Camillo Love of Red Cotton Denim
bout a year ago, my girlfriend and I made a stop at a bar while passing through Emeryville California. With my camera in hand, I was greeted by a 6’5” gentleman checking ID’s at the door. It was at that moment he asked if I had knowledge in photography and if I could help with photography tips for his business. I went inside to grab a drink and returned to the door where we was working. He introduced himself as Camillo and we went into photography techniques for about 30mins before I decided to ask what type of business he had. Camillo explained that he owned a denim brand and he made selvedge denim jeans from scratch. Vastly intrigued by what I heard, I responded with, “You make selvedge jeans from scratch!?!?". From there the conversation switched from talking about photography, to each others brands.
Over the following couple hours, I introduced him to Nothing Less and he introduced me to his brand called Red Cotton Denim. He went on to explain: the process of making his jeans, how he sourced the denim himself, the types of sewing machines he used, and that he had a workshop local to the bar we were at. Lastly, he mentioned the pair of jeans he was wearing at the time was a pair of Red Cotton Denim jeans. There was no doubt Camillo had a complete product, filled with a considerable amount of craftsmanship and a story fueled by his passion for making jeans. It was clear that he was far from the starting point of Red Cotton Denim and that he was in a good position to launch his brand into a business. I left the bar that night with Camillo’s business card and we’ve kept in contact with each other ever since.
I’ve learned a lot of things from Camillo; the first being the importance of commitment to your craft. That day at the bar Camillo told me how his job at the door was only for extra cash to fund moving Red Cotton Denim to Los Angeles. It was only two months later that I hit him up and he was already living there, putting his plan to action and running Red Cotton Denim full-time. He wanted to move Red Cotton Deinm because he believed it would put him in the best position to grow, which has in fact prevailed. I've been lucky to have Camillo show me inside his workshop and tour me around where he now resides in Down Town Los Angeles's Fashion District. Let me introduce you to Camillo.
The basic about you. Where are you from and what is it that you do for a living?
I’m Camillo Love, born in Oakland and raised in Berkeley. I am the founder and designer of Red Cotton Denim.
When did you start Red Cotton Denim ?
I started several years ago, about 7 years ago in my living room. I went to a factory in San Francisco knowing nothing about jeans but I knew I wanted to start a business and I knew i wanted it to be in fashion. I didn’t put much thought into it, I just always wanted to have a business for myself. So I went to a manufacturer in San Francisco. I realized I didn’t have the money to actually have someone make the jeans for me. Out of ignorance I just thought making a pair of jeans would be very easy, then I thought I would just make a few pair of jeans then go to trade show and get a ton of orders, and that was far from the case.
If someone were to read the “my story” from your website, they would have to believe your background has a lot to do with your inspiration to building Red Cotton Denim. Can you talk about some of the early inspiration that lead you to start RCD?
I’ve always been inspired by people who are able to create great things, ever since I was a young kid Ive been inspired by people who went out and created more for themselves and created businesses. When I was in the navy and stationed in Japan, I noticed that the Japanese were very big into american brands, and more so how clothes and bags were constructed over in america and europe, and i just thought if I was able to bring my culture over to japan and sell it, it would be profitable for me. When I was younger a lot of my friends were in the trades as carpenters and I spent a lot of time in the navy working with my hands and learning how things were built, all which was helpful for me understanding how to sew and how to fix sewing machines.
When I first met you; what interested me the most about you was simple, “Damn this guy makes selvedge denim from scratch!”. Now after getting to know you a little more and visiting you in LA, you seem to be a extremely good student of the industry you are in. The early success of RCD is due to your willingness to learn. Would you say that is accurate?
I met someone who was also making jeans and was very good and knowledgeable, I learned a lot from him. This is crazy but I think an advantage was not having money, because when you don’t have money you find creative ways to make do. And because I had to learn how to make jeans, that put me in a better position over my competitors because there are people very knowledgeable about selling jeans and here I am knowledgeable about actually making and selling jeans. That became very helpful, the fact that i had to go out and had learn on my own, how to make clothes, how to source for sewing machines, how to use a sewing machine, and how to fix sewing machines. And all of that became very interesting to fashion writers and people in general. People would hear “Oh ok you have a denim line” but it was also “Oh wow you make the jeans”.
Increasing your sales, your following of people is growing, you're creating more jeans than ever, you're consistently learning the ins and outs and the who’s who in the fashion district, it’s all very inspiring. What would say fuels Camillo?
It’s hard to say, even looking back now when I started. I just knew that there was a time when I had my first sewing machine and it was very difficult and I was ready to give up. I told myself, "Listen if you quit on this and start on something else, when that becomes difficult are you going to quit again?" So from that point I just told myself to keep going. I just remember wanting it so bad that if someone said you had to go on the other side of this earth to learn how to do this, I would of packed everything I had and went to the other side of the earth. The more kept looking, the more kept finding answers, and then it started to make sense. I started to meet people who themselves were in the industry, then realized I wasn’t crazy, and I actually saw people who were much better at it. I now had some sort of level to gauge where i should be.
A lot of brands in apparel make their way to LA for various reasons. Why did you go to LA?
I came here because LA is where all the manufacturing is going on, all of the cutting and sewing. There are other places but I’m a California boy, I like the weather. So moving from the bay area to LA was not that big of a move, its just not that big of a change. I love the bay area, but LA is a good place for a young person that's doing something creative.
How big do plan on making Red Cotton Denim?
I want it to be as big as it can possibly be, I want to compete with the big guys. The reason for that is just to see if I can do it. I believe that I have a good shot, I just want to prove to myself I can do it. It has nothing to do with money, i just want to see whether or not its accomplishable. I realize there's no difference between the others doing it, if you just keep doing it you will attract like minded people.
How many days a week or how many jeans a day are you making?
I feel like I work every day, and when you run a business you have to. But I think there’s a balance that you need, you need to take time off. Right now, what I’m learning now is how to work smarter and not as hard, there's a lot of people that work hard and you’ll find them in the same place as they were a year later. I think its very important to work hard but also twice as smart. Right now I would say I can do roughly 4 pairs a day.
What are some of the unforeseen struggles you’ve encountered since making Red Cotton Denim your full-time job?
Just having a business is a struggle. You should go in thinking that it's not going to be easy, but it does get better. For me the most important thing is finding people who believe in who you believe in what you believe in, and trying to create a team.
Aside from jeans, what are your interest?
Because of my background in buildings, I love architecture. I would love to take old warehouses and fix them up and create an affordable spaces for creative people, artist, graphic designers, photographers….
Most people see the glory of a successful brand and don’t have a clue the amount of work, sacrifice, patience it takes to succeed in the industry you are in. Can you tell me some of the biggest sacrifices you’ve made to get where you are today?
I had pretty well paying job in San Francisco, but I knew in order to make this business work I was going to have to choose. So I went from working 5-6 days a week, to where I was only working 2 days a week. Needless to say there were a lot times where I would have to pay for a photo shoot and wouldn’t have money for groceries. Another sacrifice that I made was because I have these sewing machines, it wouldn’t have been good a idea to work in a residential area or apartment, so I moved into a warehouse. The warehouse had no kitchen or bathroom, and I would do it again if it meant for me to get this business off the ground.
Whats the first thought when you wake up?
I think the first thing is growth, how do I get myself to the next level is what I’m constantly focused on. I’m realizing being in LA, the reason for me coming to LA was to hire more sewers. The growth coming from getting more people involved in what I’m trying to build. So the purpose for me moving here to Los Angeles was to grow.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
I’m a very persistent person and I’m not a quitter.