Love Affair With Denim

Over a cold beer at Satellite, I sat down with a few of our coast’s style-setters most devoted to denim to find out when their love affair with the fabric began—and which jeans rock their world and why. We spontaneously encountered some hard workin’ men putting their own denim to the test to join our blue jean baby queens.

We all agreed, there’s nothing like a little authenticity to go along with your denim!

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10-style file 121Victor Lytvinenko

Co-Owner / Founder / Designer for Raleigh Denim

How would you describe your denim style?
Classic, forward, authentic.

Growing up, did you ever covet a specific brand/style of jeans?
Levi’s

What sparked your love affair with denim?
The short answer: Cooking and wine making. The long answers: I started cooking at Second Empire, a restaurant in Raleigh. I took to the philosophy of French cooking, using ordinary ingredients to make an extraordinary dish [into] something spectacular! Cooking got me into wine making for about six years. I worked with a professor at Wake Forest University, who had a 23-acre vineyard. The small craft manufacturing, seasonal ingredients—these core ideas are what we later applied to apparel.

How did you get into working with denim specifically?
I made my very first pair of pants while visiting family in Ukraine right after I graduated from college. I spent three months out in the country. Eventually I got bored, so I broke out my aunt’s sewing machine from the 1800s and made myself a pair of pants from suit wool inspired by a pair of pants I bought in Europe that fit really well. They were tailored, but not tight. I couldn’t find anything like that in denim at the time. I started looking into the denim history in North Carolina and discovered the regional raw material made at Cone Mills in Greensboro. They have been making denim since 1905. Denim production was actually invented at that mill. I went there and visited towns with some of the last Levi factories. One of the old Levi mechanics taught me how to fix all the machines, so it was sort of an informal apprenticeship.

What is your go-to pair of Raleigh Denim? How do you style them?
My go-to is the Martin Original Raw. It’s a tailored and clean fit, made from our exclusive Cone Mills selvedge denim, super dark to start, and breaks in beautifully over time.

How many times a week do you wear denim? If you’re not wearing Raleigh Denim, is there another brand/style you like to wear?
I wear jeans almost every day. I like to get one pair and wear them as much as I can for a few months to soften them up and given them a broken in look. On days that I am not wearing jeans, I usually wear one of our trousers or lighter weight twills.

Favorite denim memory?
There are so many, but the one that stands out is my first denim memory – going with my Mom to the Kmart around the corner from my house in kindergarten to buy my first pair of jeans. They were not cheap so it was an investment. I could feel that it was something special – even at age five.”

Favorite denim icon?
James Dean

Can you share some advice on finding the right pair of jeans?
Finding the right pair takes a little time and patience – and usually a smart person working in a great shop. You have to try on a bunch of styles, fits, and fabrics, talk through things and then choose.

How do you feel when you look in the mirror in a good-fitting pair of jeans?
(Laughs) I feel GREAT! This outcome is part of the design of our jeans. On the men’s jeans, we screen-print the bones of the hip joint (femur, pelvis), so it hits in perfect alignment. It symbolizes the connection between the wearer and the garment and gives the feeling of how special they are inwardly and outwardly. We want them to feel bad-ass.

When I visited your store and workshop a few years ago, I fondly remember the guy who came into your shop looking to replace his favorite pair of Raleigh Denim jeans, which he wore religiously for several years. You laughed when you saw how distressed and well-loved they were and offered him an exchange – his first pair for a brand-new pair. Do you experience a lot of denim love stories like this?
When it’s obvious that someone has worn a pair of our jeans and has broken them in and loved them that much, the jeans have a beautiful story to tell visually and literally. One day, we plan to launch a denim archive program—to build a denim library to preserve our own history as a reflection of our community.

Style tip for dressing up your denim from day to night:
I think the really easy thing here is to cuff them during the day [and] uncuff them at night, which is a little cleaner and dressier. An obvious change is to change shoes. Or, add a layer; a jacket, scarf, or hat can change the look completely.

 

08-style file 121Sara Lytvinenko

Co-Owner / Founder / Designer for Raleigh Denim

How would you describe your denim style?
Easy, classic, tomboy.

Growing up, did you ever covet a specific brand/style of jeans?
I wasn’t super brand-conscious growing up, so I didn’t care what the brand was, but I had trouble finding jeans that were long enough. So anytime I found jeans that were slim with a long inseam, it was a special day and I usually got a couple pairs.

What sparked your love affair with denim?
As we worked with it more and more, I fell in love with how it changes over time.

What is your go-to pair of Raleigh Denim? How do you style them?
Everyday/workshop wear: Haywood TKO (high-rise skinny) cuffed above the ankle, worn with half-tucked oxford and sandals or sneaks + low socks.
Going Out: Gates 1×1 (relaxed taper/boyfriend). These are slouchy and soft.  I wear them cuffed with a broken-in tank, cropped blazer, and heels.

Aside from Raleigh Denim, is there another brand/style you like to wear?
We test other fits/brands to see where we stand in the market, but we pretty much wear Raleigh when we wear denim.  My favorite pair of non-Raleigh jeans is Hysteric Glamour in the boyfriend fit.

Favorite denim icon?
François Hardy.

Can you share some advice on finding the right pair of jeans? Do you have any specific standards/tests in the dressing room?
Does your butt look good?
Is the waist snug but not too tight?
Can you easily/comfortably run your finger along the inside of the waistband when they’re buttoned or zipped?”

How do you feel when you look in the mirror in a good fitting pair of jeans?
Capable of pretty much anything.

Share a favorite Raleigh Denim love story.
We love when our musician friends take their jeans on tour and write their performance dates on the inside, or when photographers send us pictures of their Raleigh jeans from locations around the world (like Antarctica!) as they’re breaking them in.

Style tip for dressing up your denim from day to night.
Do something to make them feel different from how you’ve been wearing them all day.  I usually do the opposite. If they’ve been cuffed, I unroll them (and vice-versa), swap your shoes, add a layer on top or take one off, and done!

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02-style file 121Kelly Oliver

Owner / Buyer for Oliver boutique, which specializes in denim

How would you describe your denim style?
I take home wearable, everyday denim that feels good. I like when denim looks effortless, but chic.

When did your love affair with denim begin? How and when did you decide your boutique would specialize in denim?
I guess most of us have had a long love affair with denim, but I really started to pay more attention to it in the late ‘90s. There was a new emphasis on fit and fabric that made me want to wear it more and, therefore, seek it out. I had a favorite hometown store called Smith Bros. near Philadelphia that specialized in denim. After the realization that I didn’t wish to pursue a career in chemistry, I chased the dream of bringing a store like that to my college town (Wilmington).

Growing up, did you ever covet a specific brand/style of jeans?
Calvin Klein and Guess. I think it was pretty much a higher-waist, slim straight leg for me back then.

What is the last pair of jeans you took home from the store? How do you style them?
A pair of denim boyfriend shorts. It’s about too hot for anything else! I also love a lightweight pair of slim boyfriend jeans worn in with slight abrasions. The looser fit feels more bearable in hot weather and I can easily dress them up or down with a change of shoes.

Favorite denim memory?
I have many denim memories. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve even dreamed about jeans. But my favorite memories are of watching certain brands launch and take off. I’ve seen so many brands come and go, both in popularity and literally. I love when a new designer has the style and branding in place and then nails the fit in production. It’s a win for everyone: designer, retailer, and customer.

Favorite denim icon?
Kate Moss. James Dean for men.

How do you know when you’ve found a good pair of jeans?
When I feel both comfortable and confident. That comes from great fabric and fit, and those qualities still predominantly come from jeans made in the USA. A good sales associate should be able to assess your body type and point you in the right direction to make the process of finding that fit easier.

Style tip for dressing up your denim from day to night.
Denim is a basic that can be completely transformed by the other elements in an outfit. A tee shirt and sneaker by day, silk tank and heels by night.

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03-style file 121Lisa Duncan

YouTube Sensation / vlog: LisaLisaD1

How would you describe your denim style?
Sexy Casual. I would never wear jeans with flats or tennis shoes. Maybe my black Havaianas, but only at the end of a long day!

Growing up, did you ever covet a specific brand/style of jeans?
In my 20s, I was all about my cut-off Calvin Klein jean shorts with the raw edge and Calvin Klein cut-off overalls with a white or black tank underneath.
 
What is the last pair of jeans you purchased? How do you style them?
Citizens of Humanity ‘Cropped Rocket Skinnies’ in distressed fizzle from Oliver.  I style them with a cami and short blazer with fringed heels. I also recently got the Citizens of Humanity ‘Corey’ denim shorts, which I style with a tee, cropped blazer, and strappy heels.

Favorite denim memory?
Wearing all white in the summer. Going out after a day on the boat – complete with heels and a white cropped tee or white tank!

Favorite denim icon?
Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Blogger/Instagram “UpCloseandStylish,” and designer Marissa Webb. Each is a little different, but all inspire me.

How do you know when you’ve found a good pair of jeans?
I don’t like really tight or uncomfortable jeans. They have to feel good or I will never wear them. I like to know exactly what they will look good with and feel like they flatter my shape.

Which of your denim looks has been most popular with your YouTube followers?
Without a doubt, the boyfriend jean with heels. I like skinnies, too, but a good pair of distressed boyfriend jeans are my go-to.

Style tip for dressing up your denim from day to night.
This is easy for me since I am already wearing heels! Add a cropped blazer, a great statement necklace or earrings, and your favorite lipstick and you are set.

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05-style file 121Teri-Lyn Pugliese

Jewelry Designer / Stylist – Fig. 7 Jewelry

How would you describe your denim style?
Classic, Levi’s.

Growing up, did you ever covet a specific brand/style of jeans?
I only ever wanted a pair of Levi jeans, but there was a Lee denim factory outlet near where I grew up and being one of seven, my mother would go to the factory and buy us Lee jeans.  She finally bought me a pair of Levi’s in 5th grade. Unfortunately, they were forest green thin cords, but I wore them every other day to school anyway until they were worn out.

What is your all-time favorite pair of jeans in your wardrobe? How do you style them?
My faves are a pair of vintage men’s Levi’s I bought about 15 years ago. They have larger back pockets and flared legs that I cut at the ankles.  They are the ultimate vintage beach town jean.

Favorite denim memory?
I guess the most memorable denim experience was the Jordache jeans era. I was too young to understand why we wore them so tight, but all the cool girls in middle school wore them and you had to have a comb in the back pocket as an accessory.

Share with us a little about your experience in working in the costume department in the film industry, specifically, when an actress insisted on buying your jeans right off you!
I was working on a film in Philadelphia called “Dead Man Down” as a buyer in the costume department. I was in a fitting with the lead actress Noomi Rapace and the designer and I were wearing pairs of Current Elliott boyfriend jeans. These jeans were destroyed, but I always wore them to work because they were so comfy and I was usually always running all over the city shopping (and schlepping). During our fitting, Noomi decided she’d like a pair of jeans like mine for her character. The designer asked if I would let Noomi try them on. She liked them, so I ordered her the same pair and I distressed them just like mine. In the next fitting, I showed up with the new pair of (distressed) jeans but she didn’t want them. She wanted my jeans! I asked her why and she said, because they had a story.  The production ended up buying me two pairs of those jeans for compensation.

Favorite denim inspiration?
The Avedon book – In the American West (a photography book) is denim at it’s finest.

How do you know when you’ve found a good pair of jeans?
For me, a good a pair of jeans is a pair of vintage Levi’s. No stretch thick denim men’s jeans with larger pockets.

Style tip for dressing up your denim from day to night.
A white t-shirt and then a vintage white blouse.

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