Rooted in Los Angeles, Rogue Territory is a brand dedicated to the trade of premium denim and other handcrafted goods. Founder Karl Thoennessen takes inspiration from American manufacturers of the early 20th century to create classic garments emphasizing construction, quality and functionality. Made with top quality denim sourced from mills in the USA and Japan, each product is individually constructed by hand.
The brand has elevated itself beyond many other denim makers producing in the USA and established a distinctive aesthetic that highlights the traditions of authenticity and craftsmanship. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Karl and learn more about his passion for denim, the inspiration behind the new collection and basically everything about denim culture there is to know.
So, tell us how you got started?
I honestly dont think Id be doing anything with fashion let alone denim if it wasnt for my mentor Brian Kim (owner of THVM). Before I met Brian, I was a consumer of denim, denim history and denim culture I was a denim nerd. I liked to modify my jeans to make them a little more unique but I never thought, Hey, I could do this for a living. When I met him, I didnt know anything about anything. Everything changed the day I sat down at a machine for the first time. As each piece of denim started to take shape and when I saw that first pair of jeans come together, I knew there was something very special about what I was doing. It made sense to me and I loved everything about making a pair of jeans from start to finish I wanted to figure out how to make a living out of designing and making jeans. Ive never looked back.
What drew you to denim?
There are so many facets of denim that its hard to narrow it down to one thing. The history, the iconic imagery, the amazing spectrum of colors you can get from one pair of jeans, the graceful aging qualities of indigo, the almost visceral feel of raw denim, the comforting feeling of well worn denim, the sex appeal, the counter-culture, etc.
What were some of the challenges you faced when you initially got your start?
Trying to make cool shit with no experience. People may not realize this but there really isnt a How to Start a Denim Brand For Dummies book out there.
There's a growing interest in denim and people are getting really picky about materials, construction, and probably more importantly where it's made. How are you able to deliver your products, while addressing this new found connoisseur-esque demand of newly knowledgeable customers?
When I started making jeans I was one of those connoisseur-esque customers so there really wasnt a thought of when I produced something, I would have to meet a growing demand or tweak things to appeal to a new market. I was that market. I only hope that my desire to make well-crafted, quality products translates in the products that Rogue Territory makes.
Why is producing in the USA so important to you?
I believe we can produce better quality products when we take the time to invest in building relationships with those people who are making them with us. It has to be more than a basic transaction. Its about investing in people. When you do that, you dont need to demand that they do their best itll come naturally. Made in USA is ultimately about building sustainable relationships and making a connection in your own communities.
Tell us about the pieces in your AW13 collection.
My approach to this collection and actually my approach to everything I design starts with these few questions: Is it wearable? Would I wear it? Is this design unique enough to stand on its own? Is this garment classic in concept but just different enough for someone with a discerning eye to appreciate it? If the answer, in my mind, is yes, then I move forward. If a design looks like its trying too hard, I go back to the drawing board. I believe that in my first full collection, I have accomplished that with each piece Im presenting. The idea is to bring to the market a clean, cohesive and classic collection where we let the fabrics, fits and subtle styling details speak for the garment.
What fabrics are you currently experimenting with?
All the fabrics Im playing with are very tactile in nature. Im a big believer that the hand of the fabric speaks just as loudly as the color, weight, pattern or weave. My primary focus is always on finding and working with some of the best denim in the world. As the brand continues to grow and develop, I hope to continue expanding my denim offering. Im working on dyeing a few natural herringbones and canvas to see what cool colors and washes I can come up with. Its as much about exploring the depth and range of the fabric as it is about trying something new.
You've used denim from both American and Japanese mills. Have you found any differences between the two? Preferences?
I've always had an affinity for the denim goods coming out of Japan. There is an attention to detail that I just dont see coming out of any other mills. Thats not to say that I dont like anything coming from other mills and that I dont use their fabrics, I just find that more often than not Im excited about the goods that I see coming from Japan. I am sourcing the bulk of my denim from one of my favorite Japanese mills. They focus on making some of the most beautiful denim Ive ever seen or worked with. They go to great lengths to make their fabric look as authentic as possible. For example, all the indigo denim I use from them is dyed with 100% pure indigo dye that is yarn dyed in their factory. Mills dont typically do this and its painstaking steps like this that I believe make for a better product.
On collaborations, what are some of the factors you consider before teaming up with another store/brand?
Its about building a partnership with like-minded people. In my opinion if there isnt a relationship in place before the word "collaboration" is thrown about, it isnt an authentic collaboration. Dont get me wrong, sometimes a great product can come from a chance meeting or random conversation, but Im interested in cultivating relationships with my vendors and accounts. If thats not reciprocated then there is no point in collaborating.
You seem to be gradually expanding your line - what do you have planned for the future? In terms of diversification of your current offerings.
Id like to believe that as I continue to expand, anything I introduce into the line would be a natural progression for the brand. I would love to introduce more outerwear and accessories. Id love to start playing with more technical fabrics. I like the idea of playing with a juxtaposition of classic timeless garments using both technical/synthetic fabrics and fabrics made from natural fibers. So keep an eye out for that in the coming seasons.
Tell us your thoughts on the future of denim here in the states, and your own denim culture?
If you want to stay relevant its not enough to make a good or even great pair of raw selvedge jeans anymore. I see a great pair of jeans as the perfect introduction to your brand. If you can get someone excited about your jeans, theyll inevitably start asking you what else you make.
What are you looking forward to at Capsule since you're showcasing for the first time?
Im very excited about the opportunity to showcase Rogue Territory to a new audience, especially at Capsule alongside many brands that I respect and admire. But what Im most looking forward to is meeting new people and hearing their stories.
Have you ever been to Vegas? If so, what are your favorite spots to hit up there?
Ive been to Vegas a number of times and the things I get most excited about is playing craps at the Wynn and eating sweet cream pancakes at Black Bear Diner!
Rogue Territory will be showcasing for the first time at Capsule in Las Vegas next week, so make sure to stop by the booth and check out Karl's denim goods.