Last year marked the start of made in the US denim company, Raleigh Denim. Created in the backyard of one of America’s premiere denim mills, Cone Mills, the brand has grown remarkably since our first look over one year ago. In this recent video, the story behind the brand’s start and the trials and tribulations experienced by Sarah and Victor Lytvinenko are documented. A comprehensive look into their product’s production is also a highlight for the couple who take immense pride in their American and North Carolina roots.
Founders: Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko
Raleigh Denim has rapidly gained popularity in the past couple of years due to the realization of quality found in hand-made items. Their denim is no exception. Literally made just 158 miles from our front door, their approach to a slow, hand-made process is top quality. The founders, husband and wife Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko are lovers of East Coast rap, collectors of fine goods and lovers themselves; but what we love most about them is their passion for quality goods made right here in the USA. Each pair is made from White Oak Cone Denim,hand signed and individually numbered. Raleigh Denim will stretch out and we suggest sizing down two sizes.
Originally created in 2007 under the moniker Verses jeans, the brand’s new name (changed due to a trademark dispute) speaks to Raleigh Denim’s close ties with the Carolinas. In addition to the fact that nearly all materials used come from within a 200-mile radius of the Raleigh studio, the Lytvinenkos name their locale as a key stylistic inspiration.
“What’s important to us is heritage—blending that with... our modern aesthetic,” Sarah said. “North Carolina is the heart of the textile industry. And, on a more personal level, we’ve spent most of our lives here. We like to appreciate our roots.”
Due in no small part to this emphasis on small-town origins, Raleigh Denim has become known for its sepia-toned authenticity, visible in every step of the Lytvinenkos’ creative process. True to form, all their stitching is done on vintage machines, and the inside of each pair of jeans is emblazoned with Sarah and Victor’s signatures.
Raleigh Denim has been uniquely informed by the Lytvinenkos’ position in the thick of a vibrant local art scene.
“It’s stimulating and also encouraging because people value the things we do,” Sarah said. “We’ve got a few friends in bands that wear our jeans. And we trade paintings for jeans. So we’re all sort of helping each other stay plugged in and have cool stuff.”
Among the Lytvinenkos’ artistic friends are the Rosebuds’ Ivan Howard, who has proven a loyal devotee of Raleigh Denim.
“Ivan got one of the first 10 pairs of jeans we made, and he wore them every day on stage,” Victor said.
The members of Max Indian make up more of the brand’s talent-heavy fans. Victor said neither he nor his wife knew that members of the band had Raleigh Denim jeans until one of them showed up to compliment the couple on their artistry and gift them an album.
But the connection between local jeans and local music has become about more than just swapping goods. Indeed, the music has turned into an ideal aural accompaniment to the Lytvinenkos’ line, Sarah said.
“Most of our friends that make music have a sound that we appreciate so it’s inspirational in that way,” she said. “I think their sound kind of matches our aesthetic.”
The Lytvinenkos’ web of creative acquaintances has also influenced where the jeans are sold in the Triangle area, no small feat considering how notoriously difficult it is to acquire a pair of the jeans locally. The only North Carolina location that currently stocks Raleigh Denim is the Raleigh-based Stitch, owned by bag designer Holly Aiken. In addition to the fact that Aiken’s bags are of a similarly unique, hand-crafted vein as Raleigh Denim, Aiken credits her acquisition of the line to her friendship with Victor and Sarah.
Yet even apart from the mystique of a denim-loving Triangle-area elite, Raleigh Denim is holding its own, continuing to grow in popularity despite a still-dire economic atmosphere. Credit this to the genuine appeal of a product that displays a clear human touch.
“People are willing to spend a little more for... a little bit of a story,” Victor said.
Raleigh Denim: Handcrafted in North Carolina from David Huppert on Vimeo.