The Road to Awe looks to be headed downtown, given the streetwise jeans and second-skin leather pants in the Los Angeles-based women's collection that had its debut in July.
The brand, known as RtA, "has an androgynous vibe," says French-born Eli Azran, 27, who co-designs the line with L.A. native David Rimokh, 26. "It's very easy, very versatile."
But the pieces also have a sensual edge. Think two-toned destroyed denim with a sleek, waxed finish; a "hip-zip" jean with an exposed, wrap-around zipper; or frayed silk edging at the hems. Prices range from $165 to $975, and the bestselling "slouchy skinny" distressed boyfriend jeans have been spotted on Kristen Stewart. Olivia Wilde is another RtA fan.
However awesome it is now, the road to building the business hasn't been a smooth one.
"Eli and I got together about a year and a half ago," says Rimokh. "We knew that we had compatible talents and a vision that we really wanted to go forward with. But we started our first project [prophetically named Bad Denim], and it wasn't a true representation of ourselves, so we scrapped it."
"Road to Awe is a constant journey to bettering yourself," says Azran.
Rimokh's family has been in the fashion manufacturing business for more than 40 years, and he learned the ropes at their Signal Products Inc., a global company that produces bags for brands such as Guess. Azran helped launch the Taverniti denim brand and has created two denim-centric lines of his own: Eclipse Noir and Unknown Factory.
The pair's third partner is Diavolina boutique founder Evelyn Ungvari. Azran had worked with her for 10 years, and she was one of the first people he called on for input.
"Evelyn came in, and we didn't have a plan to bring her on board ... it just kind of happened," says Azran. "She had one of the best stores in L.A. for a long time, and she wasn't just a buyer; she was on her sales floor all day long talking to consumers — 'Do you like this? Do you like that?' The style of the brand tends to be more on the masculine side, and there's a very fine line between masculine and not so wearable. Evelyn commercializes it by [helping to] tone it down to make it more feminine."
Crafted of Japanese denim and luxurious leather from a French tannery, every piece is produced "within a 12-mile radius of our L.A. office," says Azran. Locally, the line is available at Curve and Ron Herman, both in West Hollywood.
Jackets and T-shirts will join the line for spring. Highlights include a python-embossed leather jacket and biker-inspired jeans with motocross detailing.
While either of the lanky designers could well fit into a pair of the women's jeans, they swear that they don't wear them and say that a men's line is coming soon.