An interview with Eric Goldstein, Founder of Jean Shop

Eric Goldstein, founder of Jean Shop, brings a passion to his work that few in any industry have for their respective products. Mentored by legends Ralph Lauren and Mickey Drexler, Eric’s career spans 25 years, and shows no signs of slowing down. In 2003, Eric, with the mission of utilizing the finest selvedge fabrics to create the highest quality denim in the world, started his own denim brand, and Jean Shop was born.

Rhyne Simpson: You were recruited by Ralph Lauren at age 22. What were you doing at the time and how did he find you?

Eric Goldstein: I was recruited directly out of college to work at RL. I went to Philadelphia College of Textile and Sciences, a small school outside of Philadelphia. It’s now called Philadelphia University. I started working for RL in the quality control department in the NJ office, I was traveling around to all of our factories to check color standards, measurements, etc. One day I got a call from my boss Sean and he said that RL wanted to meet me, this was even prior to naming the brand (RRL). Apparently he heard that I had been spending a lot of time in our denim factories and I had a passion for denim. I learned so much from Ralph early on in my area. He pushed me to be innovative and creative and detail-oriented. He was such an amazing and inspirational guy to work for.

Eric working on production in a parking lot for RRL in 1994, hand distressing jeans Eric working on production in a parking lot for RRL in 1994, hand distressing jeans

RS: What similarities can you draw between founding RRL and founding Jean Shop?

EG: Well for sure some of my inspiration came from RRL, so much of our product back in the day with RRL was ahead of its time in the early 1990s. Nobody cared about selvedge jeans and expensive distressed leather. Now things have changed. Our entire men’s denim line at Jean Shop is selvedge, custom selvedge actually. All of our fabrics are made exclusively for us and the selvedge pattern is trademarked. Much of my leather work is inspired by my experiences while working with RL. They actually sent me to the British School Of Leather Technology for a few weeks to learn the intricacies of leather manufacturing. Without that I am not sure I could be making some of the amazing leather jackets and accessories that we now have at Jean Shop.

Eric’s Polo corporate ID and business card Eric’s Polo corporate ID and business card

RS: What made you decide to go work for Mickey Drexler at Gap and start the 1969 line?

EG: Well, after the launch of RRL in the early 1990’s denim was very hot, but the RRL line was sluggish due to high prices and some product that had fit issues. At that point Gap was the biggest powerhouse in the industry. The number of jeans that were being manufactured weekly with the Gap label on them was staggering. I had a serious passion for denim and I thought there is nothing better than working for the company that was on top. I got a call from Gap recruiting and told them I was not interested. Well shortly after that I got a call from Mickey Drexler and the discussions got serious. I resigned from Polo a few weeks later and Ralph asked to give them 6 weeks before I left the company. I did and 6 weeks later I started working for the Gap. The 1969 line was a project that originally was referred to as Project X within the company. This was to celebrate our 30th anniversary, the company was founded in 1969. I was given the responsibility of working on fabric and finishing for the new line and I was given a development budget. Well, the first thing I did was contact my good friend Adriano Goldschmeid to work with me as a consultant on developing the brand. We traveled the world together sourcing fabric and trim and made some amazing products. At that point I was traveling someplace in the world every week. Much of the original 1969 line was made in Italy and washed at Martelli - at the time they were the best laundry in the world. We also made some stuff at Koos in Los Angeles, California.

A polaroid of one of Eric’s first developments for Gap 1969 A polaroid of one of Eric’s first developments for Gap 1969

RS: What would you tell a guy who has only bought cheap jeans and never paid close to $198 for a pair?

EG: Well, this is a great question. It’s simple: you get what you pay for. We use selvedge denim with our exclusive orange selvedge as our identity. Our jeans will have a much longer lifespan than a cheap product due to the fact that our fabric is more durable and the components are of higher quality and the construction details that we use are much different than a cheaper jean.

Jean Shop Mick, Dark Wash Selvedge Denim Jean Shop Mick, Dark Wash Selvedge Denim

RS: Jean Shop only makes men's jeans that are constructed from selvedge denim. Can you explain the benefits of selvedge?

EG: Selvedge denim is the "old school” way of making denim. It’s the original way denim fabric was manufactured. Selvedge refers to the woven edges of the fabric. Because the edges are woven they will not fray and they do not need to be stitched. A non-selvedge fabric needs to have an overlock stitch on the entire edge of the fabric so it will not fray. The selvedge fabric lays flatter on the outseam and shrinks slightly, giving you more of a contrast on the outseam and a more vintage-looking jean with what is referred to as tracking down the leg from the selvedge. Selvedge fabric is woven on a 30” loom with an old traditional wooden shuttle and it takes about 2.5 hours to manufacture the 3 yards of fabric it takes to make a jean. Traditional fabric is up to 70” wide and it takes about 5 minutes to make the 1.7 yards of fabric for one pair of jeans.

Eric, working in the Jean Shop store in New York City Eric, working in the Jean Shop store in New York City

RS: What keeps you excited and passionate about making denim products?

EG: I love what I do. I have been in the denim industry for over 25 years and I still get excited about new innovative products. I love working on product and being around our customers in the shop. My office is below our store in NYC. This way I can always be around the product and the customer. I actually have washing machines in my office/lab in NYC where we do custom washing on a regular basis. This keeps me busy and keeps me creative.