Of the different brands and companies I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, Red Cloud struck a chord for my wife Laura. This clothing company wasn’t just another top-dollar item for her husband to blush and blog over. Red Cloud was home.
Like we all do, Laura’s blood runs deep into her hometown, all the way to her dying day. Her sanguine tracks point Shenyang, a northeastern city covered in cracking dust and biting snow . Growing up here requires a tough exterior, mincing few words with resolute action.
Raymon makes jeans that are Shenyang tough. In his flagship store he met Laura and me with a faded-to-sky, beat-to-hell pair of his own denim hanging at his waist. And just like your typical Shenyang man, he speaks with a gentleness and humor belying the hard shell.
With a history studying oil painting, apprenticeship in Japan’s Fullcount Denim, and a self-taught approach founded in his own line, Raymon and his homegrown company are enjoying deserved praise for their creations.
Laura and I were honored to share this brand and this story with us. Please meet Raymon of Red Cloud and Company.
Chris Tuazon: Denim, just like any other artisanal creation, is full of terminologies and peculiarities. To someone who has totally no idea, what’s a good place to start with thinking of a great pair of jeans?
Raymon: It’s a hard question, but it really comes down to what kind of person you are, what kind of job you have, why you’re wearing it. My customers are not going to pay too much attention to style: too skinny, too loose, etc. They look at the details: the fabric, the metals, the stitching.
CT: And definitely the kind of people who appreciate your brand are those kinds of people. Are you aware of the Reddit World Tour with your jeans, for example?
R: I know about it. Tuckshop helped organize it.
CT: Looking at these pictures, and the guys who really put it to use, then send it forward: how do you feel about your jeans inspiring this kind of a project?
R: I definitely had the idea as my dream. Little brands start from zero. They become successful by promoting their product to international recognition.
For Chinese products, the first recognition is “Made in China,” which unfortunately means shit. Our job is to push Red Cloud and its quality to the world, which will create value for our jeans.
CT: There’s been a return to “Made in America” and the pride of supporting work by people of your country. I saw that when Laura realized that these jeans are all made in her hometown. Are you starting to see that similar pride here?
R: “Made in Shenyang” shows that we’re different; we’re not just China, but a proud, hardworking city. Take, for instance, the small city of Tieling (铁岭). Nobody knew anything about it until that comedian Zhao Benshan (赵本山) made it famous on TV. Maybe “Made in Shenyang” can do something similar.
CT: Since you’re mostly self-taught, there will be differences between the conventional way things are done, and your method. Is there any specific detail most people would overlook about your jeans that you appreciate?
R: Not a lot of people would pay attention to the inside stitch. On a finished pair, you see a single inseam stitch, but it takes a process to get here. After the sewing the jeans together at the edge, we run a single stitch to close the inseam while the jeans are inside-out. Then we turn out the pair, fold over the first track, and finish off with a single chain stitch. From the inside, you’ll see the first white stitch, and the parallel pair. But from the outside, you see one even, neat stitch, and you’d never know the hidden track underneath. But I do, and I love that.
CT: How long does it take to make one pair from beginning to end?
R: Eight people can make thirty pairs in one day.
CT: It’s clear that you truly respect the old way of making good jeans. Why does this mean so much to you?
R: It’s just important for me to keep with this design. There are, of course, those who appreciate it. In our old location, we would get customers from the younger generation, who better easily accept this design.
The older generation who come through our new store . . . it’s harder to convince them of these fine details and breaking in process. So we’ve recently made easier-to wear models to attract the harder-to-convince. Then over time, they’ll appreciate the old work we put into our jeans. And that’s why I’ll never stop making Red Cloud the old-fashioned way.
CT: You recently had your first child?
R: Yes! A girl, five months.
CT: Congratulations! What’s her name?
R: Ren Jiaran. It means a good sun rising with a lot of hope.
CT: Has becoming a father inspired your work in any way?
R: I want to make little jeans for babies with completely non-toxic, chemical-free dyes. Instead, I plan to create dyes using the leaves of Chinese medicinal plants. The whole outfit will be safe for the baby. I think you two will love it! You’re both married?
CT: Yes, and we’d love to have our first child soon, so let me ask you: how’s it like being a dad so far?
R: It’s great, absolutely! But I have to tell you: best time is actually during the pregnancy. There’s all this hoping, thinking of change, seeing and feeling the baby move in mommy’s belly, and all this love about what’s going to happen. But once that baby pops out . . . GAME OVER!