Phillip Leyesa has a thing for customization and vintage vibes. It’s something we share in common with the Brooklyn-based designer, who goes by the handle @Philllllthy on the ’Gram. That’s why we teamed up with the prolific creative who’s best known for his intricate-yet-edgy 1 of 1 patchwork designs and upleveling customization into a much-coveted art form. Undeniably wearable and unquestionably unique, each of his bespoke creations evokes a story that’s equal parts nostalgic and future-forward. To celebrate the pair that started it all, we gave @Philllllthy the 501® Original to use as his blank canvas. The result? An artfully destroyed pair that looks lived-in to perfection. Want to recreate the look for your own denim? The Levi’s® Tailor Shop is the go-to spot to repair and reimagine your jeans to transform something just unboxed into a worn-into-the-ground masterpiece. We recently linked up to discuss his relationship to denim, where he finds inspiration and how he created his 501® Jeans customization.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START? DID YOU HAVE EARLY EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH YOUR HANDS AND CRAFTING THINGS FROM SCRATCH?
Growing up, I would always ask my grandfather for his tool set so I could take apart my toys to make new ones—kinda like Sid from “Toy Story.” I think that inspired my love for always working with my hands and creating something new with old materials.
@PHILLLLLTHY’S CUSTOMIZATION PROCESS
1) Think of how the end product will look (2) Prepare your machine (3) Cut any seams with a seam ripper (4) Cut scrap fabrics (5) Iron fabrics so they’re nice and flat (6) Distress jeans using sandpaper, a knife or scissors (whatever floats your boat) (7) Lay scrapfabric under distressed area (8) Carefully pin denim to scrap fabric (9) Sew fabric and denim together, remove pins as needed (10) Burn edges to give it that old look (11) Re-sew the seams together (12) Wear with pride and display with purpose
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO HAVE PIECES THAT ARE TOTALLY UNIQUE TO YOU?
Having a unique style is important because it sets you apart from everyone else. Wearing clothes you like is a great way to express yourself without saying anything at all.
YOUR STYLE GRAVITATES TO A MORE VINTAGE VIBE. WHAT MAKES SLIGHTLY LIVED-IN PIECES MORE INTERESTING TO YOU?
I love wearing vintage and distressed pieces because they have character and tell more of a story than new and deadstock apparel.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO HANDWORK? WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS PROCESS THAT EXCITES AND INSPIRES YOU?
Growing up, I would watch my uncles and my grandfather work with their hands because they were either a carpenter or a handyman. I was around them consistently and this inspired me. There’s a sense of pride and joy when you get to create with your hands; that feeling of, “Yeah I did that with my own two hands” is unmatched. Human error can also add beauty to the final product, unlike what a machine can do.
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST 501® JEANS EXPERIENCE? HOW DID YOU COP YOUR FIRST PAIR?
I was introduced to the iconic 501® STF when I was browsing through sneaker forums. For all you dweebs out there STF means “shrink to fit,” which blew my mind. I couldn’t really afford the jeans during that time but I had to have them. The most memorable experience was when I filled my bathtub with warm water and sat in the tub waiting for the jeans to fit me perfectly, hence “shrink to fit.” Thinking back, I was so uncomfortable and felt so weird wearing wet jeans in the bathtub, but anything in the name of science, am I right?
WHAT IS SO ICONIC ABOUT LEVI’S® 501® JEANS? WHAT MAKES IT SUCH A TIMELESS STYLE?
For most people, when you think of denim you automatically think Levi’s® The 501®, especially. The 501® built its reputation and as long as denim is still relevant, the 501® will always be there.
WITHOUT GIVING AWAY THE SECRET SAUCE, WHAT WAS YOUR PROCESS ON THIS COLLAB?
My process isn’t really thought out. Usually, I just stare at the piece I’m working on and imagine what the end result could be. The process and execution come to me while I work. I love this way of working because the project could go in a completely different direction and that’s okay because there wasn’t a real end result to begin with.
WHAT MAKES DENIM SUCH A MAGICAL MEDIUM TO WORK WITH?
I love working with denim because it is so forgiving and will always be a timeless fabric. There are so many different types of denim to work with and it’ll never be a boring medium.