BORN IN THE U.S.A.
The small-scale nature of the business allows an open environment with plenty of cross-pollination. Besides the Lytvinenkos, the team consists of five master tailors and pattern-makers, including 78-year-old Christel Ellsberg, the second pattern-maker hired by Levi’s in its salad days.
All assembly takes place in a 5,000-square-foot facility on machines that date as far back as the 1920s.
All assembly takes place in a 5,000-square-foot facility on machines that date as far back as the 1920s. A 1,000-square foot “Curatory” serves as Raleigh Denim’s shopfront. Because the label prefers to focus on producing high-quality, ethically sourced garments, volume isn’t high on its agenda. The production crew makes only five pairs of jeans a day, which translates to 125 to 150 pairs a week, a far cry from the 25,000 that some denim factories in Los Angeles crank out on a weekly basis.
“The market is so saturated that if we were going to add some more things to it, we really wanted it to be meaningful and to think farther back than the show, or even the design of the thing,” Sarah tells Ecouterre during the presentation.
Raleigh’s main supplier, Cone’s White Oak Plant, is only 56 miles away and most of the actual cotton is grown in Texas and New Mexico. Still, keeping everything within close proximity isn’t always possible. “We go to the U.S. first, then Canada, then Mexico because we want to keep it as local as possible,” explains John Webb, a self-described prospector who works with the company. “And if that doesn’t work we try to find some thing that is beautiful, that’s made responsibly.”
Rumor has it that Raleigh will make a jean from North Carolina-grown organic cotton sometime this fall.
The 14 looks being featured today include collaborations with Organic’s John Patrick, who designed a pair of jeans, and Native Son, a luxury menswear line that has commissioned four seasons worth of Raleigh’s denim.
“The collaboration was birthed out of a desire to develop a product that was rooted in American culture and manufacture it in the same way it was when jeans were first constructed in the 1880s,” someone from Native Son tells us. “Our interest in working with Raleigh Denim is based on the shared principle of making things correctly, no matter the cost.”
Raleigh Denim, adds Webb, is helping to keep alive an endangered if not entirely extinct industry. “North Carolina used to be the mecca of American clothing production,” he says. At the company, workers receive a far wage, contribute to their local economy, and make history even as they honor it.
Rumor has it that Raleigh will make a jean from North Carolina-grown organic cotton sometime this fall. Already, our sources are billing it the most sustainable jean on the market. We believe them.