Designer Robin Chrétien Auctioning Nostalgic Pieces Collected Over Two Decades

Denim designer Robin Chrétien has been on a nostalgia trip for the past 20 years, picking up vintage collectibles here and there that were stored in his large Los Angeles warehouse.

He might find an old, animated neon sign of a pin-up girl or a 1976 Harley-Davidson chopper with a custom-painted female nude. On his collecting journey, there were plenty of electric guitars to acquire and old highway signs that witnessed a country with two-lane highways and vast stretches of country in between.

Now, some 230 of those items are on sale in an online auction Thursday, organized by Abell Auction Co. Bids are already being taken. “I have been collecting a lot of stuff for more than 20 years,” said the French creative who has lived in Los Angeles since 1996 and established his Robin’s Jean brand in 2005. “I have so much stuff you cannot believe. We need to clear it up. Otherwise, I don’t know where to put all this.”

Chrétien, who at one time had as many as 10 stores for his line of hip, biker-aesthetic jeans selling for $350 to $700, is reorganizing his vintage collectibles and his denim line.

RevTech Performance Easy Rider Captain America Motorcycle

A RevTech Performance “Easy Rider” Captain America motorcycle. Courtesy: Abell Auction Co.

Right now, there is a lot of space inside his 30,000-square-foot warehouse in Bell Gardens, a working-class Los Angeles-area neighborhood filled with several apparel factories. But Chrétien is thinking of selling his warehouse as he shifts denim production from Los Angeles to factories outside the United States to cut retail prices in half. “After the pandemic, business changed a little bit,” he observed. Not as many people are picking up his style of expensive jeans. “I have to reconfigure my destination for tomorrow.”

As part of his shift, all clothing items on the Robin’s Jean website are being sold at a steep discount, as well as merchandise at the brand’s store at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles. Until recently, the Beverly Center was the only retail outpost left until last November, when Chrétien opened a location in Miami, he said.

At one time, the denim designer had a nearby factory that employed 200 employees sewing his blue jeans made with innovative washes. But that closed several years ago, and he has since been using mostly sewing contractors. “Now I want to explore manufacturing in a different way,” he said. Producing outside the United States, he said, will allow him to set retail prices at $150 to $200.

He is also developing a new casualwear label that will be announced soon.

But denim has always been one of his top passions. When he first arrived in the United States from France, he was a designer at Blue Cult and later helped found the Hudson Jeans label before branching out on his own.  

Vintage Pin Up Girl Animated Neon Sign

A vintage pin-up girl neon sign for sale. Courtesy: Abell Auction Co.

His other passions include Native American history, nostalgic American items, motorcycle culture, the guitar world and cinema. “I love this culture. The music, the motorcycles, that is really my life,” he said, noting he plays the guitar and has raced motorcycles.

Some of the auction items online include a large vintage animated neon pirate bar sign; a vintage Pegasus Mobile enamel neon sign; a 1978 Harley-Davidson FLH-1200; a Gottlieb El Dorado vintage pinball machine from 1975; an early 20th century National brass and oak cash register; vintage Coca-Cola wooden crates; and retired North Dakota highway signs from the ’50s.

“Robin Chrétien curated every item with exceptional creativity and passion to adorn his flagship stores around the world,” said Abell Auction Co. Vice President Todd Schireson. “He held a deep desire to share the American story with the public and purchased what he loved to showcase the country he fell in love with.”

Asked if he is sad to see all these things go, Chrétien was philosophical but practical. “When you sell to someone who loves it, then it is exciting to see it go to a different person,” he explained. “Plus, I still have a lot of stuff.”

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