Early on this year, I got in touch with one of my favourite brands, Rogue Territory. Seeing that there wasn’t much on the web about them, I figured I can’t be the only person out there curious about the brand. They’re a friendly bunch with very grounded expectations featuring plenty of aesthetically pleasing modern takes on fashion and lifestyle products. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how spiffy their products look, so read the interview below to learn a bit more about a brand thats making big waves.
SK = Saintkeat
KT = Karl Thoennessen
SK: Who are the people behind Rogue Territory?
KT: The Rogue Territory team is comprised of me, Karl Thoennessen, my wife Leslie and our 14 year old Yorkshire Terrier Gus aka Gusface Killah.
SK: Have all of you been involved in clothing and design prior to Rogue Territory?
KT: Leslie and I moved to Los Angeles in 2007. We both quit our previous jobs in San Diego to try something new. I was in marketing and Leslie was in Bio-Tech.
Leslie went back to school to get her MBA and I kicked around doing a few odd jobs until I came across a dude (Brian Kim) making custom jeans in a small studio space in Echo Park. At this time I was a full on denim head, obsessed with denim but being a consumer was the extent of my involvement.
I saw what Brian was doing and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to really learn about what goes into making a pair of jeans. After much persistence on my end, Brian offered to bring me on as an apprentice. From there I got a crash course in sewing, denim construction and pattern making. When I started using my hands and a machine to create jeans I knew that is what I wanted to do and there was no other option for me as far as a job was concerned.
My first pair of jeans were done in 2 weeks. They were a little rough, but I made them and I was stoked! For the next 2 months I helped Brian with some projects he was working on, made some jeans for Leslie and my brother. I sewed jeans all day long and well into the night. It was so much fun.
SK: How was the brand conceptualised?
KT: I was Brian’s apprentice for almost 3 months – at this point I had probably made 10 pairs of jeans. Very early into my third month Brian told me that he had to close his studio. At this point I couldn’t imagine doing anything else so I had to figure out how this newfound passion was going to pay the bills.
I approached American Rag because I knew they were looking for an in-house denim tailor and I set up shop inside their world famous Denim Bar. 6 days a week I was doing denim alterations and creating fully bespoke denim for a select clientele. The name Rogue Territory came shortly after I opened my little 8’ x 10’ workshop in American Rag, but the concept for the brand didn’t come for another year and a half.
The name Rogue Territory came about when Leslie asked me what was the thing I loved most about denim…and I thought about it for a while, and said, I guess what I love most about denim is that it is unique to its owner, every pair of jeans is different, and the owner makes them that way by how they live their life in their jeans. So they’re kind of like their territory. I also like the rebel on the bike with turned up Levis that actors like Dean/Newman/Brando portrayed in the 50s and 60s and I guess you could call guys that lived that lifestyle the rogues of society. So why not Rogue Territory?
As the brand has continued to evolve, I see Rogue Territory as more of an exploration of the unknown. The brand and collection continues to grow and change, so I see Rogue Territory as new opportunities to work with likeminded people, new projects and new perspectives.
SK: Rogue Territory has a unique look that’s stylish yet simple, teetering between fashion and workwear. What is the inspiration behind the brand?
KT: I love details, whether it is a pocket shape or a way a seam is sewn, even down to the buttonholes or bartacks, I’m looking at it. I’m obsessed with the little things that were designed for function. So I tend to study military and work wear garments, they have the best functional construction details. I focus on what I like and try to simplify it to its basic utilitarian purpose and then design something slightly more modern around that. Choice of fabric and thread color are essential in making something more simple and modern.
SK: Tell us about the fabrics Rogue Territory uses and where the collection is made. Is it important to the brand to keep everything made in USA? Surely that makes it tough to keep the costs down.
KT: Fabric origin is definitely a huge consideration when I’m looking at fabric or denim but I would say more important to me is how the fabric looks and feels. I tend to source most of my fabrics from Japan because the Japanese have a deep-rooted history and appreciation for fabric construction and yarn dying. This knowledge and appreciation comes through in the finished product. I always say, the fabric I choose for each garment should be the first thing you see. Only after you’ve taken the time to appreciate the fabric can you start to notice and possibly appreciate the construction details. The moment the design details take away from the characteristics of the fabric, the product is over-designed. To answer your question, yes, it is of utmost importance to produce everything in the US. From Rogue Territory’s inception I’ve been obsessed with every process that goes into making a garment. Producing in LA allows me to be fully immersed in the production process. Sure, it’s expensive, but the moment I’m detached from the process I might as well do something else.
SK: You’ve done a few collaborations so far that sell out mighty quick I might add. Most notably, that beautiful card case with Nicholas Hollows of Hollows Leather. How do you pick which brands to collaborate with?
KT: All of our collaborations come about organically. Once it feels forced, it’s no longer a collaboration and therefore super boring. The concept of “Rogue Territory x ???” doesn’t excite me. What excites me is working with talented and creative people, learning from them and being challenged to step outside my comfort zone.
The collaboration with Nicholas was the culmination of a couple years in the making. First, I was a customer / fan and then I asked him if he could make a wallet for me, from there we started throwing around different concepts and he came back with a sweet wallet that I then used for over a year. From there I suggested that we take his concept and tweak a few things and incorporate a new fabric and there you go! An unplanned collaborative project! That’s essentially how all of our collaborations come about. But it wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have a mutual respect for one another and our craft.
SK: Does it surprise you to know that your brand is in great demand across the world even though RT is mainly retailed in North America?
KT: Hell yea! It’s always cool to see orders coming in from all over the world and even seeing new customers’ orders come in from LA! Leslie and I truly appreciate all the support we get from our customers. We always say that we have the best customers in the world and we enjoy seeing them style RGT, live in it, and beat the shit out of it.
SK: Where would you like Rogue Territory to be in the near future and what can we, as fans of the brand, hope to see?
KT: We always say Rogue Territory is constantly evolving through exploration. I get excited about learning and constantly trying new things, so it’s difficult to say what’s in store for the brand, but I will say this, I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to the types of fabrics we’ve used. You can definitely expect to see us working with some incredible new denim this year.
Check out Rogue Territory’s offerings at http://www.rogueterritory.com/shop/