Behind the Blues Interview Series: Kim Harlan from Red Engine Jeans

by Jaime on May 6, 2010

Kim is more than just a part of Red Engine… she plays an integral part in the brand, along with her sister and brother-in-law. It’s truly a family affair over there! I light up with joy every time I get the chance to work with Kim, and I was so excited that she’d be taking part in the Behind the Blues series. She’s a wealth of knowledge and I know you’ll learn something new about her and Red Engine. Enjoy the interview!

You’ve become the face – and the contact – for Red Engine. How did you land the job, and what’s your favorite part of doing it?

Haha, I don’t know if I’m the face of Red Engine, but I am the butt. I do all the fitting (along with my sister) on current styles and new development. So I wear different hats, or, rather, jeans at Red Engine. Which is really cool, and never boring. It all began 10 years ago… I was a freelance graphic designer at the time. My sister (Kristy Harlan, a former designer at Guess) called me and asked if I wanted to design trims, hardware, tags, and marketing materials for a new denim company that had hired her to design a line called Red Engine. Super long story short, she ended up marrying the owner of Red Engine, Jim Boldes (former vice-pres of production at Guess), I came in house to do all the marketing, and this family-based denim brand has been growing ever since. I have lots of favorite parts of my job, but #1 and #2 would be working with my sister to create a product I love and believe in; and working to help women create an emotional connection to something that is such a profound staple of our American lives: a really great pair of jeans.

The Burner Fit from Red Engine, available at

What is your favorite pair of Red Engine Jeans?

Right now I’m really loving The Burner, which is cut from amazing new super stretch denims we recently introduced. They’re so hot (super skinny), but soft, comfortable, and easy on your internal organs at the same time. They hold ya in where we could all use a little holding. But again, they are so comfy. A girl really can have it all!

… and what is your favorite pair of jeans overall?

Well I look back fondly on the long-ago days where I lived in broken-in Levi’s 501s. But really I’m so fortunate to have the access that I do to such great premium denim. I do try a lot of jeans, but I’ve only worn Red Engine for the last 10 years. Literally. So my favorite overall is the pair I’m wearing on any given day.

What was your first pair of premium denim (if you remember)?

When I was a kid, I had a huge girl-crush on Brooke Shields. Oh my god, when she did the “No One Gets Between Me and My Calvins” campaign I begged my mom for a pair of Calvin Kleins. I wore mom down, and I loved those things!

Any little hints on what might be coming from Red Engine in the upcoming seasons?

We’ve been preparing for Fall Market for weeks, and there are so many fresh new additions coming. Mostly skinnys, with fun details like zippers and hardware, and some in sueded denims and indigo velvets that are really gorgeous.  Red Engine keeps its design pretty basic intentionally, but this Fall there are going to be some huge surprises that still fall under our manifesto: Instead of following the flavor of the month, we put emphasis on the basics because when it comes down to it, everyone needs a great basic jean!

The Ruby fit from Red Engine – available at

What is your dream pair of denim (if it exists, share that. If not, tell us what it would look like)?

Red Engine has a fit that actually IS my dream jean, because I begged for it: the Ruby (my birthstone, btw, and my sister’s dog’s name). It fits slimmer thru the lower hip in such a way that it holds you in, while lifting in the back. Score! It has a low breaking narrow boot for balance. This is my go-to Saturday night date jean every time!

If you had one personal tip for DD readers, what would it be?

I’ve read other say buy what fits, disregard the size tab, etc. and I totally agree with that. Premium denim offers a precision fit—you’ve usually got 9 chances to get it perfect (24-32). Other than that, the biggest tip I’ve got is: ask questions. Websites usually provide a contact email and I encourage y’all to use it! Ask about different fits, washes, details, rises, comparisons, etc. – if the brand is doing their job, you’ll receive an answer. For example, every email Red Engine receives thru its website comes straight to me. I read every one, then delegate it to the best person to answer it or answer it personally myself. A great pair of jeans is an investment and if you’re interested in a certain fit/wash/detail, but need a little help to get it right, the company should be happy to help you with that.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

cleverly May 6, 2010 at 10:16 pm

I love that she has such a directly personal connection to the brand!


Theresa November 4, 2010 at 3:31 pm

My favorite denim is anything from American-Capitalism Jeans the only problem is that I’m having a really tough time finding them anywhere if you know who is carrying American-Capitalism Denim I would love it if you would let me know so I can pick up a pair or two. Thanks a bunch


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