Thigh High Jeans combines fashion with community.
“I’ve had great ideas in the past, but I’ve never acted on them or I just dismissed them,” Kerry Peeples says. “I don’t know if this was just wacky enough or what, but we decided, ‘We’re going to go down this path and see what happens.’ ”
That wacky path led to Thigh High Jeans, which Peeples started with partner Ann Smithwick in fall 2009.
Thigh High Jeans are created from recycled jeans that Peeples and Smithwick rework, adding fabric inserts along the sides and embroidering an inspirational quote — “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder,” “Believe that you have it and you have it,” etc. The quotes run down the left thigh, hence the name Thigh High.
The business sprouted from the women’s desire to do something creative together. Both are artists — Peeples is a painter, Smithwick a photographer — and gifted brainstormers. “Blue jeans are such an American thing,” Peeples says, “and we got to thinking, everybody has blue jeans, three or four pairs.” Peeples and Smithwick worked up a plan to produce something that was both unique and cost- and socially conscious.
The jeans retail for $50, with 50 percent of the profits going to the customer’s choice of either a local, national, or global nonprofit.
“It goes beyond the blue jeans,” Smithwick says, “but in that endeavor to create an alternative for something that was ridiculously priced in this economy, Kerry and I came up with a product that has so many levels of involvement.”
There is a full-circle aspect to the company. Thigh High has canisters at a number of area businesses — Café Eclectic, Whole Foods, and Republic Coffee, among them — for donors to drop off their unwanted jeans (and if that donor buys something at that business, all the better). Then those jeans are remade and bought, and another donation is made. Even the jeans’ tags are in on the act: They’re made with plantable wildflower seed paper.
Thigh High offers jeans for men, women, and children. They even have “mom” jeans. Aesthetically, the style is informed by the denim fashions of the ’70s with its fabric inserts and embroidery. But, Peeples notes, “It’s not hippie. It’s everybody,” listing customers who range from a 10-year-old boy in a band with a thing for flames to a chic real estate agent who dresses up her pair with high heels for work.
Peeples and Smithwick are big boosters of the city. “We are extremely committed to Memphis,” Smithwick says. “We want to promote Memphis in a really positive way and show our love for Memphis.” (They received permission from Memphis mayor A C Wharton to use his “One Memphis” slogan for one of their quotes.)
It’s an approach that could pay off for Thigh High in the future. “We’re poised to go to the next level,” Smithwick says. “We’ve got some outside interests that are fascinated by the fact that we are a Memphis-based company.”
They see all sorts of possibilities for Thigh High — collection points all across the nation, perhaps a chain of boutiques. They imagine their jeans delighting a young Japanese girl, and they picture the jeans on the runways of Paris.
Says Peeples, “We want to decorate the world in Thigh High.”
For more information, go to Thighhighjeans.com