Ones to Watch: Raleigh Denim Workshop

by Elise Diamantini

Locally made

Husband and wife team Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko (pictured above) launched Raleigh Denim Workshop out of their living room in 2007. Sarah was studying design and textiles, and Victor had just returned from playing soccer in Switzerland. Victor needed of a new pair of jeans but couldn’t find anything that he liked, so he began deconstructing and reconstructing his old pairs. He became more fascinated with the process and reached out to local sewers and weavers in North Carolina for guidance. He then began making prototypes for all of his friends. Now, Raleigh Denim sells to some of the top retailers including Barneys, Saks and Unionmade.

Raleigh Denim is all made in America from local Cone denim in the couple’s factory in Raleigh, NC. Each collection is produced in a limited run and personally signed by Victor and Sarah. (Men’s opens at $250 retail.) “Our aesthetic is classic with a little bit of grit,” says Sarah. “For spring 2013, we’re going a little more colorful, refining some of our silhouettes, and filling out a small ready-to-wear collection.” This fall, Raleigh will open a store in New York’s Nolita neighborhood, stocking their product along with other branded merchandise.

When asked the hardest and best parts of owning and operating an independent brand, Sarah says they’re often the same things. “We follow our interests, we make our own decisions, we chart our course and are responsible for the consequences. Most of the time that’s empowering, but sometimes it’s hard as hell. There’s some pressure that comes with knowing you’re steering a ship and the people on board trust you not to smash it into an iceberg. Luckily, we have a good team and great mentors.” When asked how they can compete with the big guys, Sarah pauses. “That’s not really on our radar. We’re on the shelf with big brands, and are interested in growth, but not in relation to any other label. We actually try not to worry about anyone else and stay focused on our craft. Victor has a running joke that ‘with all our brains combined, we’ll be ok…'”