Brand Announcement: Raleigh Denim
In 2007 Sarah & Victor Lytvinenko scraped together every penny they had, sold a bicycle and a video camera and purchased three industrial sewing machines for their apartment in Raleigh North Carolina.
They had one mission in mind: to make the best pair of jeans they possibly could.
“We spent a lot of time in informal apprenticeships – going up to the mountains and talking to the people that worked at the last Levis factory in the country, visiting the wonderful sample makers at Cone Mills, and getting to know people with years and years of experience. We learned a lot from their love of craft and denim and wanted to build upon all of this rich history.” – Sarah & Victor Lytvinenko
Soon, people were starting to take notice of their handmade, locally sourced, premium denim. And in the fall of 2008, when most businesses around the country were declaring bankruptcy, Victor and Sarah received an order from Barneys New York for 114 paris of jeans.
“Our moms came in to iron out-seams of the jeans, our friends helped us snip and fold and pack and my dad put in all the rivets with a hand press.” – Sarah & Victor Lytvinenko
After that the pair knew they needed to bring in reinforcements to help handle the ever increasing demand, and that’s how the pair teamed up with 82 year old Christel Ellsberg.
Ellsberg, who was born in east Prussia and began as an apprentice for a German tailor at age 16, was one of Levi Strauss & Co.’s first pattern makers, and has been making patterns for over 55 years. But as work in the denim industry dwindled, Ellsberg had to start taking jobs that had nothing to do with her area of expertise. That is until she heard about a couple making jeans in the area through her hairdresser.
“I was here the next day and I’ve been here ever since.” -Christel Ellsberg
“Chris comes into this big 20,000 SF space where we rented space all the way in the back and said, “I hear you make jeans here.” And I was just like, “well… here are the 5 sewing machines we have…” and she responded by saying “I want to work here.” And I was like, “well it’s just me and Sarah and that’s it, and we don’t really pay ourselves, there’s not a lot going on.” And she said, “that’s ok, I’m going to come in and work with you until you can.” – Victor Lytvinenko
Sarah and Victor needed someone who could get the patterns correct without a lot of technology to do the work and Ellsberg just happened to be one last people left in the country who knows. Click here to go behind the scenes and meet Ellsberg and hear more about her story!
Together with Ellsberg, the pair was able to hone their skills and create a company that is not only dedicated to an extreme attention to detail, but also to preserving an appreciation for an older, more craftsmen approach to creating garments.
“We produce in the USA, using specialized vintage sewing machines – our hemming machine is the original hemming machine from the 1930’s. We hand draft our patterns, and cut and sew in small batches, often using denim from Cone Mills White Oak plant in Greensboro, North Carolina (where they’ve been since 1905). We number and sign each pair. We do all of these things in order to make a garment that speaks about where it’s from and how it came to be as soon as you pick it up.” – Sarah & Victor Lytvinenko
For Sarah and Victor it is about taking as much as they can of the history and heritage of the textile industry – of the denim industry in North Carolina- and building from it to do something new.
“I can look people in the eye and tell them we use the best materials in America, we have some of the best construction and I believe one of the better fits.” -Victor Lytvinenko
Because of this obsessive dedication to quality the company signs every single pair of jeans they produce by hand.
“Craftspeople sign what they make, artists sign what they create. These jeans are our designs but they’re also our craft, it’s more than us just drawing a picture then sending it to China and getting jeans back. We understand every single stitch of every single pair of jeans we make, to me they’re more special and I want people to feel special every time they put them on. I want them to put them on and know that they’re wearing something the owners of the company have inspected, since we inspect every pair of jeans.” -Victor Lytvinenko
If you want to learn more about Sarah and Vitor’s story, and why we’re so excited to be featuring Raleigh Denim at Roosevelt & Co. this fall, take a look at the video below or by visiting their website HERE.
*All images in this post are courtesy of Raleigh Denim