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Ian Berry’s new project called ‘Denim Legends’

Mind blowing work

Ian Berry is a true original. Known to many of us as the guy who started making art in denim and eventually a part of our community. When seeing his work, it’s hard to believe it’s only made of denim fabrics and glue, as it looks like indigo-tinted photographs. So, no coloring agents or bleach are used, just a creative mind, scissors, and patience. When you take a closer look at his masterpieces you will see all the different shades of blue, fabrics, and contrasts.

Berry was the first name on the list for the first ever Amsterdam Denim Days in 2014 and also showed at the first edition in New York. We’ve seen his News Stand at the first edition, his famed Ayrton Senna portrait and then in New York a mini exhibition of his Behind Closed Doors collection.

His work is normally in galleries and museums around the world and last year we were lucky enough here in Holland to see a major solo show at Museum Rijswijk, which many of our denim community attended, and you have to see the work to really appreciate the detail, craftmanship and all the skill of his over 15 years perfecting his craft.

Creating art from old pairs of jeans

Ian Berry was the first to say that denim, however, was just his medium and not the message. He saw it, like us, as the material of our time and a perfect material to depict contemporary life, his scenes of urban environments documenting the fading fabric of our urban environments. It wasn’t all about denim, nor was it, for denim. It was art.

Recently however, he has turned that on its head. Ian Berry has been looking at the material he has made his living from. He also went back to the start. When he first had the idea to work with denim, he was studying advertising. His mindset was different and he was fascinated that this material he was starting to use was made famous, and many of us were wearing it because of the people who wore it. The Movie Stars, musicians, and other people from Pop Culture.

His first ever pieces were of Monroe, Brando, Dean, and Debbie Harry. The latter two he ended up doing official portraits for with James Deans Estate in his home town, and a portrait of Debbie Harry that was shown in New York along with a gig of the famous Blondie lead singer. Now he is making a piece with the all-time list of Denim Legends, and he needs our help.

‘From the start this idea has been in my head, to celebrate the people that made this material what we all love what it is today. With all these years working with it I have found out more and also met so many people who know more than I, many living through the period. It has been a journey and I have a good idea who should make the final list, but I’ve been asking many as well as online and some opinions have made me think who should make the final few.’ Ian Berry Said to Denim Days.

Already 30 portaits are made in denim

Ian Berry has already made in denim 30 of the portraits in denim. They are displayed in an install at the National Museum of Textiles in Sweden, Textil Museet, where he also asks for visitors to share their ideas of who should be included. He aims for 50-57 for the final list, and some already made, may not make the cut. The museum also shows a retrospective of Ian Berry’s work and pieced together with each body of work inspiring a garment by Dutch Designer Jonathan Christopher (Denim Days 2016) who also won the first ever Global Denim Award. The Museum show also collaborates with Swede TWOOD who makes denim wood and a guitar and drum kit inspired by Ian Berry’s Record Store was made into a fantastic collaboration.

Denim Legends

That brings us back to the Denim Legends thinking of the music history of denim. From the early cowboy singers, the punks of the 70’s in their ripped denim to the Boss. Do you have a favorite icon who you think changed the cause of the history of denim, simply by rockin’ it the way they did?

The ongoing Denim Legends project is growing step by step and features already icons like Brooke Shields to Bardot, Marley to Moss, McQueen to the material girl living in her material world Madonna to name just a few. Over time this piece of art will grow and will be bigger and better each time.

The portraits are exhibited in an area where visitors can submit their choices and also watch short videos of the making of and some of the icons in action in the films, music, and ads they helped make denim so popular.

Ian Berry’s Denim Legends project can be seen at his Material World exhibition at Textil Museet until the 1st of May, 2022. -


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