Michael Colovos joins Document to discuss the eternal power of denim, and the making of Unified’s zine for Document’s tenth anniversary issue
Michael Colovos wants Unified to feel like a family in every regard—not any traditional family, built with inherent hierarchies, but a chosen family rooted in collaboration, made up of designers, artists, models, and really anyone who puts their jeans on. Document joined Unified’s family—a natural fit, with a shared ethos rooted in collectability over consumerism—to make a zine for our tenth anniversary issue which debuts Colovos’s first five denim designs.
Spanish-born, Seattle-raised, Italian-educated, and New York-based, Colovos’s yearning to connect emerges in the zine, which was shot in his own home. The designer is less driven by creating a campaign than he is by desire for community. “I want [Unified] to be a platform for people to create,” he explains. Colovos joins Document to discuss the making of Unified and the unparalleled power of denim.
Megan Hullander: Did you have a pair of jeans as a teenager that felt like a little bit of an identity-maker for you?
Michael Colovos: I had zero self-esteem growing up. I found dressing a certain way empowering; it made me feel like somebody else. It could be a reflection of your identity, or it could project you into a different kind of identity that you want to play. And that idea of play and empowerment is something that’s followed me, and the reason why I actually got into fashion.
When I was in college, I had a housemate who had the coolest pair of jeans I had ever seen. And I wasn’t that big on denim then—I was really into more comfortable clothes, like Adidas track pants. I just wore stuff that made it easier for me to skate in. But when I saw him in those jeans, I was like, ‘Oh my God, those are so amazing.’ And we lived together for a year. I was coveting those jeans. I remember when he moved out, he came to me and gave me the jeans. And he said, ‘I want you to have these because I know how much you love them. You know, it’s funny, I got them in almost the same situation, where somebody gave them to me. And so you’re gonna love them. And I want you to be sure that you do this: You give this to somebody at some point in your life.’
Megan: It’s like the Brotherhood of the Traveling Pants.
Michael: But that’s the unique thing about jeans. They can outlive us. I go to the Rose Bowl in California and buy vintage Levi’s that are from the ’60s, and it’s like, How many lives have they had? And now, I’m gonna give it a new life.
Megan: It’s not even just person to person—they also can follow us through individual evolutions.
Michael: Denim, unlike any other fabric, does exactly what you just described. I think it’s the one fabric that crosses all genres. You [have] people that normally wouldn’t associate with one another, but they have this thing in common.
Megan: Where did the idea for Unified come from?
Michael: I’ve been working in denim for a long time. There are a lot of brands out there that I really like, [but] their denim is just a small portion of their offerings. I couldn’t find anything that was expressive; I wanted to make something with denim in and play with silhouettes, and then offer it to a new generation that I feel it speaks to—it’s unisex, it’s size inclusive. I want to get rid of the notion of sizing: the idea that, especially with jeans, that, ‘If I’m a size 27, I have to wear a size 27.’ With Unified it’s like, ‘Try the men’s size 32 and also try the same style in your size,’ and it has such a different attitude. I love that freedom of experimentation—just try it and wear it in a different way. Wear something in a way that you normally wouldn’t wear it. I didn’t see anybody doing anything that was really marketed in that way.
I like the idea of working on one product and really taking the time to make a few styles. We’re launching with only five styles. I want those to live for a long time, and denim is such a durable fabric—it does change over time and it becomes better with age, whereas most fabrics don’t. You don’t have to be precious with them, but I’m taking elements of design and putting it into the detailing, so there’s a lot of craft work in the jeans themselves. It’s made to be worn.
Casting Angus Munro. Hair Sabrina Michals. Models Astrid Voss, Jelixza Reyes, Megumi Rooney, Riah Abéllo, Mohamed Seck, John Gustaf, Ryan Ly, and Max Colovos. Special thanks Nicole Colovos and MP Creative.