Exclusive Interview with Olivier Grasset of Dr. Collectors

With the launch of the new Denim Dudes book having flying success, Author Amy Leverton (Head of Denim at WGSN) shares some of her favorite outtakes from the stunning shoot with Dr. Collectors, Olivier Grasset.

With over 40 years of collecting under his belt, vintage fanatic Olivier Grasset has become one of the most revered names in the business. Fascinated by American vintage denim, Grassett together with his son Teddy run Dr. Collectors (and the Trading Post store), a LA-based small batch workwear brand inspired by his native French roots and love for American blue jeans culture.

An LA native for over a decade, Grasset handcrafts and dyes all his own goods within the city and quite frequently in the comfort of his own home. It was this setting that he chose to shoot his portraits for the recently released Denim Dudes book. The shoot, photographed by Ryan Lopez, featured so many amazing shots that Amy struggled to condense down to the six pages (one of the biggest in the book). But with so many shots gone unseen we wanted to share with our readers some of the unpublished shots along with a short interview with the man himself.

You were into collecting vintage before you became a designer, right?

I’ve been passionate about French and American Vintage Workwear and any kind of indigo fabric from japan since I was 15 years old. I had one of the biggest denim collections in Europe in the 90s.

How long have you worked as a designer? 

All my life, between the late 80’s until 2000 I was the creative director of Chipie , a French Brand very popular in Japan. Before that I had a vintage store named Edward in my hometown, Orange, in the early 80’s where we sold American vintage and Levi’s deadstock.

You started Dr. Collector’s by making scarves?

We first started Dr.Collectors by sewing vintage bandana’s together that we’d found at the Rose Bowl. The same year we developed recycled bags made from vintage denim, overalls and military cargo pants.

You’re originally from France and travel back to buy vintage quite regularly: how does vintage differ between the US and France?

The American denim is the authentic Blue Jean, the dream for every teenager. Vintage American clothes are mythic in France due to the movie stars like Marlon Brando, James Dean….and the Rock n Roll scene. Unlike French Vintage which is popular only for vintage collectors, the american vintage touches everybody.

Where do you go in France to collect? 

Back in the day we found the best pieces in Avignon in a store named Charly (now closed) as well as Pinup’s which is still open and has amazing pieces. Today my son Teddy travels every year to France to buy vintage French workwear. He travels around the country going to small towns, meeting people at flea markets, talking to everyone, and even ending up at people’s house where he always finds the best French deadstock.

And what is it you like about Los Angeles compared to your home country?

We love LA. The weather, the energy and the liberty to create and realise all the garments we want. You can cut and sew a piece of denim in the morning and finish washing it by the end of the day. You cannot do that in France anymore as all the factories are closed. Also L.A. its a very creative town, everyday you’re inspired by new ideas just by looking at the window.

Despite the brand being only a few years old, its gained a lot of momentum in the industry already. Why do you think that is?

Firstly I’d say the product is very different and the location of the brand in LA helps a lot. Also the fact that we produce small quantity and limited edition “Made in Los Angeles” helps give authenticity. Today the market is dominated by mass production that doesn’t have soul. I think that people feel that we put our soul into our garments.

Your aesthetic is very strong and indigo plays an important part in the design process. What is it you love about indigo?

For me indigo means everything. An indigo garment is a living apparel. Indigo is an unique colour that flows through my veins.

You hand-dye a lot of garments yourself, what is your method? How particular is your indigo dying?

First is the passion to do it. I’m only using natural Indigo, and dye my garments outside in my studio in Los Angeles, helped by California Sun.

Where do you produce all your pieces? 

In Los Angeles, wherelse? We produce everything in Los Angeles, in small manufacture, then we do all the finishing at home. The entire process of our clothes is 100% America, from the fabric to the tools we use.

Can you tell us how vintage plays a role in your design? 

We are always inspired by worn vintage pieces to make a new design. Vintage pieces have so much character, it’s always an inspiration for us to look and touch them.

You and Teddy work very closely together, tell us about your creative relationship?

Its very important for me to work with Teddy, our success is a mix of generations. He is more aware of what’s going on on the street, his advise is very important. I bring the technical, and he bring his taste.

You opened your store last year on La Brea, how has that been for you and what are your future plans for the store and brand?

The store works very well and people liked the handmade element with the mix of the indigo, twisted with the Santa Fe style and the French touch. We project to open a second store in LA for 2016. We will continue developing the brand by keeping our small manufacturing spirit, and creating small and limited collection.

Follow Dr. Collectors (@Drcollectors) and Denim Dudes (@denimdudes) on Instagram

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