A large poster hangs above the desk of Made in Heaven's founder Chloe Lonsdale. Stamped in faded letters are the words: "In 1969, while the world was busy putting man on the moon, here at Made in Heaven we were busy making the best jeans on Earth." It is a bold, tongue-in-cheek motto for the denim company but, under the direction of Lonsdale, it is one that is becoming a reality for the brand today. The daughter of a jeans entrepreneur and '70s model, Lonsdale reincarnated her godfather's denim company in 2005, forging it into one of the UK's most successful denim brands.
Lonsdale's godfather, Tony O'Gorman, the man responsible for the poster, founded the original company in the late '60s. O'Gorman inherited an old paint factory on London's Fulham Road but, with little understanding of the paint industry, he began using the machines to experiment with different washes for denim and launched his own line. Soon his clientele included Jane Birkin and Farrah Fawcett. At the same time, Lonsdale's father (dubbed by the British press as the "Blue Jean King") started his chain of Jean Machine stores, after he discovered that California had 582 jeans outlets yet there was not one in the UK.
"When I was born in the late '70s, I was raised in an environment where everyone around me was wearing jeans," explains Lonsdale. "My parents had created this legacy that lasted through my childhood, so denim was pretty embedded in my ID." Though the brands quietly slipped from favour as '80s power dressing arrived, denim had become part of the family.
In 2005, the Californians still dominated the jeans industry, and Lonsdale felt that the English spirit of what her family had begun was missing. So she decided to make her move and leave her position in PR at Nicole Farhi. Lonsdale's MiH revival drew inspiration from their rich archive and modernised classic denim with original cuts that have impressed today's influential style makers, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Bosworth and Claudia Schiffer. She has expanded her line to include basic T-shirts, blouses, knitwear and jackets that are stocked in more than 35 countries around the world. And, alongside this, Lonsdale has brought Jean Machine back to life as a premium denim brand for men.
Though her father may have held the title of "Blue Jean King", Lonsdale has proven to be a worthy successor to the throne.