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Creative Q&A #23 – Brian Robbins

September 1, 2009

49er

How’s everyone’s week goin? Los Angeles is still crazy hot and on fire. The worst part is all the smoke makes it look all gloomy outside like June Gloom, but BAM 100 degrees in yo face!

Anyway, this week’s CQ&A is this project’s first foray into fashion. Today, I’m talking with Brian Robbins, creator of the Denim Design Lab (DDL) fashion label and proprietor of the awesome denim boutique Miner49er in San Clemente, CA.  DDL’s design ethos stresses vintage designs and craftsmanship cut in modern styles. DDL’s  denim is woven on vintage shuttle looms in North Carolina by a manufacture that’s been in the game since 1896. I, personally, am all about raw denim – I’d rather wear the jeans in myself. But if you’re looking for a little more instant gratification, DDL has custom finishes that are inspired by real vintage wear and tear – so you too could look like you just spent the last six months diggin’ in the dirt hoping for your own eureka moment.

Catch my interview with Brian and see more photos after the jump:

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CR: What’s your artistic background?
Brian Robbins: I have no “formal” training, but rather have learned everything I know (what little that is) from trial & error.  I would say my background is more analytical than artistic, but blending the two has enabled me to execute some pretty cool projects.

CR: What’s your favorite medium to work with?
BR: Denim. It is a living, breathing fabric that is constantly changing. I love the fact that you can put a raw pair of denim jeans on 1,000 people, and a year later, every single pair will look completely different. Learning to control a fabric capable of that much variation is a rewarding challenge.

CR: What medium would you like to work with?
BR: I’m open to working with just about all mediums. Unfortunately, my free-hand drawing / painting skills are seriously lacking (I rely on my computer for just about everything), but I’d love to change that fact.

CR: Do you have a favorite personal work? If so, what is it?
BR: Not really…. In terms of an individual piece of work, the pair of jeans I am currently wearing, breaking in, customizing is always my favorite… until I start the next project. In terms of favorite projects, three unique ones that come to mind would be our “Gallery” series T’s, our limited edition “Denim Design Lab LE” book, and the miner49er store concept, each involved blending different mediums with denim, and each provided numerous challenges to overcome to end up with a marketable end product.

The “Gallery” T’s was a project I worked on with a few artist friends of mine (each whom used different techniques; free hand, stencils and hand burned screens) to create original art on denim panels. The finished panels were cut and reverse appliquéd into t-shirts with other printing and embroidery techniques used. Each artist signed and dated their panels, so, rather than an “artist series” where one piece of art is replicated on 1000’s of shirts, there was only “1” of each of these in existence…. the art hung within a screened frame on each t-shirt, so each one was a single mobile art gallery. Here is a link w/ some photos and more info: here.

The “Denim Design Lab LE” book project was cool in that I was able to pull together a number of mediums not usually associated with book binding to create something never done before. We used a beautiful organic selvage denim from North Carolina as the starting point for the covers of the book. Each panel (or cover) was hand finished at one of our denim laundries in LA, then silk screened and embroidered, before being finished and sent off to our book printers for binding. We made a limited run of 5k books, each book is hand numbered, and there are basically 5k unique book covers. Here is a link w/ some photos and more info: here.

The miner49er store / showroom / museum was really interesting in that it gave me a chance to learn a lot about the history of California, that, for whatever reason, I do not recall ever learning in school. To execute the merchandising concept for the store, meant researching and sourcing from antique dealers and experts who deal with artifacts related to the California Gold Rush, commissioning reclaimed wood (from the 1920’s) tables and fixtures to be built, re-purposing gold mining pans and copper pipes into light fixtures and display devices. The result is an extremely lived in and authentic feeling setting to showcase our vintage inspired denim work wear within. Here is a link to the miner49er site w/ some photos and more info: www.minerfortyniner.com

CR: Who’s blowing your mind right now?
BR: My kids…

CR: What’s in heavy rotation on your iTunes, or CD player, tape deck, record player, etc?
BR: The iPod in the shop is on “random,” so the “mix” is quite amusing sometimes; Beethoven, followed by Dr. Dre, followed by Led Zeppelin, followed by some of my kids music…. mixed bag to say the least.

CR: What’s next for you?
BR: We are in the process of re-launching Denim Design Lab, so have been pretty consumed with that and running our concept shop / showroom, miner49er here in San Clemente, CA. We are continuing to “tweak” our DDL website with new content and hope to have our online shop up and running within the next month or so. The 2nd miner49er is set to open some time in October in Hong Kong, so I will be heading over there to help with the set up and merchandising soon; should be a great shop.

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