The math isn’t hard: women’s bodies â‰ men’s bodies. But somehow that formula’s been lost on large-scale workwear manufacturers, who basically eschew gender-specific fits for a “universal” boxiness appropriate to exactly one-half of the populace.
Enter Johnston, who knows what of she wears. She’s a decade-long horticulturist, cultivating the chrysanthemums, nasturtiums and orchids that make up the prodigious gardens at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. That’s more than 11,000 square feet of delicate landscaping requiring far-from-delicate clothing.
The math isn’t hard: women’s bodies â‰ men’s bodies. But somehow that formula’s been lost on large-scale workwear manufacturers.
“I’m constantly moving around, lugging heavy watering cans, mixing fertilizers, getting covered in dirt, moss, pollen, and cat hair,” says Johnston. “By the end of the day I’m pretty dirty and my pockets are filled with all kinds of seeds, dried up plants and plant tags.”
So, sturdy wear, paramount. But as any female farmer, construction worker or mechanic can attest, finding jeans or pants that both compliment the body and stand up to physical abrasion is a Sisyphean task. Johnston herself ran through all manner of mountaineering gear, vintage men’s workwear and throwaway big-box apparel before having her epiphany: “Since I couldn’t find the clothing that would solve the problem, I decided to start making it.”
So Gamine Co. was born, and with it the inaugural launch of a woman’s work-denim line. Among the criteria: bigger pockets, reinforced knees, a between-washes cinch strap, an aesthetic consciousness and American-made materials.
To that last point, Johnston sought out Cone Denim White Oak mill in North Carolina. “This denim is nothing like your average pair of jeans,” she says. “It’s super-rugged and after time, fades in a way that fingerprints the work of the person who wears them. It does great in heat and humidity, freezing cold, in briar, the pouring rain — you name it.”
After Johnston had her prototypes — the pieces themselves were manufactured in Tennessee — she faced the obstacles of marketing. Enter Instagram, where she soon found “a community of smart, creative and engaging women” overjoyed to learn more about a utilitarian jean fitted according to a woman’s waist chart. When she made the announcement that her $150 dungarees were hitting the market, the babies sold out within a couple of months.
The feedback, says Johnston, was “mind-blowing,” including “many thank you notes from women who tell me they’ve never found anything that was made so well, with both a stylish and utilitarian focus.” Oh, and? “I think folks are excited to finally have pockets that serve a purpose!” (Don’t even get us started on women’s clothing and pockets.)
“We have had so many wonderful conversations about wanting to support the idea of slow fashion,” Johnston says.
Among her biggest fans are, indeed, farmers, including one who Instagrammed a photo of herself cheerfully hosing down her unassailable jeans after a liming mishap. “The farmers we’ve had the pleasure of connecting with appreciate the idea of buying less, but buying better,” Johnston says. And she ties it into the slow food movement, too: “We have had so many wonderful conversations about wanting to support the idea of slow fashion, and on the importance of educating yourself on where your clothing is made, and from what it is made of.”
So we had to ask: what’s the name about?
“Having gone to graduate school to study philosophy, I have a deep appreciation for words that have atmospheric definitions,” Johnston says. “‘Gamine’ is a French word that roughly translates to a beautiful, wide-eyed woman with a boyish or mischievous charm. It felt pretty spot on.”