Jane and Julie are laughing. They showed up to work today dressed exactly alike, which wouldn't be a big deal if they were required to wear uniforms – or weren't two-thirds of the sister trio (which includes sister Jennifer) that owns Blue Genes, a high-fashion denim boutique in Buckhead. "I can't believe we did that," Julie says.
The Arrendale sisters – twins Jane and Julie and older sister Jennifer – have a proven track record of striking gold with trends. When they opened Blue Genes five years ago, it was the only Atlanta boutique dedicated to premium denim. Since then, the 1,800-sq. ft. women's boutique has expanded to more 7,000 square feet with distinct sections for women's, men's and children's fashions, plus an online store.
"We always knew we wanted to open a store," Jane says. "We always talked about it. But that was, like, 10 years before we did it."
When Julie got pregnant five years ago, Jennifer, who was in living in Paris at the time, decided to come home. The sisters knew it was time to pursue the sotre. "We made that decision in January and opened in August, so it was really quick," Julie says. The store just celebrated its fifth anniversary.
The concept to sell only premium denim was a mix of luck and timing. "The premium denim market was just cresting," Jane says.
"We caught on right before the denim boom," Julie says. "I think it was definitely already happening in New York and L.A., and Atlanta was just catching on, so I think we jumped on right in time."
The 30-something sisters have a talent for "jumping on at the right time." Many of the lines in the store this fall, especially the skull-influenced designs of Thomas Wilde, have been spied on the red carpet, and Atlanta customers are vying for the labels. "We have to buy collections three to four months in advance," Julie says. "Thank goodness it happens that way because we had a waiting list a mile long. Pretty much, once you see it on [a celebrity], it's too late."
The Arrendales work as a team; they divide the behind-the-scenes business aspects between them, and do the buying together. When asked if they have different styles, Julie says, "I think they vary slightly, but, for the most part, I think we all pretty much have the same style." Jane, her twin, agrees and laughs, commenting on this morning's near fashion disaster. They're going to see 1980s stadium giants Journey and Def Leppard tonight at Chastain, a fitting coincidence considering the resurgence of the skinny-leg jean.
"Last fall, our customers started asking for them. They wanted it," Jane says. "We didn't have enough for them and there was a waiting list. Now for this fall, I think it's definitely going to be the way to go."
And for those who still love the bootleg? "Keep them," Jane says. "I don't think you have to be so trendy, but that's definitely the look for fall. It went from straight leg to cigarette and now they're doing a peg leg where it's literally like a legging. They're even doing the ankle-length peg leg – it stops at your ankle and you can see your shoe or little booty. That's another trend for fall."
And skulls. On shirts, scarves, boots and jewelry, skulls are the look, and the must-have designer is Thomas Wilde. "That's the line that Sienna Miller, Lindsey Lohan and Nicole Richie are all wearing and our customers, I mean, they're fighting over it! They have to have it," Jane says.
Other looks include long tunics, sophisticated layers and leggings. "Leggings are huge," Jane says. "It's the whole ‘80s feel with the pegged jeans and leggings with oversized or tunic dresses over it. That's huge. And the whole mod look: Black matte tights with short minis or a sweater dress and big boots."
As for denim, "it's the black wash, or the faded gray wash," Julie says.
"And now it's really, really super dark black or faded gray," Jane adds. "That faded gray and black is the new trend that you have to have, that color of denim. It's that whole kind of punk feel. Kind of rock 'n' roll."
Aside from occasionally dressing alike, the sisters are very close. That closeness translates into the store's success, which has been written up in In Style, Vogue, In Touch, Lucky and Nylon magazines. Celebrities frequently stop in, and the store attracts 75 percent of its online business from New York and California.
"We have an awesome working relationship," Julie says. "We really never fight, never disagree. But we never did when we were younger. We really didn't."
Jane agrees. "It's the only way I would do it. You can't do this by yourself. And what better way than with your family and with people that you trust?"
My assignment for Where Atlanta was to write about the designer jeans trend in Atlanta and feature the store Blue Genes, Atlanta's first all-premium denim store. I found the story behind the store to more interesting than whether skulls and skinny jeans would ever be found inside Atlanta. So I incorporated the season's fashion trend into the profile.