It’s always a cool experience when you meet someone so into what they do that their energy literally permeates the space around them. Bespoke clothier Jon Green is one of those people, so is shirt maker Ignatious Joseph. Jon is so passionate about creating exceptional tailored clothing for his equally exceptional clients, he nearly vibrates.
Victor Lytvinenko, one half of the husband and wife duo that founded Raleigh Denim is no different. Though in some ways the antithesis to Ignatious’ ebullient personality, the genial and understated friendliness of this couple belies the intensity and determination that has built a backyard experiment into a serious brand for serious denim connoisseurs.
Raleigh Denim’s small team of craftspeople is solely focused on producing exceptional products crafted by hand and made in America. Locovores by nature, they would really prefer to keep it in North Carolina, if not the city limits of Raleigh. And for the most part, they do just that.
Raleigh Denim’s stock comes from Cone Denim and every aspect of production takes place in their small factory in Raleigh’s Warehouse District. Most of the sewing and stitching machines are vintage rescues. Other equipment was found on Amazon, at industrial auctions, bought from old textile factories, and even at garage sales.
Not focused on piece production, their staff is salaried and treated like the highly skilled experts they are. In fact their chief pattern maker is a 70 year-old lady who used to be the head pattern maker for Levis. She still draws every pattern by hand.
Where it takes mere minutes for name brand jeans to roll of the production line, a single pair of Raleigh Denim jeans will take several hours to hand build. But even as their brand recognition grows, production does not – and will not.
Victor and his wife, Sarah, have no desire to become the next 7 For All Mankind or Joe’s Jeans. And Raleigh Denim jeans are meant to look like jeans, not fashion accessories. No swirls or embellishments and no funky silhouettes that will be out of style by week’s end.
These are people with genuine passion and a transparent sense of purpose. They want to make really great jeans. Victor can talk about the art of designing and crafting jeans for hours. The quality of the denim, how and why indigo fades and ages as it does or their unique rear pocket design that is both more durable and more labor intensive to assemble. He loves what he does – not just the design or the end product, but the physical act of creating some thing by hand. Before making jeans he made wine, made beer, painted, sculpted and built furniture.
Many of their jeans’ unique details, like the hand-screened hip bone graphic on the pant’s interior, are never seen by anyone but the wearer. Contrast stitching, hand felled rear pockets and hand hammered rivets all add to the cost but also help to create a unique and cherished garment.
The brand is branching out and producing some great looking shirts (both Victor and Sarah are wearing them in these pictures). We also had a chance to take a sneak peak at some awesome samples for next season – jackets, new takes on jeans and some amazing sweaters. But at it’s heart, this folks make jeans.
That said, we also loved their spin on accessories. The natural denim and leather tote bags being assembled by hand, one by one, and destined this week for Barney’s in New York, are outstanding. Constructed of heavy Cone natural denim and beautiful Horween leather, they also have cleverly designed adjustable straps .
These jeans are not for people who want to be noticed, they are those who don’t feel the need to be noticed. And just like the finest tailored clothing, only the wearer knows about all the details and the price tag of around US$ 280.00.
Is that a lot to pay for a pair of jeans? For some, yes. For others – who see not just another pair of pants but an example of American style and true heritage – no. For those who love jeans or who only want one great pair, Raleigh Denim is definitely for you.
Additional images from the OTC on the Road visit to Raleigh Denim, in Raleigh, North Carolina: