TB! > Pete Stolz… What’s good with you today? How is the day going?
PETER STOLZ! > All is well in the world of Pedro Blanco today, just had a few days off to re-charge and get ready to jump in and design the next season.
TB! > Not only does the whole world need to know, but I personally need to know…what did you have for breakfast this morning?
PS! > A Red Bull and a little Bad Brains on the way to the office.
TB! > If this interview had a sound track or a theme song, what would it be?
PS! > The new Black Mountain Album, They’re this dope sludge/stoner rock band from Vancouver.
TB! > What city do you rep?
PS! > Sucker Free City, San Francisco,CA. But I just bought my first house just outside the city in a foggy little surf town called Pacifica.
TB! > So you work for the original denim jeans manufacture, Levis. Specifically on the Signature line. Tell us a little about what your role is there. What exactly you do for Levis.
PS! > Well, I am currently the designer for Levi Strauss Signature: Young Mens, Mens, Casualwear, Authentics, and Professional Grade Workwear. As far as roles and responsibilities, I am responsible for coming up with seasonal design concepts and platforms, technical sketching, and overseeing garment construction and finish development.
TB! > How many years have you been with them?
PS! > 2 Years with the LSS brand, but off and on in other brands here since 1999.
TB! > How did you get started with Levis? Was it somewhere you always wanted to work?
PS! > I started off in ‘99 as an intern for Dockers Womens, and just kind of built from there. Growing up in The City (SF), it was like everyone knew or knows someone that works or has worked for Levi’s, it is literally a San Francisco institution. While I was becoming a bit disillusioned with working in Womens, I took a break from LS&Co., and was brushing up on my retail knowledge, running the Recon SF store and Gallery.
TB! > How many minutes are in your cell phone package?
PS! > I’m not quite sure, but the last time I was in Medellin for work, my bill was around $1200 for two weeks!
TB! > What’s you day-to-day life at Levis like? I know you travel, but what’s the day-in-the life?
PS! > Really, day-to-day is all about emails and meetings, and trying to get shit done in between. A lot of my time is about trying to get to know who my customer is and really designing innovative and relevant stuff for them.
TB! > I’m personally a huge fan of Levi’s product and their brand. They have always been a staple in terms of classic street wear, but as of late they have really been stepping up their design game. The 501 in particular is strong right now, almost like a re-birth. What are your thoughts on the resurgence of Levi’s in terms of it being ‘cool’ again?
PS! > You know, I personally don’t think of it in terms of Levi’s “becoming cool again”. Levi’s is classic and an American/Worldwide icon of quality and craftsmanship. Levi’s is the original. OG. EVERYONE that has ever made a pair of jeans has been influenced by Levi’s, whether they know it or not. You have to recognize that and realize that you want to have a piece of history. Levi’s is as much modern as it is historical. The originators and The innovators.
TB! > When we talked on the phone, we talked about the Signature brand and how the design process is exactly the same as the crazy LVC stuff in Japan in terms of how you make it happen but you have tighter budgets and different restrictions. Seems like that would be a good challenge…how do you as a designer handle that?
PS! > Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that they are the same product by any means. The fabrics, facilities and trims are completely different, but the way we design and “build” a garment is quite similar, and as a designer I come up with design platforms and concepts, and really draw from a centralized theme seasonally, like other design teams within the LS&Co. umbrella. I have to know my boundaries, basically, and try and produce the most premium product within those particular boundaries. My goal is to bring sophistication, innovation, and a premium product to the mass market. I have to really pick my shots as far as what I consider to be valuable to the customer and go with that.
TB! > Kind of a technical question… With the different washes, do you just start off with a fresh pair of jeans and start designing the different wear patterns by hand? I’m curious as to how this works.
PS! > Just like any other denim designer, I usually start with a pretty high-level concept, and from there I figure out how the concept can relate to my customer and then the garments. I draw from the LS&Co archives a lot (there’s soo much rich history to draw from), and am often inspired by vintage garments found at vintage stores, swap meets/ flea markets (Rose Bowl flea market, the 1st Sunday each month usually fuckin’ rocks!) and people on the street. Authenticity is VERY important in denim finishing, there is just SO much bad, contrived wear patterns out there it’s crazy, from high-end denim on down.
TB! > Another technical question… What is the cycle time from the time you create a new garment/piece on a sketch-pad all the way thru sampling to manufacturing then finally hitting the shelves? With Levi’s being as big as it is, I would imagine this takes quite a bit of planning.
PS! > Well, it’s typical in the design industry to design a year in advance, so it does take a little “fortune telling” to forecast what people will want to be wearing, but YES, it takes so much planning that we have dedicated departments that plan and build our schedules.
TB! > Off subject… Pizza or Shrimp? James Bond or Star Wars? Green or Red? Apple or PC? Nike or Adidas? Range Rover or G-Wagon?
PS! > Hai Gow (Shrimp dumpling) from Yank Sing, Empire (although the whole Vader thing in the new flick is ILL), Nor-Cal Green, my ibook weighs a ton, late 80’s ACG, DEFINITELY Porsche 356 “the bathtub Porsche”. It’s all about the Classics.
TB! > Back to Levis stuff, where does most of the actual production happen? I know for the longest Levis was all about the USA but things have changed… Where is at now?
PS! > There is still some very limited production done in the US still (mainly LVC, I think), but in reality, LS&Co. is a global company that produces and sells their clothes globally.
TB! > Alright… You and Levis. You favorite style number?
PS! > 501XX…I think it’s the WWII fit; the same fit that alife chose for their collaboration. I like the pre-WWII fits the most. At the moment I’m also really feeling this pair of rigid buckle-backs that I’ve been “cultivating” for about 2 years now.
TB! > Are you the type that wears the same pair for a while to get that natural worn in look or do you go with a crispy dark rinse pair?
PS! > I like to cultivate mostly. That’s really the only way to truly personalize a pair of jeans. The point is to start with a nice rigid pair and wear them for as long as possible without washing them, so the characteristics of your movements are “recorded” in to your jeans. A denim guru told me it takes about 5 years of wearing to really break in a pair of jeans.
TB! > Are you all about selvedge or does it not really matter? Don’t they call them denim snobs or something?
PS! > Of course I love the characteristics of denims made on a fly-shuttle loom (these fabrics are typically called selvedge denim). Most people that want selvedge these days don’t know anything about it, except that it is supposed to be a sign of quality. Originally, it was used for identification purposes in the denim mills. Levi’s = Red, Lee=green, Wrangler= yellow. It was so the workers could identify the rolls of fabric quickly. BUT one has to remember that ALL fabric has a selvedge, and I have worked on PLENTY of really great denims that are not “selvedge” per se.
TB! > I have to ask… Do you get the hook-up at all? Anything crazy exclusive?
PS! > Not really. I’ve hooked up with the occasional bits and pieces here and there, the sample sales here are pretty great, but I’ve also been known to drop some coin on my LVC and other premium denim addictions. I have a couple of really dope un-produced samples, though.
TB! > What about other denim brands out there, any you are feeling besides Levis?
PS! > There’s definitely some great stuff out there, and some REALLY, really contrived stuff, too. PRPS is doing some AMAZING stuff: great finishes and attention to detail. APC: great denim, great fits. Atelier LaDurance is up and coming. 45rpm is always killing it. Stitch’s out of L.A. has a cool look. Fiberops. Know1edge. Neighborhood looks nice, Surrender’s denim is looking pretty cool. There’s a ton of awesome little Japanese brands that are making some great Levi-inspired garments with incredibly nice denim out there, too.
TB! > What about wack denim companies…feel like putting any on blast here?
PS! > There’s enough hate out there already, I don’t need to perpetuate any of that. Besides, I forgot who it was cool to hate on this week.
TB! > To round things out… Give us your favorite websites.
PS! > wgsn.com
of course, thebrilliance.com!
TB! > If you could organize a concert with 5 acts, dead or alive, who would they be?
PS! > Rahsaan Roland Kirk
With The Scientist on the boards.
TB! > Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
PS! > I hope to someday make high quality, handcrafted denim garments much like the winemakers in Napa and Sonoma Counties make their wines: with a great attention to detail and care. Crossed with the innovation and demand of the products that Apple makes.
TB! > Favorite brands? Any type here, clothes, cars, cereal, etc…
PS! > Acronym absolutely kills it, Errolson is a genius. Recon/Subware: Stash always keeps it moving, and I don’t think heads realize how long he’s been making great product (History lesson: Stash is primarily responsible for the ORIGINAL Phillies Blunt tees, and has been going full-strength ever since - ‘92, I’m pretty sure). I have a deep respect for what Maharishi has brought to the world of design as far as innovation and the technical/spiritual aspects. Neighborhood and (w)taps has always been inspiring to me. Futura has really stepped up his line in the last few seasons, too. Apple continues to make the most relevant and innovative products that you can get, PERIOD. And for those in the know, ROOR makes the nicest product of their kind. Watch out for FTC, they look like they’re up to something lately. Sour Diesel.
TB! > This is random part. Write as much as you want here about anything you want. Shout outs are ok too. Let everybody have it!
PS! > First and foremost I’d like to shout out my beautiful wife, JP, don’t know if I’d be where I am without her. Thanks to my team: Thom, JSK, Meghan, Manditha, and the Design Troll. Much respect goes to Colin and Chris at Recon SF, as well as the Recon/Subware crew in Brooklyn and Eldridge. All London crew. Kidsloveink! All Japan crew. Kent and all FTC crew. Dashboard widgets are fucking cool. Shout out to The Kilowatt on 16th Street in the Mission. Thanks to Jest for the referral.
TB! > Anything we forgot?
PS! > Stay Tuned!
TB! > As always… What are your thoughts on THE BRILLIANCE?
PS! > The brilliance are one of the VERY few sites that isn’t just taking all their info from another one or two sites, like the rest of the crap out there. Keeping it original and FRESH!
TB! > Thanks for your time Pete!
PS! > THANK YOU for the opportunity!