DENIM BOULEVARD TRAVEL IN FRESNO | AMERICAN BLUES TRADING

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James Riley

An interesting character we met at LA’s Inspiration fair is James Riley – founder and president of used apparel company American Blues Trading and Black’s Package Co. brand, based in Fresno, CA (the hub of California agriculture) – we visited Mr. Riley in Fresno to know more about his past and future projects. Here’s what we had the chance to discover.

 

Since his early years growing up in California’s Central Valley, James has always had a passion for American vintage (especially high-end period specific clothing and props), in fact he has spent a lifetime enriching his collections and travelling the globe in search of special denim, footwear, accessories and antiques.
He established American Blues Trading in 1989, and if originally the company exported used denim to Europe and Japan, then the business grew into specialty items such as American Levi’s, Nike Air Jordan and US workwear. During the years, Mr. Riley has bought out multiple dry goods stores (carrying mid-century dead-stock), and has accumulated over three million pounds of vintage clothing.
The impressive American Blues Trading collection is preserved and categorised by style and decade in its 7,500 square foot showroom located in Fresno, covering several lifestyles like American workwear, sport and moto, ’70s , vintage Coca Cola, US maritime/nautical & military, Southwest Indian & American cowboy, ’50s/’60s retro bowling, surf & skate, Levi’s, men’s haberdashery, shoes & accessories. It goes without saying that these highly curated lifestyles help collectors and designers shop for inspiration and give insight into the story behind the history of denim and Americana (pieces are both for sale or rent, depending on uniqueness, by appointment). That’s why designers, trend-setters, vintage fans and retailers have shopped from his collection for twenty-five years – we’re talking about professionals from companies such as Levi’s, J.Crew, Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie and Fitch, Forever 21, Replay and Lucky Brand just to make a few names…
A habitué at Rin Tanaka’s Inspiration trade-show or Rose Bowl and Alameda flea markets, besides vintage clothing Mr. Riley can also be seen scouring the Mid and Southwest for hard-to-find collectible props, antiques and retail fixtures – yet he’s best known in the industry for his history and experience with denim, besides the impressive collection. Speaking of which, a favourite collection of Mr. Riley’s is American workwear, a lifestyle he has a close connection to and claims is where he developed his drive, working shoulder to shoulder with the rugged and ambitious farmers of the Central Valley. Picking cantaloupe as a young boy, he learned that determination and hard work is necessary to get ahead in the world. From here, Mr. Riley rolled up his sleeves and embarked on an unpaved and widened trail for others to follow.
Moreover, once again celebrating his link to the Valley, recently Mr. Riley has started as well a new line of excellent redesigned vintage clothing under the name of Black’s Package Co. – also derived from the rich history of the Central Valley indeed. Actually in 1923 Black’s Package Co. occupied the architecturally beautiful three-story building and headquarters of American Blues Trading, and this is where the new line is currently being developed – recalling the heritage of the area and Americana – coupled with the most unique vintage garments to finally create a one-of-a-kind brand.
And judging on the look’n feel of both American Blues Trading and Black’s Package Co., we’re sure James Riley has many more (particularly) Californian stories to tell us.