“Home is where the heart is” certainly holds true for husband & wife design duo Jeff and Lauren Shafer of Agave Denim. They started their business ten years ago and have continued to grow together, with everything from design to distribution based at “home”. They offer styles for both men and women worked by master tailors. They obsess over button fly closures, vegetable indigo dye, selvage edges, heavy pocket bags, and hidden rivets. Their distressing process is chemical free. They’re pretty easy to love, if you ask us. We had the opportunity to to speak with Agave Denim, and this is what they had to share…
Denim Therapy: Let’s start from the beginning. What inspired you to get this brand off the ground?
Agave: There are two parts to my answer; part is personal and part is business.
Business: Back in 2001, I wasn’t satisfied with the quality of jeans being produced in the USA. I grew up in So Cal in the late 1960’s & 70’s; surfing, skiing, racing motorcycles and making pottery while wearing old school American-made red line Levi’s and tees. They were awesome. To me, nothing is better than a great pair of jeans and the perfect tee. Ten years ago, the good jeans came from Japan, Italy and Holland. There were a few good brands made in the USA but not many.
Agave started with the mission to make the finest denim jeans authentically in California. Since then and continuing today, I am obsessed with making the finest jeans and tee shirts available, all made here in the USA.
Personal: In 1992, I founded BC Ethic, a young men’s/street wear line that was vintage inspired. I was the designer for the first four years. As we grew, I turned over the design function and settled in as CEO. In 2001, I sold the company and wanted to start over. I realized that I enjoyed designing much more than managing, and hoped that if I could replicate the design success of my early days at BC Ethic, I would be very happy.
I love my life now.
DT: Are there other denim brands you consider your immediate competition? How do you differentiate yourself from the hundreds of popular denim brands afloat right now?
Agave: In order to succeed you have to bring something different or unique to the party. A point of view if you will. In some ways, every brand carried in a store is competing for the same shelf space. It’s the designer job to give the consumer something that they don’t already have. Something they didn’t know they wanted until they see it and feel it. At retail, we sit with brands like AG, Rag & Bone, Ever, Paige, Citizens of Humanity, Current Elliot, Hugo Boss Orange, Mason’s, Stone Island, J Brand and Earnest Sewn. We also have a knitwear range that hangs with Three Dots, Velvet, CP Company, John Varvatos.
We started in 2002 making men’s jeans. A few years later we heard about women wearing our product so we launched our women’s collection. In 2010, my wife Lauren Shafer returned to the industry as the designer of Agave’s women’s collection. Lauren is also a sewer and a pattern maker. She is obsessed with fit, drape and shapes. She has transformed the women’s collection and has given it its own identity.
Both Lauren and I are driven to create and design when we find great fabrics. We only use the finest fibers that make the best fabrics including denim from boutique mills in Japan and Italy and Supima cotton from California.
DT: Do you have any pre-designing rituals ?
Agave: We do two things. First, we research of an amazing place we would like to travel to and visit that would provide an inspiration for the collection. Then, we do a comprehensive search of all the best mills around the world looking for something new and fresh. That often means looking at hundreds of fabrics.
DT: Describe the person who represents your ideal target customer—the customer you have in mind when you’re planning a collection.
Agave: Our ideal customers are 25 to 45 years old, intelligent, stylish, independent and creative. They are more focused on style than fashion, more focused on quality than quantity, more interested in sensuality than sexuality, and very interested in feeling good. Their individual style is effortless. The feel, fit and quality are what’s important to them. We call it “effortlessly cool, elegantly sexy”.
DT: Can you give us hint about what’s next for Fall/Winter?
Agave: Beautiful luxury fabrics like corduroy and velvet in addition to clean dark finishes on denim for women. For men, Vintage American work-wear shapes made with luxury fabrics with an emphasis on tailoring.
DT: What would be your dream collaboration? Any plans of that in the future?
Agave: Malcolm McLaren , Steve McQueen, and Brunello Cucinelli
DT: What are the most popular washes/fits in the line? What are your favorites, and how would you style them?
Agave: We have a lot of fit and finishes in the collection.
I love denim and can’t help myself in offering a wide range of denim constructions (2×1, 3×1, 4×1, broken twill and sateen.) We also offer a lot of rigid and stretch for men and super stretch for women. I personally love the Purist (a classic straight, button fly) in vegetable dye indigo selvage and wear it daily. In women’s our best fits are Paraiso (slim skinny), Paloma (classic skinny) and Vaquera (slim flare). Our best selling washes are Sea Cliff and Santa Cruz, both are Japanese and feature a cotton, polyester and rayon blend.
DT: Do you have any favorite/least favorite denim trends right now?
Agave: My favorite men’s trend is vintage work-wear. My favorite women’s trend is incorporating new fibers, like rayon and tencel into the fabric to make it even more beautiful and give it its luxury feel.
DT: Street style and style blogs are huge in the industry right now as a source of inspiration, influencing the high-end labels rather than vice versa. How much does street style influence your designing?
Agave: This development is wonderful as it represents the democratization of the fashion industry.
DT: How many pairs of denim do YOU own?
Agave: Several hundred. I spent 1992 to 2001 building a vintage denim collection mostly scavenging through the Pasadena Swap Meet and cool vintage clothing stores everywhere I went.
DT: Favorite celeb wearing your brand?
Agave: Liam Neeson and Jessica Biel. You can check out their Facebook Page to “like” them as much as we do! Here is a peek into the men’s and women’s spring 11 lookbook [nggallery id=145] [nggallery id=146] —Jackie Racer
Tags: agave denim, interview, jeff shafer, lauren shafer, q&a