Epiphanies and Denim Shopping at R13’s New NYT Flagship

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R13 has opened a new shop in New York City, and I learned something new about the brand from The New York Times article about it:

Chris Leba, the founder and designer of R13, was vice president for design at Ralph Lauren until 2016, and refused to be identified for the first seven years of R13’s existence. The label is known for its artfully shredded denim and punk influence, drawing inspiration from the awe Mr. Leba felt when he arrived in New York in the mid-1980s.

He was like the Margiela of denim and I can see why. The perception of R13 would have been completely different if everyone had known the founder spent the majority of his career at Ralph Lauren.

The author, Katherine Bernard, got quite a workout trying jeans on at the new shop, which displays videos of the NYC punk scene from the ’80s. She describes lunging and tugging on belt loops—we’re all familiar with the routing. She also wrote some really entertainingly creative paragraphs for an article about a new denim store:

Is distressed clothing a sign of post-capitalist dystopia? Yes. In the 1990s, deconstruction was artistic rebellion. Grunge was offensive, but at least it was new. In 2019, internal disrepair throbs from every tier of human relation. How dare we enjoy post-apocalyptic pants, kicked back in our gilded existence as the wreck overtakes people near and far? It’s outrageous.

She also contradicted herself:

That said, I will now argue the other side. Only a true artisan can dismantle something into a beautiful still-something. R13 jeans are milled and mauled in a small factory in Italy, where, I understand, craftspeople who apprenticed in the art of denim making take great care in taking apart. It is worthy to master dismantling inherited illusions of completeness.

And then again:

Then again, I did not pay $445 to own jean shorts that look as if they survived a pack of motorbikes in a Globe of Death. But I take no issue with their existence.

 

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