Co-founder and CEO, Raleigh Denim
Sarah Yarborough is the co-founder and CEO of Raleigh Denim. She and her husband, Victor Lytvinenko, started making jeans together when she was an undergraduate in 2007, working on her collection for N.C. State College of Design’s Art2Wear show. Today, Raleigh Denim sells jeans and other designs at prestigious stores like Barneys New York in 14 states; and Sarah and Victor are members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
“Some of the winningest ideas come from not winning,” Yarborough said recently, when asked to reflect on her company’s success. “The struggle or challenge behind the curtain – that is so very different,” she says, from the public’s perception of of what success looks like. It’s in those hidden struggles that breakthroughs emerge.
Yarborough grew up in Raleigh and attended Saint Mary’s School before heading to New York City and NYU, where she studied art, English, and philosophy. She returned to Raleigh to continue her studies at N.C. State, where her love of design blossomed.
Yarborough remembers well the moment when Barneys New York called to order the jeans she and Lytvinenko had been tinkering with. “I’d been making jeans for Victor to wear around, and for some friends,” she recalls, “and the morning news got wind of it. They did a 60-second segment at 6 a.m.” A Durham shoemaker saw the piece, told a buyer for Barneys about the couple and their work, and the phone rang. The New York store ordered 114 pairs of their jeans, and Raleigh Denim was launched.
These days, demand regularly outstrips supply. “We’re beyond capacity,” Yarborough says. “We are about to turn away business. And we’re also looking at supplemental production.”
About a year ago, the company’s growth had the couple reconsidering its organization and their individual roles. Now, Yarborough serves officially as CEO, while Lytvinenko focuses more on sales, growth, and brand ambassadorship. “That’s been really wonderful,” Yarborough says. “It makes me feel more invested and really proud of the company that we’re building.”