Lawless Denim

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See how one man’s dream to create custom-made denim jeans in Phoenix using Arizona products could help provide employment as well.

Jose Cardenas: In 1872, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis came up with an idea to use copper rivets to strengthen denim cloth, the idea was a hit and became a main stain in American clothing. Producer Shana Fischer introduces us to a Phoenix man who is taking jeans to a new level.

Shana Fischer: To say Roman Acevedo loved denim is an understatement. For him, it's a way of life.

Roman Acevedo: You know, I remember having the big drawer full of 501s where I would pull it open and look through them to find the ones with the least amount of holes so I could wear those, so denim for me, you know, just takes me back to, back to being a young kid running around the city and I think it kind of resonates with a lot of people that way.

Shana Fischer: After 18 years, in the restaurant business, he decided to open lawless denim, a custom denim and leather goods store.

Roman Acevedo: We do jeans, jackets, shirts, leather jackets, all our belts are made by us and our women's totes are denim and leather and done right here.

Shana Fischer: Rows and rows of denim line the walls, and chances are when you create a custom pair of jeans at Lawless, they will also be one of a kind.

Roman Acevedo: We have selected some of the finest denim in the world. Primarily, cornmeal and Japanese. It's all salvaged denim, and we work hard to source very limited Production and runs. Maybe dead stock so we'll get 50, maybe 100 yards if we are lucky, and from there, you get to select your denim. You will pick the buttons, and the pocket liners, and your thread colors, and we take you in for a fitting. And we take about ten different measurement points so we get the perfect fit.

Shana Fischer: Johanna Root is coming in to get fitted for her second pair of jeans. She says being able to be a part of the designing process is what caught her eye.

Johanna Root: From then picking out which one looked coolest to me, and it was really awesome, and picking out button and rivets and stitching, you can have three different kinds of stitches in different colors, so you can really get creative designing them. I went for the gun metal. It was exciting.

Shana Fischer: It takes roughly two or three weeks for the steam stresses to sew the jeans. It's exacting work, since they are working with a limited supply of denim, they have to be sure each cut and each stitch is perfect. It's that dedication that has driven Acevedo to pursue his second passion, putting people to work.

Roman Acevedo: I started lawless for two things. One, I love denim, and I love leather. It's those materials that only get better with age, and secondly, I wanted to find a way to put people back to work on a consistent basis, and what I think of, identified is a need, you know, and that need is, the skill set to make our own goods. So, that's what we're all about. How many people I can put to work and, and give them a good job with a good career.

Shana Fischer: His goal is to put 200 people in Phoenix to work. Part of that work involves creating their own denim, using 14 vintage looms from the 1920s that Acevedo had housed in a nearby warehouse.

Roman Acevedo: These were the looms that Levi Strauss used to use, and what we're going to be doing with these is setting them up to produce denim and chambray. To my knowledge, it hasn't been done west of the Mississippi in a solid format, so it's something that we're very excited about. We'll be using Arizona Pima cotton to do that, so we decided, let's take this a step further. Let's not only make our own jeans, and use our own Arizona copper for our buttons but make our own denim and chambray.

Shana Fischer: In the end for Acevedo, this is much more than just a business. It's a chance to weave together his dream and his community.

Roman Acevedo: You know, when I close up the store at the end of the day, and I walk out of here, I'm always fixated on my next move and what's going to happen the next day and what have I got to do to continue to grow this and take it to the next level and how can we perfect the product more and being proud of having something that really, you know, makes a difference here in Arizona.

Jose Cardenas: Jeans at lawless denim start at around $79 a pair. Lawless denim is located in cityscape in downtown phoenix.

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