Introducing: Shockoe Denim
December 18 2014
Shockoe Denim is a family affair. Founder Anthony Lupesco started the company in Richmond, VA in 2012 to honor the craft of his father, Pierre. For over 40 years, Pierre Lupesco had established manufacturing operations for luxury menswear brands like Isaia and Belvest. So when Anthony approached him about making jeans, Pierre replied, “I only know how to make real clothes.” But after hearing Anthony’s vision for applying old-world tailoring and construction techniques to denim, he was intrigued, and signed on.
While its foundations are steeped in the sleek world of luxury fashion, the end product is anything but flashy. It’s a delicate line to balance, but Shockoe Denim manages to sit at the pinpoint intersection of heritage production methods, European tailoring, and fine-tuned details. Sourcing denim from some of the finest mills in Japan and the revered Cone Mills in North Carolina, Shockoe works ceaselessly in pursuit of the perfect pair of jeans. Prototyping, fine-tuning, and iterating silhouettes over and over again to ensure they provide the finest fits available.
We recently paid a visit to Shockoe Denim owners Anthony and Pierre Lupesco and partner Matt Rho at their Richmond storefront and workshop to talk details, history and the future of finely crafted denim.
We’re interested to know why you decided to make jeans. It’s a pretty crowded market, why focus on denim?
Shockoe is a modern luxury brand, and the core foundational piece in a modern guy’s wardrobe is denim. That’s becoming more and more true every day as guys’ work wardrobes transition from suiting to casual. For that reason, we felt that denim was a great place to start in building out the line. We also didn’t see anyone doing denim in the way we wanted to do it – clean, minimalist luxury jeans where exceptional fabric and construction serve as the branding. Most denim brands feature a lot of superfluous branding – pocket designs, logos, arcuates, and such. We’re making jeans for guys who appreciate the highest levels of quality and workmanship, but who don’t need the logos and labeling.
Pierre has worked in the garment industry for a long time, what’s it it like for he and Anthony to work together?
It’s like a big Italian family dinner that goes all day every day. It’s loud, frenetic, and filled with arguments and laughter, often at the same time. Our conversations at work shift pretty seamlessly between family and the business and back again. And as we’ve grown, it’s become really an extended family atmosphere. We’re 18 people now, and we’ve all become Lupescos!
Shockoe is a name with a lot of history in Richmond, what inspired you to adopt the name for your company?
Our neighborhood in Shockoe Bottom, has a long, complex history full of heroes and scoundrels and those who were both. Patrick Henry’s famous “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech was delivered just up the hill from us. But just fifty years later, Shockoe Bottom would become the second largest slave-trading center in the country and subsequently the birthplace of slave rebellions. In the late 19th century, it became home to the largest tobacco companies in the US. Over the past decade or so, though, it has grown into an engine in the city’s arts and design rebirth, something we’re proud to be a part of. The notion that things bold, new, and beautiful emerge from the broken makes sense here. We’re intrigued and inspired by the contradictions of this place. For us, it’s these paradoxes and the tensions in between that make this neighborhood really human.
What sets Shockoe Denim apart from other denim companies?
A couple of things. First, our aesthetic is cleaner – more sleek and modern, than other denim companies. We’re not a heritage brand, and we’re not trying to recreate workwear. We’re making luxury clothes for modern men, for whom the focus is on versatility – you can wear our jeans with anything, in any setting, dressed way up or way down. Being so versatile means you get more use out of our jeans – they become more personal because they’re with you all the time. And there’s of course a value component to that as well. The more you wear the jeans, the better the value.
The second thing that sets us apart is our construction – we take a tailored approach to construction. A lot of the construction details you’ll see inside our jeans come directly from luxury tailoring, a nod to our history and background. For the guy wearing our jeans, these construction techniques translate into a cleaner, more durable, longer-lasting pair of jeans.
What’s the design process like? What sorts of considerations do you make when choosing fabric/hardware etc?
We spend a lot of time thinking about how things age. Our clothes are designed to look great on the rack when they’re new, and then more importantly, grow more beautiful with wear. That’s at the core of how we select fabric and hardware. Every component is chosen because it gets better with wear. For example – and this is just a small thing, but really important to us – our buttons and rivets are copper with a black finish. The black finish rubs off as the jeans are worn, over time revealing the copper underneath. It’s the process that over time reveals the character of a garment – it’s not just about how the garment looks on a rack in the store. And construction is a big part of these design choices as well — using construction techniques that give the garment the ability to grow in beauty as it’s worn.
Who do you look to for examples of what’s being done well in the industry?
We’re inspired by lots of folks. It’s such a dynamic time right now, where you’re seeing this amazing mash-up of streetwear, luxury, heritage, and contemporary – so there are lots of places to find inspiration. Some names that come to mind immediately are Han Kjobehavn for visuals and storytelling, Berluti and Tom Ford for all the amazing details in their clothes, Loro Piana and Belvest for their fabrics and construction, and Cucinelli for their community-centered approach to business.
What’s next for Shockoe Denim? Where does Shockoe Denim want to be in five years?
This is a really exciting time for us, because for FW15, we’re releasing a full line of luxury menswear – shirts, vests, jackets, and outerwear. The core DNA of the line will be the same as in our jeans – gorgeous, unique fabrics paired with meticulous, thoughtful construction. We’re working with some of the best production shops in Italy for these pieces, and can’t wait to share the collection with everybody.
In conjunction with this expansion into a full menswear line, we’re changing our name as well – to something that honors where we started and where we’re from, but better encompasses the full range of the line. We’re announcing the new name in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned!
Further out, our vision is to have a thriving brand that’s at the forefront of a new generation of luxury menswear. Today, when you think luxury you think of brands like Hermes, Loro Piana, Finamore, Cucinelli, Berluti, etc. We’re going after this same level of quality and refinement – but with a distinctly modern and American approach. When the next generation of luxury buyers emerges – and we see that happening already – we want to be one of the brands they look to.