WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED MAKING DENIM, YOU INSTITUTED THE HELP OF FELLOW MAKER, ROY SLAPPER. WHAT DID HE TEACH YOU BESIDES HOW TO PHYSICALLY MAKE DENIM? IS EVERYONE IN THE INDUSTRY A CLOSE COMMUNITY OR ARE THEY COMPETITIVE WITH ONE ANOTHER?
I met Roy when I made my first pair of jeans. He didn’t teach me how to make jeans in the traditional sense. Roy helped me to understand denim manufacturing. He showed me the machines he used to craft jeans and answered any questions I had about making jeans. This Was all a process of learning. It was long, tedious and I really learned how to make jeans by just making them over and over again. Roy was a great help, always making himself available to answer any questions I had about making them.
The Bay Area guys in the denim industry are a close community. We are all friends and support one another. Each of us are self taught and look to each other for support. There was never any reason for us to be competitive with each other. We were all making jeans for fun when we first met. No one was making jeans for profit. We were just making jeans for the hell of it. Everyone personality is so different and that is really expressed in the jeans we make. So, each of our customers are people that fit our individual personality.
WHAT’S IT LIKE HAVING A BUSINESS WHERE YOU’RE DOING JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING? IS IT STRESSFUL OR SOOTHING ASSURING THAT EVERY STEP IS DONE CORRECTLY?
Working alone has its ups and downs. I can work anytime of the day sewing jeans. Lately, I prefer working at night when most folks are at home. The silence of working alone is therapeutic. Not having anyone to help can be stressful. Working with someone allows me to learn from them as well. I always try to understand how I can have the best of both worlds. Eventually, when the business grows to include employees, I will have a sample room where I can sew samples alone with my music.
WHAT DOES A MADE-IN-AMERICA PRODUCT MEAN TO YOU AS A FORMER NAVY MAN? HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A BUSINESS OWNER WHO IS TRULY HAPPY WAKING UP EVERYDAY AND GETTING TO DO SOMETHING THAT YOU LOVE?
Made in America means a lot to me. I moved from the Bay Area to Los Angeles fashion district to expand my business. Companies that manufacture locally in Los Angeles allow the foundation of fashion to thrive. The sewing machine dealers, fabric salespeople, seamstress, and showrooms. No one in the fashion district would be here without the support of the designers that manufacture locally.
Having a business and doing what I love is amazing. Believe me, there are times when I am ready to jump head first off the tallest building in sight. The feeling of seeing your goals accomplished is like no other. My business has attracted elite individuals that support small business owners like myself. I have more control over my life and the sky is the limit as my own business owner.
WITH SO MANY BIG BOX RETAIL BRANDS PUTTING FOCUS ON DENIM NOW, DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE TO EXPAND YOUR BUSINESS OR WILL YOU CONTINUE CATERING TO THE SMALLER CUSTOM DENIM MARKET?
I don’t feel any pressure from the bigger denim brands. I tend to keep a blind eye to what competitors do. I’d be doing m customers a disservice if I tried to mimic other brands. Red Cotton Denim is Camillo Love, Camillo Love is Red Cotton Denim. The only person I am competing with is myself. Always trying to make the next pair better than the last.
WE FEEL LIKE OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS THE MASS RETAIL DENIM QUALITY HAS DECLINED. IT HAS TURNED FROM 100% COTTON, WHICH USED TO BE STIFF AND RUGGED, INTO THIS 90% COTTON 10% ELASTANE BLEND. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON USING THESE TYPES OF FABRICS IN YOUR PRODUCTS?
All my jeans are made with 100% cotton. No elastane ever. The fabric is stiff when you get your new pair but will become softer over time of wearing, like most jeans should.
DENIM, LIKE A GOOD PAIR OF SHOES, IS TYPICALLY LONG LASTING WHEN PROPERLY CARED FOR. IS IT A CATCH-22 THAT YOU’RE MAKING SUCH HIGH QUALITY DENIM THAT YOU’RE NOT SEEING THE CUSTOMERS RETURN FOR REPURCHASES 6-9 MONTHS?
My customers come to me because they want the high level of service I provide. If I can have a repeat customer once every 6 months, I’m doing something right. I hope that my customers have my jeans for years, but when they do finally need a new pair, they know that Red Cotton Denim is where to go.
WHY DO YOU THINK GUYS GRAVITATE TOWARDS WEARING A GREAT FITTING PAIR OF JEANS FOR ALMOST EVERY SITUATION?
A great pair of jeans works for all occasions. Throughout the years men’s fashion has went from formal to casual and back. A nice ﬁtted pair of denim can be sophisticated while still being casual. It gives a man the ability to be approachable without being overdressed.
WHAT’S ONE THING THAT A PAIR OF RED COTTON DENIM HAS OVER A WIDER KNOWN BRAND, SUCH AS TRUE RELIGION?
Red Cotton Denim is a unique brand that allows its customer the opportunity to talk with the maker of their jeans. Any question or special requests about the denim can be answered directly by me. I continue to use technology as a way to engage my customers more and get feedback about how to best serve them.
WHAT’S BEEN THE MOST REWARDING THING THAT’S HAPPENED TO THE RED COTTON DENIM BRAND SINCE YOU’VE STARTED? YOU’VE ACQUIRED A PRETTY IMPRESSIVE CUSTOM CLIENT LIST, NO?
There are so many things to be proud about since starting my business. Having a commercial of myself in LA was pretty cool. I would actually walk pass it on the way home and ignore it. I didn’t want it blowing my ego out of proportion. I am generally not a shallow person so it’s not a big deal.
Yea, Having Shaquille O’Neal as my # 1 client is cool as hell. Shaq’s been very supportive of the Red Cotton Denim brand. All my customers have be supportive. My clients are all very smart people from all walks of life. Honestly, I’m lucky to have such a great resource of successful people that I can rely on for any business advice.
TAKE US THROUGH WHAT A CUSTOM FITTING LOOKS LIKE AT RED COTTON DENIM? IF YOU’RE IN THE AREA, WHY SHOULD YOU TAKE ADVANTAGE TO COME SEE YOU AND GET FITTED?
Customers get to see my workspace where the jeans are made. I have a collection of 13 industrial sewing machines. It’s an experience for a new client that is unfamiliar with how clothes are made. I enjoy meeting new people and learning about them, telling them about myself and what I do.
I listen to my clients explain their problems with their current pair(s) of denim. We discuss their needs in order to achieve a great ﬁt. Then I take measurements of their body. The clients return to try on the jeans when the ﬁrst pair has been made. We talk about any needed changes and I begin to make the ﬁnal pair.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE FUTURE OF RED COTTON DENIM? IS IT IMPROVING YOUR CUSTOM SERVICE? IT IS OFFERING MORE OPTIONS IN DIFFERENT WEIGHTS OR STYLES OF DENIM? IS IT TRYING TO SELL IN MORE STORES IN YOUR AREA?
The plans for the future are to add a few more ﬁts to the website. My customers email about how they would like their jeans to ﬁt. I am beginning to creating new ﬁts that are accommodating to men with athletic legs. That seems to be more of the issue with current men’s jeans.
I will be launch a crowdfunding campaign that I am pretty excited about sometime this year. I hope that your audience can help support it.
IF THERE’S ONE THING YOU WANT OUR READERS TO KNOW OR TAKE AWAY FROM WHAT YOU’RE DOING WITH RED COTTON DENIM, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
Readers should know that I work hard for my customers. I’m not some brand that just designs jeans, has them made and then sells them at a higher cost for proﬁt. I hand make each pair of denim for each of my customers. My focus is on making the best jeans and not just selling them. My brand is more than another pair of jeans. My customer is more than someone with a charge card. Red Cotton Denim customers are people who love all that goes into a pair of handmade jeans and how much value and longevity they bring.
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SAY TO OUR AUDIENCE?
I want thank Steven at Genuine Men’s Magazine for the interview. I hope that all your readers enjoyed my story, and will visit my site for custom jeans at an affordable price. Also I hope they can keep an eye out for my crowdfunded Kickstarter campaign that’s going to be launching sometime this year. I’ll make sure to make a big announcement. Really appreciate the time.