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September 1 2014

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3 posts tagged "Raleigh Denim"

Do These Jeans Have The World’s Smallest Carbon Footprint?

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In a word, say the designers: Yes.

Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko founded their line, Raleigh (named for their North Carolina home base), on denim. The intervening years have seen them grow it into a full-on contemporary label for men and women, with a Nolita shop as well as their North Carolinian original, but jeans have remained central to the offering. For Fall 2013, which they showed at a crowded presentation near the beginning of New York fashion week, one particular innovation lurked in plain sight. The jeans in question didn’t look different from any that the pair has been turning out. But they are, as far as they can figure, the most local denim ever. Their organic cotton’s cultivation, processing, and weaving all take place within 105 miles of the workshop where the jeans are made. (Currently, the 100 percent organic cotton is used for Raleigh’s weft yarns, while the warp yarn is conventional cotton from Southeastern farms.)

The project required involving the entire supply chain, from farmers to spinners to weaving and knitting mills, and working with Cotton of the Carolinas to find like-minded companies to invest in organic-cotton futures for the different quality levels that each crop produces. (The highest-quality yield goes to the jeans; companies ranging from T-shirt makers to mop producers bought futures at other levels.) Why rally the troops? “We are interested in making something as pure and as close to home as possible,” the Lytvinenkos say. Bragging rights don’t hurt, either.

Raleigh’s Jones Thin Organic jeans, $325, are available now at Raleigh, 211 Elizabeth St., NYC, www.raleighworkshop.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Raleigh Denim

Raleigh, New York

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North Carolina, home of the wonk-approved Cone Denim Mills, is one of America’s centers of jean-making. It is also home and namesake to Raleigh Denim, the young denim brand that has, since 2009, been quietly making some very, very good jeans using that hometown fabric. Barneys picked up Raleigh back in ’09, at which point the business went from hobby to career. (Previously, Raleigh’s husband-and-wife founders Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko had been making jeans for friends; he’d previously been a soccer player in a professional European league, she a willing travel-along.)

As the business grew, the Lytvinenkos opened a small shop, the Curatory, in the front of their Raleigh, N.C., workspace, where a window to the back offered shoppers a clear view of the full works. It was there that an emissary from OMA, Rem Koolhaas’ design firm, which has created stores for Prada and Viktor & Rolf, discovered the couple, and a partnership was born. Raleigh’s new, New York store, which opens officially tonight, was designed by OMA’s New York director, Shohei Shigematsu. Where the Raleigh home store is woodsy, New York is airy. “North Carolina is where we are looking back,” Victor explained at a preview yesterday. “New York is where we are looking forward.”

The store takes its inspiration from the warren-style rooms of a traditional Southern home, one leading into another. That structure is realized in the shoebox-size space by a giant metal grating system—Lytvinenko calls it an “armature”—that can be adapted by adding anything from a thousand or so paper airplanes (currently alit on the grates), blocks of wood, denim, or just about anything else. “We wanted something that can move as quickly as the season or the collection,” Lytvinenko said.

Raleigh Denim is now open at 211 Elizabeth St., NYC, raleighdenim.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Raleigh Denim

Carolina On Our Minds

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Raleigh Denim is made in Raleigh, North Carolina. That might not sound like much of a statement about a brand, but for company founders Sarah and Victor Lytvinenko, the local roots of Raleigh Denim get to the essence of what makes it special. “With the exception of maybe some zippers, everything we use to make these jeans comes from within 200 miles or so of where we live,” explains Victor, who planted the seeds of Raleigh Denim when he began making jeans for himself, by hand, a couple of years ago. Friends started asking him for pairs; soon, wife Sarah was on board making patterns. This spring, Raleigh shipped its first delivery of men’s denim to Barneys New York. Now they’re launching women’s styles: Trouser, boyfriend, and “Thin Cut” (sort of skinny) styles debut next week at Steven Alan. And like the men’s jeans, all the cuts are test-run on non-model bodies before patterns are finalized, and every pair is hand-cut and sewn on a vintage machine. “We’re trying to keep traditional denim craftsmanship alive,” notes Sarah. “The nice thing about keeping everything local is that we get an education in every part of the production process, and we’re learning from masters.” The Spring ’10 collection will be slightly expanded—the couple are working on one additional cut and developing new denims based on the ways that old fabrics have broken in. Obviously, the brand is a labor of love. And a labor of envy: As Sarah notes, the whole reason Raleigh is launching its women’s range is because she got tired of her husband having all the good jeans. “So,” she says with a laugh, “now I get mine.”

Photo: Nick Pironio