Ep. 78: Victor Lytvinenko of Raleigh Denim Workshop

Jeansmith and co-founder of Raleigh Denim Workshop, Victor Lytvinenko, was born with tons of energy and curiosity. As he grew it led to playing soccer, building small engines, and digging deep into whatever was capturing his attention - woodworking, cooking, wine-making... until he found a sewing machine and became obsessed with making the perfect pair of jeans. Together with his now-wife Sarah Yarborough, they perfected the pants and went on to build a brand deeply committed to craftsmanship. Cult following ensued.

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What is your earliest memory?

Riding a Big Wheeler around the neighborhood.

How do you feel about democratic design?

I think multiple perspectives are important to consider.

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

“Follow your heart.” - Sarah
“No risk, no reward.” - Mom

Victor with partner in life and business, Sarah Yarborough

Victor with partner in life and business, Sarah Yarborough

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How do you record your ideas?

I take pictures. My phone camera roll is where i capture ideas, inspiration, and document the things I was working on. I also have long lists of aspirational ideas that I am continually dreaming about. 

What’s your current favorite tool or material to work with?

Can I say my hands?

Making a pair of jeans for their Tiny Films series. View the videos at  https://raleighdenimworkshop.com/pages/tiny-films-series

Making a pair of jeans for their Tiny Films series. View the videos at https://raleighdenimworkshop.com/pages/tiny-films-series

“The moment I got off the phone with Barneys and told Sarah what they said.”

“The moment I got off the phone with Barneys and told Sarah what they said.”

What happened next…

What happened next…

What book is on your nightstand?

There are two on my nightstand right now:

Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgård - He makes the most mundane things magical.
Calypso by David Sedaris - He makes us giggle at night.

Why is authenticity in design important?

It is real, and that is what I’m into. 

Young Victor in High School

Young Victor in High School

A still from a video Victor made many years ago on making wine. View the video here:  https://vimeo.com/285961931/96e62b4b6b

A still from a video Victor made many years ago on making wine. View the video here: https://vimeo.com/285961931/96e62b4b6b

Favorite restaurant in your city?

There are so many….how about the restaurant I go to most frequently? Taqueria El Toro. 

What might we find on your desk right now?

Larousse Grastronomique, two Rhodia notebooks, an orange with cloves in it, a candle, fabric shears, and a switchblade.

Victor working in the first “workshop” outside of their house - no natural light and no heat!

Victor working in the first “workshop” outside of their house - no natural light and no heat!

Raleigh Denim for Bernhardt Design, 2015

Raleigh Denim for Bernhardt Design, 2015

Raleigh Denim for Bernhardt Design, 2018

Raleigh Denim for Bernhardt Design, 2018

Who do you look up to and why?

Jerry Helling at Bernhardt Design (Episode 56!). He is a master of finding the creative force in the world, connecting, and harnessing that creative power for good. I think about Jerry a lot and hope to be more like him. 

What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?

Working with Shohei Shigematsu and the team at OMA NYC on the design of our New York store. It was a pure and honest creative process that we all went into with creativity as the goal. It was beautiful and super fun.

Victor did a photo shoot In 2001 ~ “I was cooking at Nobu in NYC and got stopped on the street one day and asked to do a photoshoot...it was for Luomo Vogue, no big deal.”

Victor did a photo shoot In 2001 ~ “I was cooking at Nobu in NYC and got stopped on the street one day and asked to do a photoshoot...it was for Luomo Vogue, no big deal.”

What are the last five songs you listened to?

Hooked on a feeling - Blue Suede
33 “God” - Bon Iver
Baby Where You Are - Mountain Man
Yekermo Sew - Mulatu Astatke"
Phone - Lizzo


See Victor’s work at raleighdenimworkshop.com and follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


Clever is produced by 2VDE Media. Thanks to Jennie Josephson for editing this episode.
Music in this episode courtesy of
El Ten Eleven—hear more on Bandcamp.
Shoutout to
Jenny Rask for designing the Clever logo.