The Deals and the Dish on Where You Need to Shop
Aug 13, 2010
03:27 PMWindow Shopping
In the last ten years in the apparel world there have been two interesting, and equally opposite, concepts that have taken hold. One is the “design for all” idea that high-end designers collaborate with a mass retailer to make their designs more widespread/affordable. Examples include Isaac Mizrahi/Target, Stella McCartney/Adidas and Vera Wang/Kohl’s.
Designers have also been doing diffusion lines, lines that have similar design aesthetics to their expensive lines, but are less pricey—T by Alexander Wang is a good example—where the prices are still higher than the collaboration lines mentioned above but the designs a bit higher-end.
Mass commercialization of trends is another concept that will likely stick around—shops like Forever 21, Zara and H&M specialize in offering consumers approachable versions of trends they've seen on the runway in a very quick turnaround time and for little cash.
On the opposite spectrum, small, specialized, clothing lines are (ironically) also bigger than ever. Because of the strong interest in having a handcrafted, unique item that few else will have, these smaller lines have been having great success, too. Local boutiques or online are usually the launchpads for these younger, talented designers to get their wares out to more people.
Raleigh Denim is one of those lines: started by couple Sarah and Victor Lytvinenko, they’re doing quite well, thank you: they’re carried by Barney’s as well as twenty-plus other boutiques nationwide, and have been written up in Elle and Nylon magazine.
Kristin Wild of Atticus just started carrying Raleigh Denim, which specializes in handcrafted men’s jeans and is based out of (you guessed it!) Raleigh, North Carolina. I spoke with Sarah Lytvinenko, co-founder and designer of the line, for a bit of background on their “simple and elegant and a little bit tough,” aesthetic.
What’s the idea behind the line, and why did you name it Raleigh Denim?
A lot of what we do is try to marry heritage and tradition with a more modern [denim] fit for today. It’s a blending of past and present. And we’re really influenced by Raleigh, which is where we grew up, and where we source a lot of our materials. So it seemed like a good way to name the company.
What do you currently design and make?
We do men’s denim. We have a range—from raw denim, to different washes, a few overdyed versions. We have three different cuts; they’re all tailored and more of a European fit—there’s a thin leg, straight leg and work fit, which has a higher rise and has a fuller leg.
Women’s denim will trickle out for holiday this year.
What’s yours and (co-owner and husband Victor Lytvineko’s) background?
We both went to school at the NC School of Design. Victor’s degree was is business; mine was in design with a focus in fibers and textiles. So we have both areas running a small business.
[The line] to be totally honest began as a project for Victor. He wanted a pair of jeans cut in a certain way. Denim has lots of layers. There’s a lot to learn and respect about the heritage and versatility of denim—the fact that it can be dressed up for night and down for workwear. I got seduced by the possibilities.
This line is our first foray into design. I had been doing [design] on my own for quite some time, and I was still in school when Raleigh Denim took off. We were founded in 2007.
How many people work for the line?
Roughly fifteen total. Some of them are sewers, and we have a pattern maker—she was the second pattern maker Levi’s ever hired. And we have two right-hand helpers.
We make all of the samples now. On our first order [ever] Victor and sewed every single pair ourselves! So, we’re still involved in the production aspect, but [him and I] are trying to become more design oriented.
Who do you work with on the construction and sewing of the line?
We were lucky to work with skilled sewers in the area that were happy to pass on their craft and they taught us a lot about construction.
We source our denim from Greenboro, North Carolina. We use this mill because they’re the oldest and best American mill—they’ve been around since 1905. And, it just happens to be nearby!
We use old machines—we don’t use any automated machines in the construction of our jeans. [In regular jean construction] you can push a button and the machine does the work. We iron the jeans by hand, and needle-stitch them … it’s a more time-consuming way to do it, but that’s how we make our jeans. It takes about one and half to three hours to make a pair of our jeans. As a point of comparison, in a factory it takes about seventeen minutes to make a pair [of jeans].
Where are your jeans carried besides Atticus?
Barney’s is our biggest store—some of the COOPs and flagships—and then hand-picked boutiques across the country. We’re also carried in a few in Europe and Japan. Barney’s was our first account, and we’re very fortunate they picked us. They are more mainstream so we wanted to complement that with boutiques to diversify.
Will you eventually do more than men’s denim?
We definitely want to expand. We’d like to start a full collection, but we want to keep all of the sourcing domestic if we can. That’s been our biggest challenge, and we want all of our materials well thought out. Next fall we are doing shirts and light jackets for men.
Find the styles Atticus carries here.