AG Jeans

Style Profiles: Sam Ku of AG Jeans

As part of our fall 2014 Men’s Shop Catalog, we profiled 4 real men of style and substance. Here, AG Jeans creative director Sam Ku.

In taking the reins at AG as the denim brand’s creative director, Sam Ku not only followed in the footsteps of his dad, who helped build the business from the ground up—he also took on the legacy of famed designer Adriano Goldschmied, AG’s original namesake.

In the years since, Sam has met and exceeded those high expectations, establishing AG as a leader in the technology that drives some of the most comfortable, stylish jeans on the market. Keep reading for his insights on USA manufacturing, keeping it simple, and the step-by-step craftsmanship that occurs at AG’s L.A. factory.

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What happens when our Men’s Shop video team goes to Las Vegas during Market Week? They run into Pharrell. They get down to brass tacks with up-and-coming design heroes. And they make some movie magic—amidst three furious days of menswear trade shows.

Watch the interview clips above to learn about the humble beginnings, advanced technology, and DIY ethos behind today’s best denim brands—then shop our Editor’s Picks below to start your quest for a new favorite pair. (Catch part 1 of our Vegas-trip Editor’s Picks here.)


L-R: Natural Selection | Levi’s Made & Crafted | 7 For All Mankind | Baldwin | Nudie


L-R: BLK DNM | AG Jeans | Hudson | Lee 101 USA | Raleigh Denim

 

Watch: More Videos in this Series

Shop All: ‘Denim, Reconstructed’ Featured Brands

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Market Week: (noun) A series of concurrent menswear trade shows, during which our buyers spend a busy 72 hours hitting the best booths, meeting with dozens of designers and brand reps, and getting a hands-on look at what next season will have in store (literally).

Our video team tagged along to the trade shows in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago. Check out the trends they spotted below, with commentary by our Men’s Fashion Director Jorge Valls—and watch for video interviews with our favorite booth-keepers coming soon.

—  —  —

[Photos above via @NordstromMen on Instagram. Clockwise from top left:
Johan Lindeberg of BLK DNM; welcome to Project Las Vegas;
Marcus Troy’s ‘Blogger Project’; historical plaids with the good people at Grayers;
Todd Snyder showcasing his Champion collab; spotted in the wild at Stance socks.]

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Trend 1: Nautical Influences. “Breton stripes continue to be big. We’re starting to see maritime pops of color, like bold yellows and reds.” —Jorge Valls, Men’s Fashion Director

[Above: On-deck at Sperry Top-Sider;
a wavy show-goer with eye-catching accessories.]



Trend 2: Indigo Everything. “We saw every shade and shape of denim imaginable: raw, worn, torn, washed, you name it. Denim shirts and jackets. A chambray shirt is great to have—dress it up or down. Blue, in general, is everywhere. Deep indigos look especially good to me right now.” —Jorge Valls, Men’s Fashion Director

[Above: Black (and grey, and blue) denim at BLK DNM;
our denim-clad friend at AG Jeans.]



Trend 3: Tropical Skater. “The combination of floral/Hawaiian prints with skater/surf culture we’re seeing feels fresh, and is incredibly vibrant and colorful. Do one piece of pattern, or mix patterns and stripes together—there’s a version for every guy.” —Jorge Valls, Men’s Fashion Director

[Above: ’90s-inspired hoodies with modern lines;
this guy mixed patterns like a pro.]



Trend 4: Tried and True. “Traditional men’s cues are still important—think heritage and prep. Keep it up-to-date with a modern fit.” —Jorge Valls, Men’s Fashion Director

[Above, clockwise from top left:
Matteo Gottardi of W.R.K.; inspired hosiery at Stance socks;
cream-color shawl-collars at Gant;
the wall of American-made boots at Red Wing.]

—  —  —

Watch for Market-Week video interviews in mid-September.
In the meantime, check out our street-style report live from the trade-show tents.

 
 

[Photos by Matthew Sumi. Quotes by Jorge Valls, Nordstrom Men’s Fashion Director.]

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From a garage band to a bike builder, and now to a blue-collar seafood aficionado, our tour of quintessential Seattle characters continues. The next Denim Shop episode in our nine-part series captures a day in the life of fishmonger Taho Kakutani, as he shovels ice and chucks sockeye at Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market—all in a hard-working pair of AG Jeans.

Check out Taho’s bio on Pike Place Fish Market’s official site—and watch a comical but fantastic local news story about him here (Advil snatched him for a pain reliever spot before we did…at this point he’s never looked OR felt better).




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SHOP: AG JEANS | ALL MEN’S DENIM

…And watch more Denim Videos here.

 
 

[Still photos by Robin Stein.]

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When we interviewed AG Jeans Creative Director Sam Ku a few months ago, we noticed his favorite style icons were all of a vintage nature. From rough-around-the-edges antiheroes like Steve McQueen and Paul Newman to infamous ladies’ man Serge Gainsbourg, it was clear that Ku’s inspiration draws largely from the past—which provides a logical context for the latest lineup from AG Jeans.

Dubbed ‘AG-ed Vintage,’ the collection utilizes AG’s modern jean-crafting expertise in an ode to time-honored treasures discovered at a rare vintage shop. Each style is labeled with a number of years—the higher the number, the older the inspiration.

Here are a few favorites, from dusted-up greys that would look at home in the driver’s seat of a Mustang, to gently distressed blues for prowling Paris with Jane Birkin on your arm:


AG Jeans ‘Matchbox’ Slim Straight Leg Jeans (6 Years Destroyed)


AG Jeans ‘Dylan’ Slim Skinny Leg Jeans (3 Years Tonal)


AG Jeans ‘Matchbox’ Slim Straight Leg Jeans (7 Year Grey)


AG Jeans ‘Matchbox’ Slim Straight Leg Jeans (24 Year Fade)

 

SHOP: AG JEANS | ALL MEN’S DENIM

 
 

[Video clips © Solar Productions, Fontana Records, and Warner Bros.-Seven Arts. Individuals pictured do not endorse Nordstrom.]

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GQ Selects: December Look #4

Once your closet is stocked with a few great basics—dark jeans, indispensable shades, timeless sweaters—pulling together outfits is effortless. This straightforward yet stylish cold-weather combo would look as sharp downtown (just throw a blazer on top) as it would wandering Whistler.

 


Ray-Ban ‘Outdoorsman®’ 58mm Polarized Aviator Sunglasses.“The iconic Ray-Ban aviator frame style holds true to the classic we love so much, like the gradient brown lenses, but with added luxe touches like leather accents on the brow bridge and temple arms. It’s a style that continues to conjure up images of McQueen and Newman in their respective heydays.”
—Jim Moore, GQ Creative Director
(shop this item)
 


AG Jeans ‘Matchbox Slim’ Straight-Leg Jeans in Coated Black. “Every man should own a pair of black jeans. They’re an indispensible addition to a guy’s closet, dressier than basic blue. These AGs are the perfect cut for such a pair, skimming the leg for a look that’s equal parts rock ‘n’ roll and refined.”
—Jim Moore, GQ Creative Director
(shop this item | shop the trend: dark denim)

 

Nordstrom’s picks to complete the look:
Brixton Knit Cap | 1901 Cashmere Sweater | Clarks® Originals ‘Desert’ Boot
(shop the trend: standout stripes)
 

Each month, the editors of GQ, in collaboration with the Nordstrom Men’s Shop, select key items from the pages of GQ to feature right here on Nordstrom.com.

For the latest edition of GQ Selects, we’ve chosen 12 favorites from the December issue.

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Jeans—the quintessential symbol of American style, and yet with thousands of iterations around the world and over the past 139 years, it all comes down to two factors: the fit and the wash. California-based brand AG Jeans is widely regarded as a master of both.

Melding design expertise with technical ingenuity, the brand was founded in 2000 when Adriano Goldschmied, a legend among European denim brands like Diesel, teamed up with denim manufacturing veteran Yul Ku. The elder Ku’s son, Sam, joined the company in 2001 straight out of college. After getting his start in the research and development lab, Sam worked his way up through the ranks, eventually being awarded the title of Creative Director in 2008. (Goldschmied, who previously held that role, left the company in ’04.)

Now the visionary behind this classic-slash-cutting-edge denim empire, the younger Ku (who still works alongside his dad) was kind enough to answer a few of our questions. Read the interview below, and be sure to shop the latest from AG Jeans.

1. Your dad, Yul Ku, has played a key role in the denim industry for a long time now—do you have memories of this from growing up?
“My father has been in the apparel business for over 35 years, so I remember him working a lot, and I also remember him bringing home jeans for the family. Going to visit him at work as a child was interesting, because seeing the process is really overwhelming, especially as a kid.”

2. What are your feelings on being part of the ‘family business’? Did you have any reservations about following in those footsteps?
“Being part of a family business is great. A big part of running a business is being able to trust your colleagues around you, and it’s great to be working alongside family members that you trust. I didn’t resist falling into the family business. I thought it’d be a great opportunity for me, and I loved the apparel business immediately.”

3. Although AG caters to a wide range of customers, including a more classic guy, the company is known for pioneering new materials and techniques. What are some experimental methods that have become standard practice?
“AG is known throughout the industry as a brand that is cutting-edge in terms of our innovative ways of making jeans. One of our newest innovations is implementing laser-burning onto our jeans, which is used to create abrasions and burn indigo off the surface. Using art files, we can burn everything from whiskers, holes, and even patterns onto the product. We also use an ozone-generating machine that is used to wash down the color, and to reduce back-staining [leftover indigo residue that could alter the finish]. Our biggest innovation is the process we use to make our ‘AG-ed Vintage’ jeans, which is a closely guarded secret that I can’t share with you now!”

4. What are 3 of your current favorites from AG Jeans?


AG Jeans ‘Matchbox’ Slim Straight Leg Jeans in 3 Year Coated. “This is a very interesting fabric. It’s a denim from Italy with a blue pigment coating on top. The result is a blue denim that is a very saturated blue, and it almost looks like a non-denim. It has a little bit of stretch, so that the wearer will have the added benefit of comfort. We’ve done the ‘AG-ed’ finish on the jeans here, with a slight amount of wear, as if it’s just starting to break in.” (shop this style)


AG Jeans ‘Matchbox’ in Coated Black. “These jeans are our popular Matchbox cut, which is a great slim, straight leg shape. These are your perfect pair of black jeans. They are over-dyed black, and then coated on top, which gives the jeans that rich, super-black color. Every guy should have this black jean in his closet.” (shop this style)


AG Jeans ‘Matchbox’ in Tweed Grey. A great denim alternative. They can be worn to the office or worn going out. A very versatile pair of jeans done in a grey tweed yarn-dye fabrication.” (shop this style)

5. We hear a lot from our Men’s team here at Nordstrom about the AG Protégé being one of our most popular fits. Why do you think so many guys enjoy it?
“The Protégé is popular because it is a very easy cut to wear. It fits almost everybody, and can be worn everywhere. It’s not too slim, and not too loose. The Protégé is a solid straight-leg, which every guy needs.” (shop this style)

6. What’s an average ‘day at the office’ like for you?
“Things move so quickly here that there is no average day in the office—but generally, my day involves lots of meetings. I’ll have meetings with our design team to go over new developments, a meeting to go over e-commerce strategies, then maybe some meetings that involve marketing, PR, and advertising. My role at AG encompasses pretty much everything AG, and every day is very different.”

7. Could you touch on AG Jeans’ vertical manufacturing model, and your feelings about the importance of ‘Made in the USA’?
“One of our biggest advantages at AG is that we’re backed by a fully vertical jeans manufacturing company, Koos Manufacturing, Inc., based in South Gate, California, where we produce jeans from start to finish, all under one roof. Our competitors are at a disadvantage because they have to work with separate cutting factories, then send the product to a different sewing facility, then transport the product to a different wash house. The product changes hands from vendor to vendor, and you lose a large amount of quality and control. For us, everything from cutting to sewing to laundry and finishing is done here. We are able to keep a close eye on our production, and our designers are able to work with our technicians very closely to design and create the amazing product that we love.”

8. What are some of the job titles of your denim artisans, and what exactly do their jobs entail?
“Due to AG’s success these days, there are lots of companies and headhunters looking to poach employees from our team. The only thing I’ll say is that we have a great team that is creating great design!”

9. What inspires you?  Who are some of your denim style icons throughout history and today?
“The idea of creating new product that people will love is the biggest inspiration for me. Some of my favorite style icons: Jane Birkin, Françoise Hardy, Paul Newman, Serge Gainsbourg, Steve McQueen.”

 

SHOP: AG JEANS | ALL MEN’S DENIM

 

[Sam Ku portrait by Anne Cusack, courtesy of LA Times. Detail photos by Justin Abbott, shot at our flagship store in Downtown Seattle. Individuals featured do not endorse Nordstrom.]

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