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The New Jean Genies

Kelly Urban and Misty Zollar are redefining American-made denim with their indie brand AMO

AMO Denim, the new L.A.-based brand founded by Kelly Urban and Misty Zollars, is garnering plenty of attention—and for some very good reasons.

Before launching AMO (the Latin root word for love), Urban was the women’s design director at Current/Elliott and Zollars was the senior design manager at True Religion. A few of the brand’s best-selling styles, sold at BirdThe Line and Intermix, include the Twist (with a twisted outseam and notched hem), the Tomboy (their take on a boyfriend jean, “a slouchy silhouette that doesn’t look sloppy”) and the Babe (a straight, cropped leg, high-rise jean). 

In addition to producing great quality, flattering denim, the duo has altruistic intentions. They’ve partnered with SNP LA, California’s largest spay and neuter organization, and dedicate a portion of their profits to help with efforts in reducing the number of Golden State dogs being born into homelessness. 

The design duo sat down with DuJour to talk about their burgeoning empire. 

What are your design backgrounds? 

Urban: We’ve both worked at several different fashion brands and have been designing for many years. We’ve designed everything from denim to sweaters to swimwear. Of course, jeans are our favorite! 

How did you meet?

Zollars: We first met in 2004, back when the premium denim market was really starting to take off. Initially we were co-workers, but we quickly became close friends. We discovered we shared a mutual love for denim and animals.

Urban: We’d spend our lunch breaks rescuing stray dogs off the streets and dreaming of starting our own company one day. It wasn’t until many years later that we revisited our dream, which was still very much alive, and started making plans. 

The AMO Twist skinny jean in True Blue

The AMO Twist skinny jean in True Blue

What made you decide to create AMO? 

Urban: There is an old set of rules out there when it comes to designing denim and running a company, and we wanted to take a new approach from a different generation and a woman’s point of view. 

Zollars: We wanted jeans that felt real, that looked authentic but also modern and feminine and that got better with each wear. We set out to combine our personal desire for the perfect pair of jeans with our passion of helping the many stray dogs we’d see every day on the streets in Los Angeles. With these two objectives in mind, we founded AMO. We like to think love is at the root of our company. 

What sets the brand apart?

Zollars: Our feminine approach to authentic denim is what sets us apart from the others in the market. Our interpretation of how to apply vintage details to denim in a high-end, unique and subtle way offers a much-needed fresh perspective to the women’s denim market. We are both extremely detail oriented and obsess over the all the components we believe make a jean great—the fit, the fabric, the washes, all the subtle branding details. It’s a process but ultimately the result is a pair of jeans that looks very original.  

What were you personally not able to find out in the denim market?

Urban: We couldn’t find the jeans we personally wanted to wear in the market. As saturated as the denim market was, we noticed this big gap between stretchy skinnies and heavy 100 percent cotton vintage jeans. We desperately wanted jeans that felt real, something that looked authentic but also modern and feminine at the same time. We initially set out to offer what we call “The Essential Denim Closet,” every style jean a women needs in her closet, and have been thoughtfully building on that concept with each season as we grow. 

What’s your brand’s aesthetic? 

Urban: Our overall brand aesthetic can be best described as vintage inspired with a modern, feminine twist. ‘How to make vintage denim feel feminine and modern and feminine,’ that’s the question we continue to ask ourselves when designing.

Zollar: We have an advantage as women and designers: we know exactly how we want our jeans to fit because we wear them every day! It’s surprising, but most women’s denim companies are owned and operated by men. We’ve worked with some amazing male designers over the years but as women we feel such a personal connection to the denim we wear, and think this gives us a better understanding of fit. We also try everything on ourselves—we both have different body types, which allows us to make sure the proportions and details are flattering on both of us. Anything can look good on a fit model, so this is the real test! 

Where do you envision the brand going from here?

Zollars: We’re working on evolving the brand with the same edited, curated design philosophy upon which we founded AMO, and have some exciting new silhouettes and fabrics in the works. 

Babe jeans in True Blue, $246, amodenim.com
Babe jeans Sweet Cheeks, $260, amodenim.com
Twist jeans in True Blue, $249, amodenim.com