LOS ANGELES — Inspiration strikes in unlikely places, as denim veterans Adriano Goldschmied and Jerome Dahan told business and art students at the University of Southern California on Monday.

Consider how Dahan derived the names for his two premium denim ventures, Seven For All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity.

“Both names came from a movie,” Dahan said, stumping the crowd of aspiring entrepreneurs and fashion-savvy students sporting acid-wash skinny jeans.

The movie was “Armageddon,” the 1998 blockbuster starring Bruce Willis as the head of a drilling team tasked with saving the earth from a giant asteroid.

“Inspiration is, honestly, everything,” Goldschmied added. “When you design jeans, you have to have a sense of our social life.”

Dahan and Goldschmied were the latest designers recruited by American Rag Cie chief executive officer Mark Werts to share career tips while highlighting their own decades-long experiences in the apparel industry. Werts, who is a USC alumnus, has invited a number of other apparel industry executives — including Guess Inc.’s Maurice Marciano; Robert Hanson from Levi Strauss & Co.; Quiksilver Inc.’s Bob McKnight; Mossimo founder Mossimo Giannulli, and J. Crew Group’s Millard “Mickey” Drexler — to speak in the series titled “Captains of the Fashion Industry.”

Dahan and Goldschmied’s participation were particularly relevant as denim makes up 20 percent of all garments sold in the Golden State.

“For us Californians, it’s the basis for our entire wardrobe,” said Werts, noting the World Denim Bar in his Los Angeles store carries 73 collections. “What’s happening here is indeed influencing the world.”

Dahan and Goldschmied have left indelible marks on the global denim market, individually and as a team. Hailing from France, Dahan helped launch Seven For All Mankind in 2000 after a nine-year design stint at Lucky Brand Jeans. After leaving Seven, Dahan cofounded Citizens of Humanity in 2003.

As for Goldschmied, whom one student dubbed “a serial entrepreneur,” his first foray into designing denim under the label Daily Blue in the Seventies led him to drive his car packed with jeans from his native Italy to a shop run by Werts in Amsterdam. From there, Goldschmied hatched a string of startups, ranging from Diesel with Renzo Rosso and Replay to AG Adriano Goldschmied and A. Gold E., which he launched in 1993 with Dahan. Goldschmied’s latest venture is GoldSign, which was acquired by Citizens in 2007.

Together at their Huntington Park, Calif.-based company, Dahan and Goldschmied take on the challenge of making their business, which relies on indigo, chemicals and thousands of gallons of water, more eco-friendly.

“We have to work in a different way,” Goldschmied acknowledged. “We didn’t have that responsibility in the past.”

Dahan added that environmental sustainability “should be the whole culture of the company.”

Despite the slump in the economy, the denim gurus urged the audience to innovate.

“The real formula [for success], I think, is to have a lot of passion, to love what you do, to work hard, to find solutions, to find things that are different things, to find new ways, to have ideas,” Goldschmied said. “The beautiful thing is, you invent a new fit and you are in business.”

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