Misty Zollars and Kelly Urban create a true-blue standard for premium denim
A look at women fashion designers in Los Angeles (Jessica Q. Chen and Claire Hannah Collins / Los Angeles Times)
Amo founders Misty Zollars, 37, and Kelly Urban, 38, are longtime denim and sportswear designers. Zollars previously worked at Joie and Urban at Current/Elliott. (The duo met while designing for True Religion.) Their L.A. label, Amo, which was founded in 2014, was born out of Zollars and Urban’s desire to see jeans designed by women for women and what they knew the market was missing — jeans driven by how women actually dress and want to feel, not just trends and overt sex appeal.
Consider the brand’s name, which translates to “you are loved,” Zollars says. “We have it on the inside tags as a constant reminder that we’re girls designing for you. We’ve got your back. It’s a different approach than what has previously been the case with denim.”
Why They Matter
During their careers at the height of L.A.’s premium denim scene, Zollars and Urban saw fabric innovation, pocket embellishments and plenty of denim fads come and go, but classic jeans with a modern fit were lacking. Also, they had previously worked for male-owned premium denim companies and felt that as a result, the kind of attention that should be paid to a real woman’s body and sensibilities wasn’t being addressed.
Zollars and Urban have committed the production of their entire line to Los Angeles. Twelve seasons in, all manufacturing for Amo happens within six miles of Urban and Zollars’ office on the outskirts of the downtown Arts District, though not without challenges.
We're girls designing for you. We've got your back.
Misty Zollars, co-founder of Amo
“It’s definitely been increasingly impossible to manufacture here,” Urban says. “Places are closing down. It’s getting more and more expensive with [the] minimum wage, and everyone’s prices are rising, which makes it really hard. So a lot of companies are going to Mexico or overseas. Denim is a very labor-intensive product from sewing to wash. So if your labor goes up, the price goes up, and there’s only so much you can sell premium denim for.”
Amo started with five styles that are all vintage-inspired in wash but with a more comfortable and consistent fit than vintage. The Babe jean, a high-rise cropped, straight fit that was part of Amo’s initial collection, continues to be the bestseller and helped put the brand on the map.
In the studio
“Easy — that’s what jeans are supposed to be. That’s the goal,” Zollars says from Amo’s airy studio in a sprawling brick building that’s home to a handful of other designers who have flocked to downtown’s bustling creative hub.
At the all-female company of four employees, Amo’s founders continue to build on the idea that every item should be a closet “essential.” In addition to jeans, they make military-inspired jackets with ruffle detail running down the back, chambray button-downs, T-shirts and nautical striped tops. Urban and Zollars have donated 20% from the sales of their white T-shirt with the words “Babes Unite” across it to Planned Parenthood and have had to remake the design after it sold out. (Prices for Amo selections range from $89 for a cotton knit tank to $348 for jeans and $478 for jackets.)
But it’s the jeans that Urban and Zollars (literally) sew their you-are-loved, for-women-by-women message into while aiming to create stylish and democratic denim that women would actually want to wear.
“We want it to look authentically vintage but fit from a woman’s point of view and not just what a guy would want to see a girl in,” Urban says. “We know how it feels to try on a pair of jeans, and it’s not an easy task. When we were designing and we create fits that we both like our bodies in, then we know we’ve done something right.”
Where they find inspiration in L.A.
Photographer Emman Montalvan