If you have been a follower of 7thMan then you probably know by now that we love our jeans.They are comfortable, functional and we can wear them anywhere,so we wouldn't pass off the very exclusive opportunity when we got an e-mail asking us to interview the amazing team behind denim phenomenon Raleigh Denim.
Creating jeans with integrity and true craftsmanship and having only just recently launched in the UK we had a Q&A with the founders Sarah and Victor Lytvinenko and got some very frank answers from the husband and wife design duo!
You were recently in the UK to launch RALEIGH. Did you enjoy London? What did you guys do?
V: Yes! We had a great time. It was a lot of business meetings, but we did get the chance to go to the Tate Modern to see the sunflower exhibit by Ai Weiwei. We got to drink a proper English Ale and got to eat some great Indian food near Bricklane. It seemed to go by way too fast and I was feeling a bit under the weather for the entire trip. We can’t wait to come back and spend some more time in the city.
Have you seen any famous Brits wearing your jeans?
S: I have not seen any famous Brits wearing our jeans yet, but The National wore our jeans at their sold out show at Brixton Academy in London in January.
Having started your company in your own house, do you think it is difficult for a new company to break the industry?
It's difficult for anyone to really break in to any industry. I think a person or business with tremendous passion and tremendous persistence can do about anything they put their minds to.
Do you remember the first pair of jeans you ever produced? How did you feel?
Yes we do. It felt great, but there is a huge difference between the first pair of jeans we made and the first pair we were proud of. We went through hundreds of pattern changes and samples before we had anything close to the fit and styling of the first jeans that we would put our names on.
There is an abundant source of denim within the high-street and designer circuit. What makes Raleigh denim stand out from all the others?
For us, making jeans is about quality, craftsmanship, fit, and style.
We make our own jeans, by hand, in our own shop in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. This way we can make our jeans our way, and so we could be present during that process, able to respond, improve, correct, oversee as much as possible. We take the building of our jeans quite seriously, and believe that how things are made is as important as the thing that's made. We're accessible and transparent; you can walk in and see things from start to finish in our workshop.
What was the real reason you started making jeans?
V: The reason that we started making jeans is that I could not find jeans that fit the way I liked them to. We built our patterns ourselves, from scratch. It took a while to get it perferct, but allowed us to really develop our tailored fits.
What about your raw materials?You are very unconventional and original in the way you source denim...
Almost all of the denim we use comes from the Cone Mills White Oak plant, about 70 miles away, in Greensboro North Carolina. They have been making denim in that building since 1905 and are by far the best mill in the US. They have the only working original shuttle looms in the United States. We develop new styles of denim with Cone that they make exclusively for Raleigh. Almost all of the rest of our raw materials for the jeans come from within 200 miles of our shop.
Building with this true American vintage style denim and a few choice vintage machines (including a couple Union Special 43200G leg hemmers), we take the heritage building blocks and create something new, with our updated fits and stitching details.
Your shop ‘The Curatory” doesn’t feature only your own brand but many others including Lanston and St.James. Why did you decide to do that?
The Curatory was created for several reasons. We needed a place where people could come to see and feel balance of the making of our garments with an elegant retail experience. Over the past few years we have come across other designers and brands with similar styles and ideals that are not available in North Carolina, and that compliment what we are making ourselves quite well. It's fun to be able to bring them in and showcase them in our shop.
Do you design according to inspiration and personal preference or are you very much commercially aware of what is happening at the moment?
We certainly keep an eye on the market, but we usually end up just following our guts and making what we want to see in the market.
Would you say that you can identify your typical customer?
People who wear Raleigh are aware of details, respect craftsmanship, seek quality, think long-term, and make the jeans their own as they wear them.
Which style/wash of your denim collection literally flies off the shelf? and is there a “must-have” pair of jeans for Spring/Summer 2011?
Our “Original” jean is based on the first style we were really proud of. We have updated it with triple needle fell seams and tighter stitching details all around. It has an interesting shade of 12.5oz denim with a tinted weft allowing the denim to break in a little greener than normal indigo. These are one of our favourites and probably the best selling jean we make.
You have kind of a strong relationship with mega brand-store Barneys. How did that come about?
Ha! It is kind of a crazy story.
Sarah and I had a small workshop in Raleigh and we were making custom jeans for people. Through a friend of a friend, we got a meeting with the buyer and drove up to New York in my dad’s minivan and showed them the four styles we had out of my soccer bag. It was late in the buying season for them and in the middle of the recession, but they gave us a try in two stores. Sarah and I made every pair in our little shop with no heat through the winter and sent them off. The jeans sold well and they ordered for a few more stores. They have been amazing and their support has allowed us to grow and maintain the integrity of our process and product. We are now in 17 Barneys Co-op stores and will be launching the full men’s ready to wear collection with them for Fall 2011.
Primarily, you are a men’s denim company but I have heard and literally have seen quite a few women purchasing Raleigh jeans. Is it demand that triggered the expansion in womenswear for spring 2011?
Yes, people have been waiting for women's denim from us for a long time. We are so excited that they are finally ready! Women's jeans are quite different from mens, and we needed to take our time developing our fits. In the meantime, lots of women wore the mens line, which is awesome. Now there are so many more options - the full woman’s jeans line will be on the shelves for Fall 2011.
Is it true that you sign each pair of jeans personally after it is handcrafted? One by one? Every pair? By hand?
Yes it's true. Every pair by hand. The jeans are our designs and our craft.
Raleigh Denim is available now at The Bureau in Belfast and Son of Stag in Bricklane, London.
By Andreas Menelaou Features Assistant