B orn September 17, 1972, in Boulder, CO; son of Stanford (an industrial artist) and Helen Gregory.
Addresses: Office—Rogan, 91 Franklin St., New York, NY 10013.
W orked as a designer for Levi’s, Daryl Kerri-gan, and Calvin Klein; co-founder and owner of Rogan, 2001—, and Loomstate, 2004—, and designer for Litl Betr, 2005—; creative director for the clothing line Edun, 2004—; opened first store, Ro-gan, in New York City, 2006; founded home-furnishings line, Rogan Objects, 2006.
R ogan Gregory founded the denim line Rogan in 2001, along with two friends, and serves as the designer behind what New York Times journalist David Colman called “the in-crowd jeans label whose formula of realness, coolness and conscience has caused his company to grow faster than Mr. Gregory was ready for.” Operating out of an office in New York City’s Chinatown neighborhood, Gregory’s company also has several other ventures, including a menswear line and a clothing partnership with Bono, singer for the Irish band U2, and Bono’s wife Ali Hewson.
Born in Boulder, Colorado, in the early 1970s, Gregory is the son of Stanford Gregory, an industrial artist and sculptor, and his wife, Helen. Gregory began helping his father at an early age in making to-tem poles out of flag poles and car parts, among other projects, but “as I got to be 12 or 13, I became more of his art critic,” he said in an interview with Eric Wilson for the New York Times. As a youngster, he lived with his family in places as diverse as the American Midwest and NorthAfrica, and he moved to New York City in 1994. For the next few years, he worked for the denim giant Levi’s as well as at Calvin Klein, and he also did a stint with Irish-born New York designer Daryl Kerrigan. He started his own company in 2001 with two founding partners, and launched a denim line that bore his first name. “Rogan” capitalized on the new craze for distressed denim, or jeans that were deliberately made to look vintage. “People spend too much time in sterile environments,” Gregory explained about the appeal of such styles to Austin Bunn in the New York Times in 2002. “They get up, go to the gym and the office, and they move from one air-conditioned room to another. People are into the authenticity of vintage jeans because they don’t want to look like they spend all day at a computer.”
Gregory’s premium jeans soon caught on with customers in Europe and Japan, and stateside became known for astronomical retail prices that inched toward $450. Even Gregory was astonished at what the market would bear. He told New York online magazine writer Adam Sternbergh that he once introduced a limited edition line: “I made them as perfectly as I could. Which for me means essentially destroying the fabric, to the point where if you wear them for a month, they’ll disintegrate. And I literally sold them out in a week.And they’ll completely disintegrate. You wear them for a couple of weeks and go out one night and there’ll be a giant tear. I mean, it’s embarrassing. I was surprised that people would pay that amount of money for something that literally falls apart.”
Gregory began to think more about the cotton he used in his jeans from an environmental perspective, particularly how it was grown and dyed. In 2004, he launched a separate clothing line, called Loomstate, which offered T-shirts and other basic clothing staples made from organically grown cotton. “It just seemed like the logical thing to do,” he explained to Marin Preske in a Good magazine article that appeared on the HuffingtonPost.com Web site. “We’re concerned about the food we eat and where it comes from, and it should be the same with the clothes on our backs.”
Gregory’s progressive ideas soon brought him into contact with Bono, the frontman for the Irish rock band U2 who is known for his humanitarian activism. Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson, were interested in boosting the number of manufacturing jobs in some of the hardest-hit areas of the planet. Gregory told Preske that Bono and his wife “wanted to do production in Africa. So they approached us about helping them with design and a sustainable platform for the line.” The new venture, for which Gregory served as creative designer, was called Edun (“nude” spelled backwards). Edun offered an affordable line of men’s and women’s clothing manufactured in Lesotho, Uganda, and other places in Africa, and made from organically grown cotton whenever possible. Its mission was to offer an alternative for consumers who were aware that most of the clothing the Western world wears is often made in sweatshop conditions and in some cases by child labor. The labels sewn into Edun’s clothes sum up the company’s motto: “We carry the stories of the people who make our clothes around with us.” As Gregory explained to WWD writer Rosemary Feitel-berg, “In the end, you have a lot of options with clothing and the choices you can make with your money.”
Gregory signed on with Edun in 2004, and the first collection appeared in the spring of 2005. The clothes are sold in stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue in the United States and Harrods and Selfridges in Britain, and Gregory admitted that the first few years were difficult. Transportation issues in some parts of Africa were one obstacle, as was the fact that many of the factories with which Edun contracted had an unusually high number of workers who were HIV-positive, reflecting the deadly grip that HIV and AIDS have in parts of southern Africa. Finding enough organically grown cotton was yet another issue. “Three years later, we’ve got our heads above water,” he told Wall Street Journal’s Christina Binkley in the fall of 2007. “It’s hard enough to start a company, let alone to do it with organic fabric and make it in Africa.”
Continuing to branch out, Gregory launched Litl Betr, a menswear line of suits, ties, and sweaters, in early 2005. In 2006, he opened his first freestanding retail store in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood, and he also introduced Rogan Objects, a home furnishings line made from salvaged wood and other recycled materials. But it was his premium denim, roughed up to look dirty and old, on which Gregory had built his mini-empire, which he found somewhat ironic. “I’ve been wearing the same thing my entire life,” he told Sternbergh in the New York magazine article in 2006. “But ten years ago, people gave me a hard time. If I was checking into a hotel, they wouldn’t believe that I was actually staying there. Now it’s accepted that just because that dude doesn’t look like some fancy-pants—well, you never know.”
Daily News Record (Los Angeles, CA), February 14, 2005, p. 30.
New York Times, December 1, 2002; April 17, 2005; March 2, 2006.
Wall Street Journal, October 18, 2007, p. D8.
WWD, February 5, 2005, p. 14; October 24, 2005, p. 5.
“Up with Grups,” New York Magazine,http://www.nymag.com/news/features/16529 (October 29, 2007).
“Victimless Fashion,” HuffingtonPost.com, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/good-magazine/victimless-fashion_b_65359.html (October 31, 2007).