In 2007, Victor Lytvinenko was unhappy with the fit of designer jeans that he found on the market, so he and his wife Sarah started sewing their own jeans. After seeing that their jeans were a better fit and quality, they began a design, cut and sew operation in their apartment. It was there that Raleigh Denim was born.
They were soon making a pair a day and quickly sold them to friends. Before long, word of mouth, local store sales and unsolicited press created a need for a larger workshop. They moved operations to a small Raleigh warehouse, and started their mission to build the ideal pair of jeans and continue North Carolina’s rich history of making finely crafted American-made jeans using local materials and traditional construction methods.
When Victor sought business financing, Evans Lackey of Coastal Federal Credit Union referred him to the NCSU SBTDC for business plan assistance. Business counselor Dan Blankenship helped Victor write and review his business plan and shared cash flow templates, which helped get financing. Since then, Victor has gone to the SBTDC for advice and direction on every growth-related issue they have experienced. Since Dan’s retirement, Victor has worked with SBTDC Biz Boost counselor David Park on all aspects of the business.
The SBTDC has helped Raleigh Denim receive seven SBA loans to purchase equipment, move to a larger space and grow their business. One of the loans came just as President Obama’s stimulus plan passed, which allowed Raleigh Denim to take a large order from Barneys New York – an opportunity they may have missed otherwise.
Today, Raleigh Denim’s small team of artisans is revered for the outstanding fit, quality and detail of their jeans. True to their desire to maintain a contemporary fit and style with traditional construction, Raleigh Denim’s patterns are all handmade, primarily by their 78-year-old pattern maker who worked for Levi’s and has 50 years’ experience. Each pair of jeans is sewn on vintage sewing machines by experienced jeans crafters.
Raleigh Denim is thriving with 24 employees, and revenue that has more than doubled each year. Their downtown Raleigh storefront, The Curatory, sells their jeans and accessories as well as products by local designers. They also presented during the 2012 New York Fashion Week with fashion editors from the NY Times, Elle, Harper’s Bizarre, Times,Teen Vogue and GQ in attendance. In fall 2012, a Raleigh Denim store will open in New York.
“The SBTDC has been integral, paramount, to Raleigh Denim’s success,” says Victor, “At every stage of difficulty, the SBTDC has been involved, given us good direction, advice and guidance. I don’t know if we’d be
here without the SBTDC.”
As featured in the 2011-12 SBTDC Annual Report / Photographs of the Lytvinenkos by Nick Pironio