago when I got the idea for the shop and really saw myself doing it. I always pictured it in London but with a kind of Brooklyn, New York vibe. Clapton was the perfect spot.” Inside the boutique, various cuts and washes of denim pants, shorts, shirts and overalls lay delicately across funky, mid-century furniture, and walls showcase denim hung by their belt loops like pieces of art. This unique destination is about reclaiming denim from men. “I often have men pop in and ask where the men’s selections are but I wanted this store to be entirely about women finding their best denim.
“Men have it much easier…it’s such a trial for women to find ideal fits and styles.” McQuinn has learned there’s no rulebook or shortcut for finding denim. “I don’t so much believe in shapes: pear, apple, et cetera…denim is more about lifestyle and who she is. Every girl should have one of every style of denim and make it their own. It will always be a process of trial and error.”
Text by Jennifer Richardson-Moulaison