All he wanted was a new pair of jeans.
In 2010, Gerry Kelly started hunting for a new pair of patchwork jeans just like the pair he’d purchased 9 years earlier at a vintage store in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district, where the hippie culture lives on nearly 50 years after the Summer of Love.
A two faced clock at the famous intersection still paid a winking homage to the drug culture – one set of hands is frozen at 4:20 and the other at “high noon.” But Aardvarks, where Gerry had found his beloved pair of multicolored, patchwork jeans, had shut down and the neighborhood now attracted more tourists than aging, potsmoking Janis Joplin fans.
None of the remaining vintage shops or flea markets carried anything similar to Gerry’s favorite pair of festival jeans, and he wasn’t about to attend the upcoming Burning Man festival in an ordinary pair of indigo boot cut denim.
From Ireland to the U.S., with Love
So Gerry, a Dublin native who traveled the world before settling in California, decided to recreate the jeans on his own. He bought up old rolls of denim in a dozen or so colors and, with the help of his wife Christine, created a patchwork blanket out of them. Gerry hired a seamstress to make a pattern and sew a lifetime’s supply of patchwork jeans: three pairs.
And then Gerry, a former broker and bartender with no experience in fashion design, decided to make more and different styled jeans – and Sonas Denim was born.
A Crazy Cool Concept
“I’d lost the real estate business from leveraging too much, so I thought, ‘why not give the jeans a go, I love them, so why not? People thought it was a crazy idea, but I thought it was cool.”
As it turns out, it’s been a bit of both.
Gerry’s been booted out of boutiques by disinterested shop owners and ignored by trade show attendees. But he lets the snubs roll off his back as easily as he trills his Irish Rs. He soaks up knowledge about every facet of the fashion industry, connects with fashion leaders and icons and keeps focused on his goal: To build a sexy, great fitting stylish denim brand that is ethical, cruelty free and amazing.
“I have this vision. I just believe in it so much. I have a vision that I am going to complete.
"I have no choice. I have nothing to go back to,” he says.
So he keeps moving forward to achieve his goal. The early Sonas Denim jeans were a hit with the festival crowd, but weren’t designed for the highfashion consumer.
This changed when Gerry’s original designs grabbed the attention of Allen Chevalier, a veteran who had worked with Fred Segal, Bebe and Guess and made the first stretched jeans for Nordstrom. The fashion designer who built his own clothing line that grossed $12 million its first year in 1974 joined their team to help Gerry and Christine take Sonas Denim to superstar status.
Chevalier, the makeup artist of fashion denim, introduced Gerry to the high end cottons that give Sonas Denim jeans their comfortable feel and showed him how to use patches to create a more flattering fit.
Strategic placement of patches and seams—even those of a single color—accentuates eye-pleasing contours and lines. Just as a makeup artist uses shading and highlights to compliment facial features, Gerry applies these principles to make everyone who wears Sonas Denim look her best.
Fashion with a Conscience, Denim with a Purpose
Gerry and Christine have big dreams for Sonas Denim but an even bigger mission: to end animal cruelty. Christine has spent most of her law career 15 years defending animals on death row. It’s rewarding, but heartbreaking work and she wanted to find another outlet to continue her advocacy for animal rights that didn’t leave her depressed and hating life after a tough day in the courtroom. Sonas Denim honors Christine’s passion in two ways.
1. Everything Sonas Denim makes is ethical, ecofriendly and vegan – free from animal products of any kind.
2. A portion of Sonas Denim profits will be used to build an animal sanctuary, a place where Sonas brand ambassadors – rescued dogs, cats, chickens, cows and other farm animals – will help educate the public about animal welfare issues.
This is why the Sonas Denim tagline is not a marketing tactic but a pledge. Gerry and Christine stand behind these words:
Sonas Denim: Look Good. Do Good