DENIM INTERVIEW: Murat Ozturk of Citizens of Humanity

We got in touch with the man behind the alluring Premium Vintage line by Citizens of Humanity, Murat Ozturk. Starting at Turkish label, Mr. Bright, he later was hand selected to work at Tommy Hilfiger and Levi’s before heading to Citizens with the plan to only stay for one month. After working with the brand, he loved the road at where they are headed and decided to stick with the Citizens and became the man that is responsible for creating the styles that we have all grown to love today.

You can read how he got his start in denim to how the new technology works and how they keep every pair unique below.

DB: How did you get into denim?

MO: I decided to get into denim during my secondary school days. Back when I was living in Turkey, young people were just starting to wear jeans, it was new. A big trend back then was jeans with a white front and back that looked as though paint spilled on them, we called them “yogurt” jeans. When I got my hands on my first pair of jeans, I felt that I could improve the look of the distressing by hand so I decided to wear the jeans down with a stone. As I played with this stone grinding technique, I noticed it gave the denim a genuine, worn-in look. I started to play around with it every day, grinding with stones or other materials. As I mastered this technique, I decided to turn this newfound hobby into a business. After I graduated from high school and during the summers while in college, I started working with a denim company based in Istanbul called Mr. Bright. Mr. Bright was where I learned about all of the possible processes that can be done with denim. This was how I got my start in the denim industry.

DB: What inspires you?

MO: Nature is my greatest inspiration. I love keeping my work simple, and the natural beauty of the world continuously keeps me inspired. Secondly, the beautiful, physical shape of women always inspire me. When I have a design in my mind, I always first imagine it on a woman and think about how it will fit her and her natural figure. Once I feel that it fits, that’s a big drive to continue with the work. I have to believe in my work and I’ve noticed that when I believe in it, everyone else does as well.

DB: What is your regimen to get into the creative process?

MO: My best work is always done when I am alone with no distractions. I always need music in order to keep inspired throughout the creative process – pop and rap music to be specific. Pop music gets my creative process started and makes me come up with ideas. Once I have my idea assembled, I turn on rap music as it triggers something in me to get the work done. Once I get started on my work, I rarely stop for a bite or tea, as I typically go into another space spiritually to attain my goal. If this atmosphere doesn’t break, I typically finish the project by the end of that day.

DB: How does the laser technology work?

MO: Initially, I draw the design I want to see on the jeans by Photoshop. This may take up to a full day or sometimes days depending on how detailed the design. Once I draw the pattern on Photoshop in full detail, I load this to the laser machine’s computer. From there, I adjust the size of design according to the jeans and apply the print. Once size is decided, I then adjust the quality and intensity parameters of the laser machines which is done according to the fabric and washing style for each style. Once the parameters are set, the machine will reflect the pattern as a light beam on its bench so you can place the jeans accordingly. Placement is significant to make sure the design is printed exactly where you want it to be. Then, you start the laser printing. After the laser printing, you set up the process for laundry, deciding what type of water to wash with and what kind of machine and for how long. After the laundry process, you can see the end result. I oftentimes will make adjustments as need be.

DB: Citizens definitely makes some of the most natural looking distressed jeans. How is it possible to get the hand/natural distressed look with such an advanced technique?

MO: Before anything, we have to make a very detailed drawing of the pattern for the jeans we will produce at Citizens of Humanity. Following the drawings, we perform the laser printing. Sometimes this process takes days, as we want to give the jeans a natural, worn-in look. Following the laser printing, we distress the jeans manually by what we call “hand stones” grinding. Imagine you fell down while walking on the street and your jeans ripped. That’s what we achieve. We give the general design by the laser printing, then make special washes to better give that natural look. It is a very demanding process, but we get our effort’s worth.

DB: After the design process, how long does it usually take to create the pair that was envisioned?

MO: When I have the design in my mind, it takes me around 1-2 days to design on Photoshop. By the time that is finished, I order the fit for sewing and receive the pair from workshop within one day. Then, it takes another half a day or so to finish the laser print. So, in total in around four days to get the printed pair. Then, I prepare the washing process and specify what kind of look I want to see. So we send it to laundry, who processes it step by step as per my order. The pair goes through one day of a dry process, another day of wash process, and then touch ups and 3D processes on the last day. We then fit the style on our model, so I can check to see what needs to be added or improved.

It takes a few hours for us to consider all the details. We repeat this entire cycle from the beginning until we can get the perfect design and fit. The entire process can take anywhere between 10-15 days from the design to achieving the perfection of what we want. We repeat the processes until we are completely satisfied with the end result because we want to offer our customers only the best product. Once the sample is ready, then the second phase, the general production phase starts. Our team selects some pieces of the collection that are then produced and delivered to our stores all over the world. The entire process from our design to launching at the market for our customers takes around 3-4 months.

DB: Even with the precision that lasers are known for, how is it possible to still get each pair feeling unique and original from the next?

MO: There are two key techniques that I use to make each item different from the next. First, I create an incredibly detailed design in Photoshop that once the laser printing is finalized, it shouldn’t look like a machine work. The drawing is prepared in a way that the machine production looks as if it was manual. The drawings should have a natural look that pushes the limits of machine. Secondly, following the laser printing, we have a great dry processing team. They perform hand touchups on the laser prints on each and every pair to complement the natural look of the pair. That is what gives the uniqueness and originality of the pair. We call this the “magic touch.”

DB: Which is your personal favorite that you worked on?

MO: The Citizens of Humanity Parker Relaxed Cuffed Crop in Anberlin.

DB: Lastly, how many jeans do you own?

MO: Because I am always working on new product and designs, I will usually wear my jeans for about a week. From there, I usually give the jeans to my friends or loved ones if they like the design. I always like to keep 8-10 pairs to wear, but that is always changing.