The Man Behind oneculture Takes Us On His Own Denim Journey

Mark Carter of San Francisco-based oneculture denim brand makes a mighty fine pair of jeans. But he is perhaps one of the most humble men in denim.

In an era when self-promotion and social media strategies are seen by many as essential to building a brand presence, Carter just keeps his head down and, well, makes the jeans he loves; The Pulsar, The Pulsar Slim Taper and the somewhat slimmer Gam.

This minimal instinct is carried through to the “flavours.” oneculture denim is only sourced from Japan’s Kurabo or Kuroki mills and only in 14 oz., 14.5 oz. or 15 oz. weights.

Yet, despite this spartan approach, the brand is steadily gaining loyal fans. We decided to peer behind the scenes to understand a little more about oneculture and the man who makes it all happen.

Read Our Interview With oneculture Below or Click Here To View the Collection

So, who’s Mark Carter?

“Who am I? My name is Mark and I’m a Bay Area native. I was born artistic. With regard to my place in the denim industry, this is where my story begins.

Remember back in grade school how there was always at least one kid in the class who drew really well? I was that kid. My beloved aunt Deb (herself, a creative person) kept me involved in the arts back then, either with the arts programs at Studio One or sending me to Arts Camp on Feather River during the summers of the late 70s and early 80s.

Today, I consider myself an aspiring designer. I have no formal training, but I’m completely thrilled by the challenge of communicating without speaking. This is my purpose.”

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How did you get in to menswear and denim in particular?

“Cartoonist Saul Steinberg, once said, ‘The life of a creative man is lead, directed and controlled by boredom.’ True to form, my entry into this business was purely coincidental—the result of boredom and a creative mind.

I was laid off back in 2004. In the idle time that followed, I eventually decided to design clothes for myself. The problem was that I’ve never had any real ‘style.’ Jeans and plain T-shirts defined my look to such a degree that, on occasion, my friends would jokingly refer to me as ‘Fonzie.’ So, naturally, denim was my point of reference.

I was completely unaware that there was some sort of denim boom happening at the time. I hadn’t heard of a single contemporary denim brand. Again, I was never stylish enough to simply be in the loop. I began sketching, motivated solely by the desire to create something different from the brands that I’d grown accustomed to, namely, old school, commonplace lines like GAP, Levi’s, Calvin Klein and so on.

The idea of being a designer and manufacturer was born at an instant. I call this moment ‘the big bang;’ it happened so fast and seemed to come from nowhere. The feeling was beyond exciting; it was electric!”

What is the brand history of oneculture?

“Once I became firm on the idea of producing jeans, I set about creating a brand name and a concept.

I was an unemployed industry outsider—a nobody! In order to compensate for my insecurities, I wanted to make a bold statement. I wanted a brand name that was concise; short but comprehensive. Within six weeks, I became fixated on the words ‘one’ and ‘culture,’ ultimately opting to combine them. ‘oneculture’ is a collective reference to the denim lovers of the world.

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I then set about creating the looks for the brand. My product embodies my beaming hometown pride and maniacal, 1970s childhood nostalgia. The elements I choose to convey my point of view are our beloved and iconic Bay Area landmark, the Twin Peaks’ Sutro Tower, my favorite childhood action figures and a colour palette which defines the decade.

Quietly, I launched oneculture during the fall of 2008. There were two styles: Hello (a boot cut) and Pulsar (a straight leg). The idea was to test the market, listen intently and edit my line in order to achieve a rock solid product at some point. I did another small production run in 2009 and another in 2010.

Unfortunately, because I’m self-financed and quite inexperienced, I’ve spent the last four-plus years on the sidelines, paying bills and dealing with other real life issues. I re-launched at the stroke of midnight on new years day, 2015! I consider this fourth edition of my work a response to any critique I’ve ever received. It feels great to be back!”

What are your future plans? Range, women, shirting, accessories?

“This production run brings oneculture’s Pulsar chapter to a close. By the way, Pulsar (The Ultimate Man of Adventure) is one of my favourite childhood action figures. I now plan to develop a line (so far, two bottoms and a jacket) after The Micronauts—perhaps the best action figure collective of the 70s. I’m super stoked about this!

What I’m most excited about is the idea of doing women’s denim. I love lines! Mentally, I superimpose them on most everyone I see. That said, I love the curvy outline of a woman’s body. By no means do I consider women’s denim an afterthought. I really want to get it just right. I plan to recruit a woman’s help when that time comes.

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You mention the 70s. That takes us from Abba to the Ramones via the New York Dolls with a few series of Scooby Do and Starsky & Hutch along the way. Where are the cultural levers for you?

“Aw, man. This is an entire interview in itself!

Seriously, I do this naturally; go on and on about how off-the-charts awesome the 70s were! It was a time during which passion ruled. Artists were driven by the sheer desire to share their distinctive voices. This resulted in ground-breaking film work, for example The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, A Clockwork Orange, The Godfather and Star Wars to name a few.

Musically, the 70s were perhaps the most experimental period in history. Artists were trying all sorts of things, and it was working. Personally, I flow with everyone from Queen and Pink Floyd to Earth Wind & Fire and Parliament-Funkadelic!

I design with 60s and 70s music playing. It helps me to get into the proper headspace. I embody the same spirit.

Now, keep in mind that I was just a kid during this time, so in addition to the above mentioned, my life was defined by Saturday morning cartoons, action figures and TV shows like The Superfriends, Fat Albert, Thundarr The Barbarian, Happy Days, The Love Boat, The Six Million Dollar Man, Sesame Street, The Micronauts, The Shogun Warriors and all the rest.

The 1970s were such a sweet time to be a kid. It was the very last of the age of innocence.”

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Visit oneculture and buy online here.

We have had a Pulsar Slim straight on road test. Stay tuned for our four-month report.

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