Designing is such a personal thing, and as much as one’s career shapes you as a professional, gives you invaluable business experience and helps you take your next steps, being a designer is not really about any of that. It’s the same as being a musician or an artist; when you pick up that pencil you are drawing from your heart, not from your resume. So despite Alyasher Owerka’s extensive experience at Droors Clothing, creative director at Phat Farm, Alphanumerics and Fiberops, brand ambassador of PF Flyers, or renowned skater and rock n roller personality, I walked into his home knowing very little about him as a person.

With the launch of his new brand, Thee Teen-Aged last year, I went to chat to him in his San Diego, mid-century home about all things denim and casualwear.

Alyasha at home in San Diego: photo by Kate Berry

I was a little nervous because I know almost nothing about the skate scene, so my first stipulation was that we start by talking just about denim and that he be patient with me when mentioning the S word.

What happened over the next 5 hours surprised us both I think, because nobody could stop talking. I began with one simple question which led to the most insightful, entertaining and intoxicating denim conversation I’d had in a long while. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.

Alyasher’s wardrobe : photo by Kate Berry

What’s your earliest denim memory, Aly?

Moving to New York as a seven-year-old. I grew up and lived in Western Massachusetts in this little hippy college town. I had on a pair of overalls that had been let out perhaps ten times and had those polyester patches on the knees and probably some flowers and peace signs embroidered on there somewhere. And I was just oblivious until people were like:

‘What the fuck are those?’

‘What are you wearing?’

‘What are you?’

‘What is this?’

And then you’re like:


So that’s really where my sense of style set in; almost as a survival mechanism. Sounds funny but I’d never been picked on till I moved to New York so I was:


And suddenly it was all about appearance. That’s when I remember first thinking ‘I want this piece of clothing’ and you start to develop a style. It was peer pressure without being peer pressure; wanting to assimilate and not be picked on. And then one of the key turning points for me was this shop called Unique. They would buy denim from Domsey’s in Brooklyn and then bulk overdye 501’s in black cos we couldn’t get black Levi’s jeans back then (this was probably 1980) I was around ten and thinking ‘this is SICK, I have BLACK jeans!’

And then… it was my mum hitting me with Fiorucci two years later, I was probably 12.

Fiorucci were huge back then!

They were the SHIT. And they’re still one of my favorite companies and I’m super stoked that they’re coming back

Yeah, they opened a store in London literally a few days ago. I’m excited. They’re almost getting it right, not completely, but almost, almost.

It could do with a little bit of tweaking but the essence of the brand is there. I’ve been following them on Instagram since they launched and its cool. I feel like they were the protagonists of kitchy-classy, they started it before anybody. In the 80’s there was this huge resurgence of people drawing from the 50’s and Fiorucci was exactly that. Them and Chipie Jeans… of course other people’s references are different and most people think of the 80’s as The Simpsons but for me it was all Fiorucci’s stuff. It was punk and…


Yeah, All of that. Before anyone that I remember. You obviously have Betsey Johnson and Trash n Vaudeville and that whole crew in New York but as far as a big, big brand, it was all Fiorucci. So getting a pair of second-hand jeans and a tee shirt it was like ‘this is the shit!’

Aly’s wardrobe : photo by Kate Berry

So what came after your punk/ pin-up period?

Well I was getting into the Ska scene and was listening to a lot of Punk and Ska. I had white Levi’s and was wearing them with monkey boots or docs, turning the cuff or getting them hemmed shorter for the whole Paul Weller deal. I remember getting Shellys’ of London Oxford loafers with tassels AND fringe and thinking I was the shit with my white Levi’s and Fred Perry. Next I got really into hip-hop and was into plain Levi’s but buying them bigger. At this point Girbaud came on the scene in the late 80’s and that was a turning point, style-wise.

Everything was coming from Europe around that time, right?

Yeah, that was it, so simultaneously discovering Diesel and Rifle and Replay. Diesel had just opened a store in Soho and there was a Rifle shop around the corner from Union and I was getting really into them in the late 80’s and early 90’s. But I wasn’t a snob, I was just a huge fan. I also remember buying a ton of Chevignon jeans just because the pocket flashers were cool.. I didn’t know anything about construction yet but I was into the fits and the washes…

And the graphics

Yeah, those flashers!

Did you keep them?

Yes! I recently found a stack of pocket flashers at my mum’s house: Chevignon, Riffle, Chippie, Replay… a bunch of rad pocket flashers. For me it wasn’t the romance of indigo it was more just really liking jeans from a consumer standpoint. I wasn’t aware of how they were made yet, I purely liked the look.

A few pairs of perfect jeans/ A fuck ton of PF Flyers : photo by Kate Berry

I think for a lot of fashion designers it’s the aesthetic, isn’t it? I mean talking about heritage…. I work in denim but I came from fashion design and I understand and appreciate that part of the industry. There’s a lot of people who go into the denim industry these days from the craftsman point of view but my background was similar to you, I was into the look of shit. As you know I work in trend and what you’ve just told me is all about getting really into the next thing, then the next thing then the next thing: that’s all trend and that’s a designer’s mind.

Yeah, see I didn’t properly discover the craftsman side of things until I discovered Evisu in 96 I guess. I had a friend who was a designer and they’d gone to the store in Tokyo and got the Seagull jeans… will your denim guys rip into me for calling it the Seagull?

Hell no, I used to work with the Evisu dudes in 2004 and we called it the Seagull.

OK, cool so the seagull with the different colors on each pocket… the first time I went to Japan in 98 I was like ‘I gotta go to this place’ and I got some jeans made and later that year went back and got a tour of the denim factory and that’s when I got to appreciate the craftsmanship of denim.


And then on the other end I’ve always dug indigo outside of the association of denim because my mum is a textile conservator and I would earn my pocket money by being her assistant. She would work with Ikat, pieces from Indonesia and the South Pacific as well as a lot of African indigo, so we had all that at home. But again, that was kinda just being a fan.

Wow. That’s a lot of denim inspiration….!

There’s a lot that’s be written about Alyasha’s professional career but his trajectory from 8 year old denim hippie to 21 year old Evisu obsessive is so insightful. To me it explains where he is today and what he’s doing with Thee Teen-Aged more than his resume ever could.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of my interview with Alyasha, all about his new brand, Thee Teen-Aged.

Thee Teenaged Denim : photo by Kate Berry
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Trend forecaster, denim designer, industry journalist and author of Denim Dudes.