“Beautifully boring clothes” might sound like a slight, and “fetishizing the unremarkable” could sound demeaning, but when those seemingly-contradictory descriptors are applied to A.P.C., they’re just used to remind us that the French label’s work is still radical, still relevant and always approachable.
Initially a reaction to the over-designed and over-hyped seasonal fashion trends in his adopted home of Paris, founder Jean Touitou sought to show the world that functional basics have as much a right to a place in the fashion pantheon as anything else. But the work is still not done. As some mainstream publications still describe A.P.C.’s designs as unisex and uniform-like with notes of condescension, the brand still battles with the reductive ways people understand “fashion.”
A.P.C.’s Philosophy and History
A.P.C.’s roots lie in a happy accident: Jean Touitou founded the brand, Atelier de Production et Creation (French for “Studio of Production and Creation”), in 1987 after losing his luggage en route to Barcelona. In an interview with GQ he said, “I wanted to buy underwear and a pair of jeans. This is when I realized there was no jean available. Everything was so badly washed—no raw denim—and I said to myself, ‘I’m going to do underwear for men and denim too.’ This is how I decided to make jeans.”
Raised to appreciate the simple (well-made) things, Touitou’s unique upbringing undoubtedly inspired his minimalist aesthetic and his preference for classic raws over crappy washed jeans. His father was a tanner and was enchanted by Swedish leather and fashion. Young Jean grew up in sunny Tunisia in a home accented with tasteful Swedish design elements. As an adult, Jean learned quickly about fashion and business working as a ghost designer for a number of brands, and even got some business chops while running his own record label.
After the Barcelona ordeal, Touitou received a roll of high-quality Japanese selvedge denim from a designer friend and A.P.C. began. Touitou hunted down the weaver and made an exclusive deal with him for a “special recipe.” Whatever that recipe is, it fades fast and has remained a cornerstone of the brand.
Challenging the status quo from day one, the first A.P.C. store opened in 1988 and the core collection hasn’t varied too much from season to season over the course thirty years, even as the label continues to grow in prominence.
Jean Touitou is still a part of A.P.C. three decades years later, albeit in a somewhat reduced role. In his own words, “I used to do everything, now I do nothing. In some technical fields, I’m the best, as a clothes engineer, at the source of creativity… I don’t think they could replace me.”
But Touitou is a somewhat polemic figure. Timberland cut ties with A.P.C. in 2015 after Touitou used the N-word while describing his brand’s collaboration with Kanye West. (A collection that completely sold out, for whatever it happens to be worth.) And while some have insisted this was a one-off mistake, many interviewers of Touitou remark that the man is sometimes caustic and intense, a far cry from the cool, calm aesthetic he espouses.
A.P.C.’s headquarters are still in Paris and now they have some 50 stores around the world. Prices for A.P.C. denim have risen steadily and production has moved from Japan to Macau, but these issues haven’t done much to stifle the popularity of their classic selvedge denim offerings. Unfortunately, the company isn’t very transparent about the ethical treatment of their workers. And, if Touitou’s rant about impoverished parts of China to Hint Mag in 2011 are any indication of his respect towards workers in under-served areas, then… who knows.
Characteristics and Iconic Models
You can usually spot an A.P.C. creation by its muted colors, slim fit, and minimalistic design, but there are a few other hallmarks to look out for as well.
- A black-and-white woven label with their Parisian address.
- Large sans-serif lettering (Akzidenz-Grotesk font).
- Vanity sizing (expect to go at least two sizes down in denim).
The New Standard may seem like a standard five-pocket jean, but this is kind of where it all began—these selvedge raws were such an enormous part of popularizing raw denim in the years when many people had given up on crunchy pants. The New Standard is a slim-straight cut made from the mid-weight, red-line denim that made the brand so famous. Like all A.P.C. jeans, they fade beautifully.
Available for $195 from Context Clothing.
The Petit Standard has everything you love about the New Standard, but petit-ier. The rise is lower, the hips and thighs are narrower and the legs taper ever so slightly. It comes in a slight stretch denim and classic five-pocket design.
Available for $195 from Context Clothing.
Nautical Stripe Shirt
The Michael Slim-Fit Striped Jersey T-shirt is an excellent example of one of those non-basic-basic offerings that have made A.P.C. so popular. Clearly inspired by a classic Breton shirt, the simple stripy design evokes something quintessentially French. Made from a heavy jersey, this blue and white shirt is a sure-fire complement to any pair of jeans. But, unfortunately, there’s no information about where this shirt is made.
Available for $140 from Mr. Porter.
Another luxe basic from A.P.C. is this Appliquéd Fleece-back Cotton-Jersey Sweatshirt. This charcoal crewneck piece is part of the collection commemorating the brand’s 30th anniversary and comes in a regular fit.
Available for $180 from Mr. Porter.
A.P.C. – The Final Say
The Atelier de Production et de Creation has basically defined the upscale basics market since its inception, but the brand’s minimalistic aesthetic belies it’s iconoclastic founder who, for better or worse, keeps the company in the headlines. Consumers hoping for transparent production practices should look elsewhere, but there’s little denying that A.P.C. is still at the top of its game after thirty years in the game.