Dynamic Denim Duo

Boasting the name of their beloved hometown, Raleigh Denim founders and designers Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko created their own line of high quality and holistically made denim that has hit the ground running. Starting out as a men’s line of denim, the brand has expanded vastly and is steadily growing with no end in sight. Most remarkably, the couple produces each pair of jeans by hand, under one roof in Raleigh, North Carolina and as they’ll tell you, they wouldn’t have it any other way. Find out the inspiration and motivation behind this dynamic denim duo.

Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko

Photo by Nick Pironio

Izabella De Souza:  The thing we love most about your garments is that they are holistically made. You personally design, sew, wash, finish and sign your pieces, which places you into your own coveted category in the fashion world. Can you discuss some of the unique techniques that go into creating your pieces?

Victor Lytvinenko:  From the beginning, we focus on style and quality.  Everyone who works with us understands that the craftsmanship is more important to us than the amount of things we produce.  Instead of using automated machines, we sew our garments using traditional methods and some choice vintage machines.  That does a few things, it infuses our pieces with more character than a garment built by machines, it permits us to employ skilled artisans in a waning trade and allows us to be really involved in the process – always assessing, adjusting, improving, thinking.

Signed denim Raleigh Denim

Photo by Nick Pironio

I.D.:  With efforts like working with local farmers for your materials and completing the whole production process under one roof, Raleigh Denim embodies the notion of sustainability. Why was it so important for you to create a clothing line that focused on sustainable production?
Sarah Lytvinenko:  I think it all stems from this idea that I learned in design school, which has never really left my mind.  That is, process is as important as product.  So how a thing comes to be has as much impact and importance as what that thing is in the end.  That might be more thought than some people would like to exercise when buying, say, a pair of jeans, but I guess that particular kind of thought defines our little spot in the world of fashion.  

Raleigh Denim studio

Photo by Nick Pironio

I.D.:  It’s obvious that you two are very proud Raleighnians. How has basing your entire empire in Raleigh influenced your creative direction?
S.L.:  There is a strong, talented group of creative people here, artists (Shaun Richards and Luke Miller Buchanan are two of our favorite painters), chefs, farmers, designers and tons of musicians. We all hang out and feed off of each other creating synergy between the disciplines. We have an amazing community of friends and family – absolutely amazing.  They’ve played a huge role in helping us start and grow Raleigh Denim.  For our first big order two years ago, our moms came in to iron, our friends helped us snip and fold and pack, and my dad put in all the rivets with a hand press.  That kind of comradery is hard to find outside of a hometown.

I.D.:  The fact that you two work hand in hand on every aspect of the production process of your line is fantastic and fascinating at the same time. How do you make it work so well?
V.L.:  Ha!  This might not sound very glamorous, but we think the key is practice and trust.  We used to be unable to collaborate on creative projects because we were both too stubborn; we each could only see our own vision.  Through a few failed attempts to collaborate, we learned the importance of communication and faith in each other.  That’s how teams work, right?  Be they in business, sports, design… so that’s how we work, too.  It’s actually made our marriage stronger, happier and better.  I know that’s sappy, but it’s true.  Don’t get me wrong, we still argue and have rough patches.  A friend of ours says that without gravity, we’d have no muscles, so conflict is important as well.  

Raleigh Denim Labels

Photo by Nick Pironio

I.D.:  With all the work you do and hours you put into a workday, what are some of your favorite ways to relax and unwind?
S.L.:  What? Life beyond work?  Seriously, we go out to shows and spend time with friends and family – lots of dinners and dancing. Victor plays soccer and basketball to unwind and recharge.  I rock climb and have been going to yoga more often.  It’s also great to be able to travel.  That’s not always relaxing, but it’s always inspiring and it keeps everything in perspective.

I.D.:  Congratulations on opening your first private store, The Curatory (awesome name by the way).  It’s designed for the consumer to get an up-close look at the production of your pieces and features specialty items chosen for their “care for craft, superior design and mastery of process.”  What kind of experience did you want to create for people who visit The Curatory?
V.L. & S.L.:  Thanks! We want our shop to be a place where you can feel our brand… a place people can see and touch our pieces in a beautiful and elegant setting, but also to see and hear the grit and art of making those things. We chose to link the making-of and the finished piece visually, with an eye-level window running the length of the store.  From any point in the shop, you can look through to watch production.

Raleigh Denim Curatory

Photo by Nick Pironio

We also want The Curatory to be a cozy place to discover things.  We needed to transform the space to make it more intimate than an old warehouse, so we had a paper airplane making party.  We got bunch of friends together and (with some gin and tonics and cookies) folded and hung about 4,000 craft-paper airplanes to form a drop ceiling.  The texture turned out wonderfully and the planes evoke of bit of nostalgia when you first walk in. We’ve stocked the store with some great independent labels, solid classics and collaborations with local artisans.  So far, the response has been great.  It’s given us an opportunity to complete the picture, to work with more than jeans.

I.D.: Raleigh Denim is growing tremendously. You have just expanded to a full line of several ready-to-wear pieces. There is also word of an up coming accessories and leather luggage collection. What exactly can we expect from Raleigh Denim in the future?
V.L. & S.L.:  Speaking of more than jeans, we are very, very excited to be moving toward a full collection.  We’re starting out with, in addition to our core denim, a few styles of button ups shirts, lightweight canvas and twill jackets, and leather goods (wallets, belts, billfolds, bags) for Fall ’11.  We’ve got a few extra-special projects exclusively for Barneys in the works too – they are still top-secret right now so I can’t say too much, but they are going to be awesome!  We’re looking forward to introducing those pieces and to highlighting the people, the hands and the techniques behind the goods.  And then there’s women’s!  Our women’s jeans are ready, starting with one thin straight leg cut in two washes and a raw, selvage pair.  We’ll be adding more denim cuts soon and we anticipate having a women’s collection this time next year.  We cannot wait!

Sarah & Victor of Raleigh Denim

Photo by Nick Pironio

– Izabella De Souza, E-Commerce Copywriter


  1. Posted 01.12.11 at 4:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Kudos on an excellent interview and a wonderful brand! I’d love to check out The Curatory. Sounds fantastic.

  2. Posted 01.12.11 at 5:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    So great to see a fantastic company receive such notoriety! I’ve known Sarah for a long time and she has always been so creative and talented. Thanks for spreading the word!

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