Negotiating the transition from denim brand to ready-to-wear is tricky business, to say the least. J Brand
is managing its evolution very well: The label's new ready-to-wear collection was filled with sophisticated, wearable, nicely finessed clothes. But this collection did suggest that the old two-steps-forward, one-step-back dance has been going on Chez J; as creative director Donald Oliver himself noted today, the emphasis here was on creating strong individual pieces that could pair back to the jeans. Hardly the statement of ready-to-wear intent we saw last season, but Oliver and his team fulfilled the new brief, turning out sharp-looking biker jackets and ever-so-slightly slouched trousers, not to mention some natty tailored looks, like a sheer-back blazer, and shirting with a T-shirt's casual mien. The items in a nautical stripe made a particular impact, while the bikers showed off—once more—Oliver's refined sense of detail. An indigo leather jacket, for instance, featured denim lapels, a concealed zip, and traditional biker jacket quilting on the back; none of this read as novelty for novelty's sake. You could imagine a woman liking that jacket for a long time. Meanwhile, the real emphasis today did seem to be on the jeans. There were new fits—a slimmer boyfriend, for instance—and a new material, developed from hosiery tech, that made for a yet more legginglike denim. And there was also a plethora of denim shorts, ranging from tap-pant tiny to hip-hop baggy. They'll fly at retail.