AG heir Samuel Ku launches a denim line that redefines "premium."
New York vies with LA for the title of America’s most fashionable city, but there’s one thing the Big Apple can’t argue: The City of Angels is the undisputed queen of denim. Nobody knows this like Samuel Ku, 40, the former AG creative director who took over the celeb-loved brand co-founded by his father, Yul Ku, modernized it via collaborations with Liberty and Alexa Chung, and quadrupled business. “The market for denim for the most discerning customers has been cluttered with brands that are so-called ‘premium’ but are using less-than-the-best fabric and materials, and made in countries that don’t make the best product,” says the younger Ku, who knows the challenge of making denim well.
Ku doesn’t hide his disinterest in fast fashion, which leads us to CQY, pronounced coy, his brand-new venture that sets sights on lasting craftsmanship and true authenticity. In its debut season, it’s being worn by Emma Roberts and Caroline de Maigret. “The product we are creating is about the highest design and quality, but all in a package that is quietly beautiful,” Ku says. “I think this matches nicely with the brand name.”
To generate beautiful product that serves his vision, Ku works with technicians directly, something that’s not possible outside of LA. The son of South Korean immigrants originally wished to design sneakers or cars but instead found himself in fashion, impacted by watching his father. “Seeing him gave me a realization about how much hard work goes into something,” Ku says. He’s more than willing to do the same, scouring the world for the best of the best, like indigo material from Japan’s Kalihara denim mill.
Trends are not adhered to—far from it. “We don’t have shreds, rips and tears in the product,” says Ku of what he calls “clean, real denim.” For summer, the palette shifts to whites, and shorts and a skirt are destined to be the must-haves from O.C. to Malibu. In the meantime, Ku has no favorite jean, since there are reasons to love each, he says, from the everyday cigarette-legged Friend to a modern reincarnation of Levi’s classic 501, named the Vinyl, to the Sunday, a flirty high-rise, wide-leg crop. “What I think we’ve done is create perfect jeans for every look a girl needs in her closet,” he says. Perhaps that’s why stores like Barneys New York, which never carried AG, have snapped up the fledgling label. That, says Ku, “was the ultimate validation.”