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Inspiration Board | Richard Cole

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For denim designer Richard Cole, creating the perfect pair of jeans is like paleontology.

As a child growing up outside Cleveland, Cole would accompany his father—an amateur paleontologist—on fossil-hunting adventures. “On those trips you get plenty of opportunities to broadly ponder evolution and the changes in time,” he explains. “Also, no tools that you bring survive the quarries—they’re too tough—so whatever gear you bring gets torn up and changes on a much faster scale.” For Cole, these early observations evolved into an overarching philosophy about work and craft, and a personal interest in intricate craftsmanship and old-school techniques. His ultimate medium of choice? Denim.

His Austin-based line, Paleo Denim, officially launched last year after a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. In Paleo, Cole aims to create a ready-to-wear line of jeans that regards every element—from stitching to cut—with a history-influenced but local sensibility. “In general, I’m inspired by anything that explores or exposes time,” Cole says. “Denim is so transfixing because it is in constant flux and only gets more beautiful as it ages. The pair of jeans you bought last year is not the same as the one you have now.”

Cole is a self-taught designer; his mother showed him how to sew when he was home on college break as a film major at Syracuse. The process sparked an obsessive interest: “I started tearing apart old Levi’s for the patterns and hunting down industrial sewing machines,” he says. Inspired by meticulous, intricately stitched Japanese denim and old-school construction methods that allow for lengthy labor time (“If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well”), Cole spent the last four years in Austin learning more about the craft, hauling a growing collection of vintage sewing machines with him along the way. Researching denim and the best way to source it has taken him from West Texas to North Carolina to Japan.

He spent 2013 figuring out how to transform Paleo from a hobby to a full-time endeavor. Cole recently showcased his wares at several artisan markets and pop-up shops and has since seen the project evolve from “three machines and a kitchen table to a full production workshop.”

Credits

Photography by: Bill Sallans

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