Paul Hagopian is the designer and founder of the new premium denim line Shade55, which is sold at Nordstrom and Robert Redford's Sundance Catalog. We recently caught up with the Apparel Industry Management Graduate to learn more.
Tell us a bit about your family history in fashion. My family history is deep rooted in fashion -- it runs in the blood. My grandfather was a custom tailor. My father created his own brand called Cotton USA Inc. It was a missy womens resort wear brand, all made in the USA. His operations were completely vertical, which gave me tons of hands-on experience in all aspects of the business, from order entry, to pattern making and grading, to cutting, garment dyeing and even shipping. My earliest childhood memories are of me tinkering with machines 10 times my size in his factory. I loved it then and I love it now.
What jobs did you hold prior to founding Shade55? During my time at FIDM, I continued to work in the family business, from design, the pattern making, to production, cutting, and even mixing dyes together to run huge 120 pound machines. It was a great experience. After FIDM and combined with my experience, I was able to get an assistant production manager position at the parent company of such brands like Joe's Jeans, Antik Denim, Henry Duarte, Fetish, and Shago.
There I worked closely with the designers and the production manager in coordinating samples and production. It was a fast-paced and cut throat, but I loved every minute of it. During my time there, I was recruited to head production and operations for William Rast and People's Liberation. This was an excellent opportunity for me as I got to showcase all of my talents, both in denim and knits. It was tons of fun working with Justin Timberlake on creating the line and watching it go from a simple concept to a world wide brand.
After my time there, I was once again recruited to be the brand manager for a very popular knit brand called Primp. Primp was very celebrity driven and stood for being and feeling young in quality driven comfortable knits. My last stop before creating Shade55 was the brand manager for Dylan George.
What led you to start your own brand? My one dream in life was to one day have a successful brand of my own; I always knew I wanted to do it. I wanted to create a brand that truly reflects my experiences and my story, a brand that sets a new standard for quality and integrity in men's fashion. After working for the various different brands, I noticed that none of them, nor anyone else, had a true focus on a classic, American made men's brand; their primary focus is women's. I want to change that as men needed their own go-to brand that they can rely on for a great fit and unmatched American quality.
Shade55 encompasses and reflects everything I stand for, which is quality, integrity, and attention to the smallest detail. Shade55 is all American made. The fabrics that I select for each collection use American grown cotton from Texas and the Mississippi Delta. The name Shade55 comes from the actual shade or color of indigo I use for my denim. From my experience throughout the years working with different roll/shades of denim, I have always believed that the rolls marked shade #55 had the truest, deepest shade of indigo and best base of color for a true vintage wash, in my opinion.
Many of the men and woman who built this wonderful country did so in a pair of rugged denim jeans and we want to homage to that era with a modern twist on the perfect pair of jeans.