May 28, 2015 at 5:47 pm EDT | by Mark Lee
Rufskin’s smooth design
Rufskin, gay news, Washington Blade

Douglas Coats and Hubert Pouches are co-owners of Rufskin. (Photo courtesy Coats)

The sun-kissed outdoors of Southern California serves as the locale for Rufskin promotional photography. “The crispest lights are in the desert,” explains company co-founder and head designer Hubert Pouches. “I’m happiest surrounded by palm trees.”

Pouches personally photographs Rufskin product images at an outdoor studio at the home he shares with his partner of 25 years, Douglas Coats. Co-owner and company president Coats launched the high-profile San Diego-based men’s clothing business with Pouches in 2002. The duo met in the early 1990s in Paris, when Portland native Coats worked as a model at the agency that French-born Pouches owned and operated.

Rufskin began with crafting well-cut, form-emphasizing and uniquely styled men’s jeans, an item of surprisingly scarce offering at the time and which Pouches noticed was driving male shoppers to the women’s section of clothing stores. The business quickly expanded into a widely known creator and purveyor of swimwear, underwear, athletic wear and casual clothing items for men. Originating from a garage in San Diego, business growth was rapid, evolving to a globally recognized company respected for its well-crafted wares.

A conversation with Pouches quickly reveals his passion for the company’s products and commitment to brand excellence. His background as a fashion designer for Parisian labels Bernard Perris and Courrèges, along with a stint while living in Brazil designing for a group that had among its clients Victoria’s Secret and Macy’s, led Pouches to discern a void in men’s fashion.

“Our products are very sexy and masculine, but not vulgar,” Pouches points out. “We always have a couple of things for the flashy ones, though, including straight dudes,” he hastens to add, chuckling. “Our best customers are guys who are guys. Men who are confident, yet unafraid to explore their personal style.”

The company handles all aspects of design, pattern making, photography, marketing, distribution, and customer service on an in-house basis and employing a staff of a dozen, supplemented by independent contractors. Proudly emphasizing its “Made in the USA” ethos, all clothing is fabricated near the firm’s offices located at its flagship store in San Diego.

“Our products are crafted and manufactured in San Diego, everything is produced locally. That’s important to us. It allows me to get my hands dirty, so to speak, to see the work being made,” Pouches emphasizes.

“Of course, our costs are higher since we manufacture domestically,” notes Pouches, “and we pay taxes that are ridiculous.” “But it’s one of the differences we have – we’re personally involved, we actually oversee and monitor the production and that allows us to guarantee our product quality.”

Although Rufskin maintains a retail location and headquarters in the trendy neighborhood of North Park, the company has also experimented with opening and operating boutiques both in the U.S. and abroad. Over time, Coats and Pouches and their team have discovered it is better to focus on developing and marketing products instead of expanding business with storefront locations. “Retailing is not our focus,” Pouches says, explaining that it makes for better economic and operational sense to partner with retailers and select wholesalers while offering direct online purchasing.

“I hated working for a big corporation,” Pouches says, “why should we adopt that corporate model? The system of business we have allows us to remain spontaneous with our designs and product lines, to be very ‘on the click’ in our inspirations. Our clothes represent who we are, both in business and as people.”

“We have gotten to know many of our online customers, in a large retail operation you often don’t. It’s more personal, more organic, more ‘intimo’ as the Italians say,” adds Pouches.

Rufskin denim, swimwear, underwear, athletic wear and casual wear fashions are available online at rufskin.com.

 

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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