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raleigh denim

By 11/25/2014

we're proud to claim sarah and victor lytvinenko, the founders and designers behind raleigh denim, as raleigh-folks.  design-darlings in the denim world, these guys brought sexy back to home-grown jeans, opening a warehouse and retail store in downtown raleigh, where they manufacturer their eponymous line, and last year, opening a flagship in nyc's nolita.

every pair of jeans made in their downtown factory is signed and numbered by the duo.  the button-holes are created with vintage machines older than prohibition, their denim is sourced from a hundred year old mill in greensboro, nc, and their pants are left long so that they can be custom tailored with machines from the 1920s to perfectly fit their new owner.  their labels boast 'made by non-automated jeansmiths', and their patterns are created by 79 year-old christel ellsberg, one of levi strauss' first pattern makers.

we visited their workroom last week, and after a fascinating tour of the sewing floor, spent some time coveting just about everything in their shop, the curatory.  they stock all of their styles of men and women's denim, as well as other lines like band of outsiders, ishi, billy reid and harvey fair cloth.  you can find raleigh denim jeans at nordstrom, barney's, bloomingdale's and east dane.

see below for a new feature i'm adding to these spotlights on raleigh businesses: a q&a with the entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of crafting a new raleigh, merging the old with the new and doing it with unparalleled style.

learn more from sarah after the photos

q&a with sarah

years in business

number of employees
about 20

where do you find inspiration
travel.  history.  nature.  the parts of our lives + ourselves that we want to be better at, or have more of.

what gets you most excited about getting out of bed in the morning
ice cream.  i get out of bed, go straight to the freezer, eat ice cream from the container, and then i wake up.

name the culture of your business in three words
authentic, personal, diverse

favorite place to travel
hot sun, clear water

what scares you the most (in biz or otherwise)
getting stuck, especially for reasons beyond my control

bootstrapping or funding?
bootstrapping for a long time.  some funding last year.

three most important characteristics of an entrepreneur
curiosity, perseverance, naivete

what is your current state of mind?

why does your business work?  to what do you attribute your success?
i'm not really sure - but i think we have a special combo of interests: we got lucky on timing, have the very best friends and family, work our butts off, and haven't quit.  anything beyond that is probably magic.

which words of phrases do you most often overuse?

work hard or work smart?
work hard first, then work smart, then work hard some more.  i wish i was better at working smart from the beginning.

your biggest extravagance
shoes, food and travel

one piece of advice you'd give a prospective entrepreneur
have a personal board of directors.

what are your thoughts on failure?
it's inevitable, so get used to it.  do your best to learn from it, shake it off, and then fail a different way next time.

three favorite spots in raleigh
the greenway to the nc modern art museum, garland's lunch window and the foundation.

photos by gary meyer


  1. Thank you so much for starting a series of features about our local Raleigh small business owners! I love living in Raleigh, and learning more about the great people having success here is a favorite past-time. I obsessively devour Walter Magazine every month, and now I have another (not that I needed it) reason to stalk you blog daily. Jenn at East Meets South

  2. These jeans look luscious!

    x Lily

  3. I love this post! Thanks for sharing this company (I definitely want to check them out) and for doing the Q&A. It's so inspiring to hear from young entrepreneurs. You should fill it out yourself!

  4. This story warms my heart! I'm a 30+ years employee from the world headquarters of VF Jeanswear (makers of Wrangler and Lee jeans) that is located in Greensboro, NC. During my career, I watched one fabric mill and sewing plant after another close and move their operations out of the US. The plant was often the only major employer in the towns where they were located. It was sooo sad to watch. I have high hopes for Raleigh Denim and wish them every success!