LA custom denim tailor Sean Lequang isn’t mad at 2019. Just a few weeks ago he handed off a bespoke Levi’s denim jacket to retail mogul Ronnie Fieg of KITH to feature in his buzzy streetwear store. The jacket was loaded with colourful motifs and imagery including archive logos, NYC references and a big Bearbrick, all of which were embroidered by hand using a vintage Singer sewing-machine that’s been finely tuned to execute Lequang’s imaginative designs. Fieg is just one of the few in the long line of creatives and celebs that have been hitting up Lequang over the past few years for his creative customisations. Last year alone he churned out special pieces for hip-hop royalty like Snoop Dogg, Post Malone and Anderson Paak, while Virgil Abloh had him hold him down on his Off-White booth at Complexcon. And remember the custom “Bieber” jacket Hailey Baldwin wore just after the announcement of her engagement to her beau Justin Bieber? That was thanks to Lequang’s creative hands too.

While these celebrity-funded embroideries may be helping to catapult Lequang to Insta-fame, it’s his clever knack for modern American iconography that is packing a punch and garnering plenty of word-of-mouth follows and double-taps. The self-taught tailor started his career in customising denim at America’s original blue jeans brand, Levi’s Tailor Shop and has since gone on to establish his own studio where he offers customisation and tailoring services in LA. We’ve been long-time fans of Lequang’s work so we reached out to hear more behind his story and how the process works when you’re creating a custom piece for one of Hollywood’s elite.

What inspired you to get into customisation?

Developing a personal style and making things unique to me. In the beginning, I would use a seam-ripper and a needle/thread to customize. Like taking off a pocket of a t-shirt to expose the fade underneath, or make decorative stitches by hand on certain garments.

What would you say is unique about your style of customisations and chain-stitch embroidery?

It’ll be the way I perceive something and my personal method of execution. Chain-stitching, is unique to its machine and user. I use a vintage singer sewing machine that I completely tuned to my personal preference. I may use cotton or rayon thread, a certain type of sewing foot, the tension of the thread, etc. Customization is like a personal way of cooking things. Everyone can cook a similar dish, but we all have different ways of doing it and therefore the results are unique.

Where does your passion for denim come from?

The internet. In 2006, fashion/streetwear/whatever you want to call it was beginning to surface online. I was into streetwear, but wanted something practical to differentiate my style a bit more. So I started to research denim, everything was getting connected and becoming accessible. There was an expanding niche group online, especially when raw denim was trending.  I learned about brands, fits, washes, history. It was practical, could be worn almost everyday and aged with wear.

What designers or artists inspire you in your work?

I’m still putting things together when it comes to my own work aside from chain-stitch embroidery. Not sure if I can say there’s an exact inspiration to it but there are those that do inspire me as a creative.

Ralph Lauren, Charles & Ray Eames, Pharrell Williams, Sean Stussy, to name a few. I’m highly inspired by vintage, design/architecture, workwear with a touch of streetwear, and california lifestyle.

Can you tell us about your relationship with Levi’s?

Inspiring. It began at the Levi’s Tailor Shop. From part-time to master tailor, I devoted myself to learn, practice and work with denim. When I moved to Los Angeles, I stayed connected and built a relationship. I’ve opened tailor shops, integrated customization into activations and took on special projects. It has authentic hard-working people who all share love for the same thing that this company is founded on – jeans. It’s inspiring to work with a global brand like Levi’s when I think about being that 16 year old soaking 501 shrink-to-fits in my bathtub. Being part of the Levi’s Winter 2018 Campaign and seeing my face on the times square billboard in NYC  was unbelievable.

Who are some of the biggest clients/celebs you’ve worked with?

I’m very fortunate to have worked with people like Anderson .Paak, Snoop Dogg, Justin Timberlake, DonC, Hailey Baldwin, Jeff Staples, Virgil Abloh, and Futura. Some clients I’ve worked with have been Nordstroms, KITH, Fred Segal. I value all the work I do and don’t take any of it for granted. It couldn’t be possible without the people who trusted me to do the job.

How does the creative process work when you’re creating a one-off piece for a celebrity?

We always start with a concept, it may be something like a new album or a concept to wear on-stage. If chain-stitch embroidery is requested, I’ll create or receive a design to be embroidered. I take into consideration what kind of thread, colors, on a patch or direct-to-garment, etc. From there, I’ll add some touches and details to complete the piece.

On average how long does it take to complete a custom order?

I wish it could be faster, that’s not the case when everything is hand-done. It can take a couple days to complete an order. Sometime my deadline are tight, but I work better under pressure.

Which piece is that you’re most proudest of?

All of them. Each piece I finish reflects my skills and how far I’ve come to get to this point, that’s what I’m most proud of.

What mark do you want to leave on the fashion industry?

While I’m still working towards my goals, I hope I can leave a positive message to others that you can pursue a career based on your interest. As far as the fashion industry goes, a designer known for my own aesthetic and purpose.

For the future are you planning to stick to small scale one-of-kind or looking to roll it out bigger?

I’m working out expanding. All the work I’ve done has its purpose to help towards a larger goal. To be continued…

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Denim trend consultant, owner of @samutaro