Made in North Carolina | A Continuous Lean.

Made in North Carolina

Sep 10th, 2009 | Categories: Denim, Design, Made in the USA | by Michael Williams

More than an other category, denim inspires people to dizzying madness. Take for instance the North Carolina based Raleigh Denim; the husband and wife team behind the brand — Sarah and Victor Lytvinenko — who over the past year have quietly built a loyal following among denim lovers and retailers like Barneys and Steven Alan. I first learned about Raleigh a few months back when my buddy from Cone sent me a list of new brands for The American List that are using the mill’s denim. I was intrigued, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when Victor and Sarah stopped by my office to give me a guided tour of the product that I was really convinced. There are a lot of denim brands in this world and I found it amazing that all of the design, development, pattern making, sourcing and even the construction is done by hand by Victor, Sarah and a small staff from their workshop down south. The folks at Raleigh pride themselves on the fact that 98% of what goes into the company’s jeans are from North Carolina. In fact, Victor even seeks out the original machines that are used in the production, traveling around the North Carolina and Tennessee border looking for old factories and needle towns. And he is into it. Victor’s eyes would light up when talking about an old chain stitch machine or another vintage mechanical acquisition. It was like a kid talking about his baseball card collection.

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It is refreshing to meet self made people with a true passion for what they are creating. Through hard work, skill and a little luck Victor and Sarah are accomplishing things that huge companies couldn’t do. The quality, craftsmanship and the love are all there, so one would have to be a fool to not respect a company like Raleigh Denim. We could use more of that in the world. Get a closer look at a pair of men’s Raleigh Denim jeans at Barneys Co-op.

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One half of the Raleigh Denim team, Mr. Victor Lytvinenko in New York City

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Each pair of jeans is numbered to reflect the limited quantity of each style.

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Raleigh screen prints hip / leg bones on the inside pockets.

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A personal touch from the makers.

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Comments: 46

46 Comments to “Made in North Carolina”

  1. Cory
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 1:52 AM

    Really dig the attention to details … especially the screen printed hip bones. That’s just cool. Great find.

  2. Jason
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 1:54 AM

    Love the hip bone screen print! Nice hidden detail

  3. william
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 9:15 AM

    Nice, but $285 for a pair of jeans?

    I’m all for supporting American Made stuff, but companies like this would be much more successful if they charged a reasonable price for their goods.

  4. Jon Gaffney
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 10:01 AM

    Great looking jeans and a great story. $285 is tough to swallow, but having overhead in America costs a lot and this is a luxury good.

  5. DVL
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 11:09 AM

    The price is reasonable. I’m not saying they’re not expensive, but do you think you’re getting for a pair of jeans that are 100 or 150. Probably crap from China.

  6. AB
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 12:54 PM

    What’s ENOY! ?

  7. Don Guss
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 2:52 PM

    These are pretty hot. Not sure I could justify the price, as I go through jeans at a pretty good clip. But I might give these a shot. Love all the details.

  8. tb
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 2:58 PM

    You do realize there is a niche market for high quality denim using natural indigo dye, especially which is Made in the USA, right guys? Right? Many people who are not rich buy this stuff. I know this is true, because I definitely fall into this market. To say they should only charge $100 is asinine. I guarantee wholesale prices are more than $100 a pair. Why? Because the cost to use decades old shuttle looms with natural plant dyes is not a cheap way to make a pair of jeans.

    The denim really looks excellent btw. Very streaky. Also I like the indigo stitching, and red stitch at the hem. It’s a nice touch. I’m still wondering what the fits look like though.

  9. william
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 3:26 PM

    The high end denim from Cone Mills is probably in the $20-$25/yd range (It’s been a while since I bought denim fabric, so I could be off by a bit). Multiply by approx. 2 yards for each pair, plus trims, notions, and pocketing (another $5-$7… being generous) plus $15-$20 for domestic labor (the going rate of denim sewing facilities in SoCal) and you’re at about $75-$80 cost. You do the math.

    I’m not begrudging anyone for making a profit. Just saying that if you have more customers who can afford your product, the better it is for everyone…customers, employees, and american business in general.

  10. gary
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 4:17 PM

    Is that cost rundown supposed to justify the $285 price? Because it does for me. Not saying I’m going to buy them, because I’m not. But, I bet my 50 dollar American Apparel jeans cost 15 dollars to manufacture. You have to factor in overhead, and when you’re selling to a niche market, that overhead is spread over a smaller customer base, so everyone ends up paying more. This is the cost of the luxury of scarcity. Duh.

  11. charles
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 4:40 PM

    If the rise is a little higher than my new standards I will switch to Raleigh in a flinch.

  12. Rob
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 5:17 PM

    Brilliant. Raleigh will be my next denim purchase. It is easy for me to justify this price knowing the chain of economics involved in supporting people doing a damn good job at something they are passionate about in the Best God Damn Country in the world. and f american apparel all of their products are shiet.

  13. Rob
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 5:18 PM

    although I do wish i could purchase direct from them and not give barney my money.

  14. Whiteoakkid
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 5:39 PM

    You can purchase them directly from them. You should just email them. They are really nice people. I have 2 pairs and they are the best damn jeans I own. Really approve of this blog and post especially. I wish i had that pair..

  15. kiya
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 7:14 PM

    William,

    Some of your pricing is on point but the fabric costs are nowhere near $25 a yard.
    Cone’s most expensive denim from their White Oak plant in the Black Seed collection doesn’t even really break $10 a yard, while most hovers around $6.50 to $9.

  16. william
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 8:09 PM

    Kyla,

    Like I said it’s been awhile. I assumed there must have been some premium because the fabric was woven on some vintage machine or something. Your prices are closer to what I remembered.

    Cheers,

  17. reteptterrab
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 8:25 PM

    …there’s a lot of math going on here. Let’s not forget that the relationship between cost of materials and retail value is almost abstract.

    The cost of materials + production is only one small factor in the final retail price of a product. Actually, perceived value and consumer willingness are stronger determining agents in dictating price; hopefully for Raleigh their good-looking, American made pants will generate a lot of both.

    And, I can guarantee you that – because of their business model – Victor and Sarah are a long way from making it rich.

  18. SLambert
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 9:40 PM

    What a refreshing, inspirational story. Two young entrepreneurs doing it the old-fashioned way: hard work, a superior product and an attention to detail and the customer. Thank you, Victor and Sarah – $285 for an awesome pair of top-quality jeans and the satisfaction of supporting a new Carolina company? You got it!

  19. egad
    on Sep 10th, 2009
    @ 10:33 PM

    Anyone done a comparison to Japanese selvedge?
    I pay $300+ for Flat Heads, Sugar Cane, Momotaro, … but I need to know if the real attention to detail is there. I have a pair of Sugar canes done on way old looms – they are amazing. i have Flat heads where they describe the painstaking production proces and it shows and you can feel it Flathead 1001′s – after over 40 wears the fabric is still pretty brutal.
    I am from NC and want to support this venture but there was a time when almost all serious denim came out of NC mills but the cost was around $20/pair – late 70′s early 80′s – Wrangler, Lee, Levi’s, …
    I can only get a list of stores from their site.
    Details please or pass – prove that dog hunts, to use a Southern phrase.

  20. Mark
    on Sep 11th, 2009
    @ 12:40 AM

    ENOY = ENJOY, I think.

    $285 es mucho, but I think all of you accountants need to reconsider the notion of worth.

  21. Russell Sprouts
    on Sep 11th, 2009
    @ 2:28 AM

    Ladies ladies,

    Each pair is hand sewn. If $285 is too much cheddar for you…DON’T BUY THEM. I’m sure Woodbury Commons will have something more your speed on the rack.

    Cheers,
    RS

  22. Dave
    on Sep 11th, 2009
    @ 9:52 AM

    You could fork over $285 for a pair of these, or $79 for a pair of selvage junk from the Gap. The Gap ones will last you a year and a half, tops. My Edwin 505sx jeans – worn 3-4 times a week since I bought them four years ago – are still semi-rigid and it’ll be another year before they fade to a nice light blue. Great jeans. $285 for jeans that’ll last you four years plus, not to mention the way they evolve? Sounds like a good deal to me.

  23. Steven
    on Sep 11th, 2009
    @ 10:19 AM

    I don’t think that you can make the argument that these jeans make sense from an economic point of view. I can buy five pairs for $50 jeans from the Gap or Express for the cost of one of these. My experience might be different from yours, but I get at least two or three years of use out of my store-brought jeans. From this perspective, Raleigh Denim is a bad deal.

    However, it is very reasonable (and commendable) to say that these jeans are better investment in terms of sustainability. America would be in a better place if we made our purchases with the long run in mind.

    Regarding comfort, I can’t really comment on Raleigh Denim; I’ve never owned a pair. But I do wonder if they are $230 more confortable than what I can get in any department store.

  24. Kathleen
    on Sep 11th, 2009
    @ 12:32 PM

    Good on the price correction for denim but one is needed for the AA jeans as well an explanation of “hand made”. First the cost of jeans -in the california domestic market.

    It’s not possible for AA jeans to cost $15 to produce. Here’s a breakdown:
    Materials: $12-$13 (est.(@ $5 pyd plus hardware, tagging, jokers, rfid etc)
    Labor: $9.38 ($7.50 x 25% employee related overhead for about 28 SAM -standard allowable minutes aka piece rate)

    So we’re looking at about $22-$23 cost per pair. Multiply that by 3 (1/3 direct costs, 1/3 overhead/profit, 1/3 marketing and sales) and I’m guessing the jeans are selling for about $70-$75 at full price (not the mark down price). You can do better in El Paso where they actually specialize in denim. SAM there is about 21 minutes and wages are about $11 an hour, knocking down the theoretical AA jeans cost to about $20 or 10 to 15% lower.

    Now, about the use of the term “hand made”. Regardless of how consumers choose to use and define the word, it has a meaning legally, for regulatory purposes. Hand made varies depending on the industry but in apparel, hand made means that one person made the item start to finish. I don’t know that this denim company does that. “Automated” means something else and it is not necessarily bad. If this company did use hand made production, it would mean they are “Lean Manufacturers” or in the process of becoming such. Lean means that their costs could actually become much lower. As inconceivable as people imagine it to be, it actually takes less time and is higher quality (long story) for one person to make something start to finish. Don’t care to argue about it today but it’s true.

  25. Zack
    on Sep 11th, 2009
    @ 12:41 PM

    $285 is nothing. Compared with jeans that are made in China and sold in high-end boutiques, like Lucky or Rock & Republic or Seven for All Mankind, $285 is cheap when you consider what you are actually paying for and the margins in these types of price schedules. So suck it all you haters.

  26. Dane
    on Sep 11th, 2009
    @ 12:50 PM

    I have a pair and they are absolutely the best piece of clothing I have ever owned or worn in my life.

  27. kyx
    on Sep 11th, 2009
    @ 8:12 PM

    wow lots of smart (and not so smart) people chiming in for the discussion

    I like some of the small details but that silly selvedge accenting kinda kills their aesthetic for me.

    I think the back pocket shape is interesting…

    Price is spendy but what denim isnt 200 + these days?

  28. Dean
    on Sep 12th, 2009
    @ 3:19 AM

    another denim brand? really?

  29. jimmythepick
    on Sep 12th, 2009
    @ 5:28 PM

    Good looking pair of jeans. I don’t mind another denim brand in the market, especially since so many of the ones out there now suck.

  30. prince shepard
    on Sep 12th, 2009
    @ 5:46 PM

    Despite all that has been said, as a NC native, I love what these guys are doing!

  31. Classics Patriot
    on Sep 13th, 2009
    @ 1:34 AM

    egad wrote:

    “I am from NC and want to support this venture but there was a time when almost all serious denim came out of NC mills but the cost was around $20/pair – late 70’s early 80’s – Wrangler, Lee, Levi’s, …”

    I remember those days. What do you think killed them? Free trade. Free trade benefits multinational corporations and consumers–but the latter only to the extent that they don’t mind paying less for lower quality. On the other hand, free trade is poison for blue-collar workers of all sorts, because they have to compete with the Third World and its endemic poverty. Any multinational that wants to stay in business will move its production to the cheapest place it can, and so in a generation, free trade has turned America from a manufacturer of quality goods into an importer of not-so-quality goods. In a generation, free trade has turned America from a country where abundant blue-collar jobs paid well enough to support families and buy houses to a country where blue-collar jobs are mainly in the lower-paying service sector–and unchecked immigration from the Third World, both legal and illegal, has driven down wages even further.

    Now, I’m a fan of the corporation; however, I am not a fan of the amoral people who run some of them. I don’t mind immigrants; I’m married to one. However, I do mind having more than a million people move here each and every year. We accept more immigrants in one year than the entire rest of the world combined. It’s unsustainable, and will destroy us if we don’t get it under control.

  32. HMT
    on Sep 13th, 2009
    @ 10:03 AM

    It’s exciting to see the recent interest in all things made in America. It’s saddening to see so many fools ready to part with their money.

    BTW, I live in Japan and I can buy Japanese selvage denim for about $150-$200 from companies like Warehouse that not only love old machines, but actually use them.

  33. Christopher Baus
    on Sep 13th, 2009
    @ 2:41 PM

    If you consider what it costs to buy imported jeans from Japan, the price on these isn’t that crazy. I’ve consider the argument that I could by 5 crappy pair of jeans for the price of one good pair, but then I’d be wearing crappy jeans that don’t look that great everyday. I’d rather have the one high quality pair, and feel good about what I was wearing. I think that is a probably with the American consumer. Quantity trumps quality.

    I think it is great to see some competition to Japanese selvage at this end of the market. I would rather wear an American made jean anyway.

  34. Cutting Dash
    on Sep 13th, 2009
    @ 4:48 PM

    If you like it and can afford it, buy it, if you can’t, buy something else. I think this whole hand made thing is over used and is misleading (especially jeans) as they are not hand stitching or hand finishing any part of the garment. (except hand washed)

    I think we can safely call hand stitched leather goods hand made.

  35. HMT
    on Sep 14th, 2009
    @ 12:01 AM

    My point was that Japanese consumers can buy selvage denim made in Japan at lower prices than Americans can buy made in the USA denim. The cost of living and producing a product is not cheaper in Japan than the US.

  36. Tim
    on Sep 14th, 2009
    @ 2:21 PM

    I can’t see anything in the posts that call out the fit — that is the true test for me. Am I missing something?

  37. Rafael T
    on Sep 14th, 2009
    @ 5:33 PM

    Are they still making Verses Jeans?

  38. Sammy
    on Sep 15th, 2009
    @ 1:42 PM

    I would like to apologize to Michael and the commentors on this thread for my foul language regarding the very nice jeans being discussed here. At the time I made my comment, I was really feeling the effects of our downtrodden economy. When i saw that the jeans were 285 bucks, I about flipped my lid. These are tough times, many folks are out of work, losing houses, losing homes, going hungry. This is happening to many of my friends. So with that in mind, (Although it is no excuss for foul language) I ask that you accept my sincere apology.

    Sam

  39. suicide_blond
    on Sep 15th, 2009
    @ 4:18 PM

    the jeans look great kiddos!! and no worries… the price is fair and right…
    i’ll be keeping an eye out for ‘em @ my local Barneys Co-op..
    xoxo

  40. Ty
    on Sep 16th, 2009
    @ 2:32 PM

    I have a pair of these jeans and absolutly love them. I live in NC and enjoy supporting this family’s business. In fact I actually went to sarah and victor’s shop to get them and they showed me around. Trust me these jeans are truly hand made. Sarah and Victor use old Union Special sewing machines and personally stitch every pair themselves. The result is a fantastic finished product with incredible detail and personal touch.

    Yes, they are expensive but for me it was worth it, and I plan to continue to buy jeans from Raleigh Denim. If anything, this product illustrates the benifit of free trade. Now that all the cheap denim manufacturing has moved out of Carolina, a high end brand has found a new market niche. In the end, some people want cheap jeans from China, some like expensive and nice ones from NC. Either way people in China have good jobs, people in NC have good jobs and the customers for each are satisfied.

  41. Arthur
    on Sep 17th, 2009
    @ 9:50 AM

    Sammy- none of my friends are out of work. Its all a lie. Beside, if people are willing to pay $10 for a drink at a bar that only cost $2 to make why not pay the money for a well made pair of jeans that will last for years??

  42. celica
    on Sep 17th, 2009
    @ 1:32 PM

    ya’ll are cold…

    Let these people do what they love. Compare-despair…

  43. Nick Rocks
    on Sep 19th, 2009
    @ 4:24 AM

    Hey Peeps!

    Recently I had the opportunity to travel to NC via Raleigh to visit a shirt factory from one of America’s first and most famous shirt makers.

    Anyone have a guess?

    This company is still producing a large portion of their shirts in the U.S.

    The visit was a little depressing actually. The Factory WAS the town, population 800 people. A shadow of the industry that use to flourish in those parts I guess…

    It blew my mind to see the amount of attention and detail goes in to each and every shirt from each and every employee.

    To me that is what luxury should be about. That is what you should be paying for, not just a label slapped on the garment.

  44. Camden Drash
    on Sep 23rd, 2009
    @ 10:17 PM

    Funny, I go to school here in Raleigh, NC at the NCSU College of Textiles and I’ve NEVER heard of this company! WOW I need to hit them up for an internship

  45. Jason Hamilton
    on Oct 2nd, 2009
    @ 9:10 AM

    Awesome article. I used to play pool with Victor a bit, I never once beat him. My brother in law has one of the earlier pairs of Verses jeans and they are excellent.

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    on Dec 1st, 2009
    @ 7:54 AM

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