Alicia Lawson and her daughter Arlinda Williams, makes custom jeans at their shop, Shapemejeans, at Westfield Franklin Park.
Ask almost any woman, and she will tell you that the single most challenging item of clothing to shop for is jeans.
We love the versatility and casual look that denim offers, but the struggle involved with finding a good pair of jeans is real. Not just a pair that is durable and of high quality, but jeans that fit both our hips and waist, without any gaping in the back or bunching in the front. A pair that doesn’t leave us exposed when we sit down or bend over. Oh, and they must be flattering, too.
Are we asking too much?
Alicia Lawson and Arlinda Williams don’t think so. In September, the Toledo women opened Shapemejeans, a custom handmade jean boutique in Westfield Franklin Park Mall offering women (men’s coming soon) everything they could want in jeans.
I visited the shop in October to go through the jean-making process. Mrs. Lawson took my measurements and we selected a pre-shaped cut-out, four pieces of pant-shaped denim held together by safety pins. I slipped the cut-out on and my jeans started to take shape — my shape.
The idea for the shop came to Mrs. Lawson several years ago when she tried on 52 pairs of jeans and couldn’t find a pair to fit her shape. She gave up her search and made a pair of her own.
Jennifer Smith, of Toledo, puts a zipper in a pair of jeans.
But it wasn’t until 2009 when her daughter, Arlinda Williams, 27, returned to Toledo from Florida that the two started brainstorming about the store.
“I asked her to make jeans for me and she wouldn’t. She said I could find jeans in the store because I’m smaller,” Ms. Williams said.
In the United States, 56 percent of women said they have trouble finding jeans that fit and flatter, according to a 2010 ShopSmart magazine survey. Twenty-seven ill-fitting pairs of jeans later, Ms. Williams had finally convinced her mother that she wasn’t the only person struggling with the issue.
“We’re all individuals. None of us are shaped exactly the same,” Ms. Williams said. “One size or style does not fit all.”
The name, Shapemejeans, refers to customization and one-of-a-kind fit.
“They’re shaped just for you,” Mrs. Lawson said. “Whether you have a 24-inch waist or 56-inch hips, you deserve a pair of jeans that fit.”
Mrs. Lawson, 43, learned to sew as a child. As one of six children growing up at the Port Lawrence Homes in central Toledo, she often wore used clothes and hand-me-downs.
“We were poor. We didn’t shop much at the stores. Most of our clothes came from [thrift stores],” said Mrs. Lawson, who previously worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative. “My mother handed me a needle and thread and said ‘make it fit.’ That’s where I learned to take clothes apart and put them together.”
To date, about 350 pairs of jeans have been ordered. The store staff has grown from just the mother-daughter team to a staff of seven who fit and sew the jeans, which start at $120 per pair, plus a one-time $25 fitting fee. The fit is turned into a mold and kept on file for future orders.
Shapemejeans, of Westfield Franklin Park, finishes the jeans made for Toledo Blade reporter RoNeisha Mullen at the store.
As business grew, the women changed their concept. At one point, jeans were pre-designed and it took up to four weeks to get a finished pair. Now they are made to order and take just two hours to complete.
“When we first started, we had an idea where you’d come in and buy jeans that were already designed with pockets and stitching, and we’d make them fit you,” Mrs. Lawson said. “Once we got going, we found that customers wanted something different. They didn’t want front pockets, because they added bulk, or they didn’t want belt loops. So, we turned the designing over to the customers.”
Shapemejeans offers seven different fabrics in a variety of colors, dozens of threads and stitching designs, and several shapes. Pockets, belt loops, and embroidery are optional. More fabric colors are on the way.
My Shapemejeans are dark, clean, and classic. Because of the simple design I chose, mine look like any other pair of jeans you’d buy at a traditional store. However, the fit cannot be rivaled.
“When we’re putting jeans together, there are so many things we’re looking for that the shopper isn’t aware of,” said Mrs. Lawson, a wife, mother, and grandmother. “Is the crotch line a proper fit, are the front and back rise in the proper place? Your rise is like your ID. No two rises are the same and it affects the fit and look of the jean.”
I’ve never been able to go without a belt and am not a fan of low-rise jeans, so it was important that my jeans fit in the waist and rise high enough to cover my backside completely.
“We’ve gotcha’ covered,” Mrs. Lawson told me.
Yes, they did.
Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6133.
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