BESPOKE BRAND BUILDING
Pocket Square Clothing Acquires Clothing Manufacturer With Expansion in Mind
Downtown Los Angeles’ Pocket Square Clothing started out doing business in 2011 making bow ties and pocket squares, eventually branching out to bespoke clothing.
Then, in 2016, co-founders Rodolfo Ramirez and Andrew Cheung opened a 1,250-square-foot flagship at 205 W. 7th St. in downtown Los Angeles, where an array of bow ties, pocket squares and sunglasses are displayed.
With the two thinking about expanding into new categories, they decided to go more vertical by recently acquiring the small L.A. clothing manufacturer California Top Hand for an undisclosed sum.
California Top Hand had been working with Pocket Square Clothing for some time to make its suiting accessories. The manufacturer also made restaurant and hospitality uniforms as well as shirts for other companies.
With the acquisition, California Top Hand is being renamed Top Hand Manufacturing, and former California Top Hand owner Brenda De La O will remain with the clothing factory, which employs eight people, to supervise production.
Under the new name, Ramirez and Cheung plan to expand the categories the sewing factory makes by branching out into men’s swimwear and bags as well as staff uniforms for hospitality businesses. Formal men’s suiting might be added down the line.
Ramirez and Cheung also intend to make Top Hand more contemporary by updating its business with new machines, new administrative operations and creating a web presence, which has been nonexistent up until now. Top Hand will continue to serve clients outside of Pocket Square Clothing, Ramirez said.
Already, Pocket Square has customers for its hotel-uniform category. It is developing the wait-staff uniforms and concierge accessories for the soon-to-open The Hoxton, as well as exclusive accessories for boutiques in the hotel. The British hospitality chain is scheduled to open its luxe 174-room hotel at 1060 S. Broadway in the Los Angeles Fashion District this summer.
Ramirez and Cheung hope their new role as a vertical manufacturer and retailer will carry them on to a bigger playing field. “We hope to work up to the 2028 Olympics and make uniforms for the U.S. team. They will be clothes designed and made in L.A. for the L.A. Olympics,” Ramirez said.
Outfitting the 2028 U.S. Olympic Team would be the ultimate American dream for Ramirez and Cheung, whose families immigrated from Mexico and China, respectively. Their mothers were garment workers in Los Angeles clothing factories.
The company co-founders met at the University of Southern California, where Ramirez studied architecture and Cheung studied film and business. In 2011, Cheung thought about starting a clothing line and talked about it to Ramirez, who had been working with bespoke tailors to make bow ties for his personal use. They decided to roll the dice by making just bow ties on a larger scale and then seeing where it went from there.
With no background in fashion design or manufacturing, the duo went to their mothers, Simona Ramirez and Lucy Cheung, for help in making leather and denim bow ties. Later, the entrepreneurs learned how to make their own neckwear.
Their first attempt at selling their products was relatively easy. They sold their bow ties to friends and students at USC by word of mouth and via Facebook.
Later that year, the duo decided to market outside of their immediate circle and paid for a booth at a Father’s Day fair in Inglewood, Calif. They barely broke even. The weak performance gave Ramirez doubts about the feasibility of selling bow ties in Los Angeles, a city known for its casual style.
But Cheung begged Ramirez to give their bow-tie marketing campaign another chance. Their next marketing chapter would be selling bow ties at Unique Markets, a traveling pop-up market that was going to take place in Santa Monica, Calif.
This time they did much better, selling $2,000 worth of goods. They were able to pay for their booth, cover their production costs and make a small profit. They believed that they had found a way to sell their gear and tell the world about their label.
Pop-up markets continue to be a strong part of their business plan. Every year they produce 32 pop-up shops at markets and boutiques around the United States.
Customized, bespoke styles and weddings are also an important part of the business. Around 40 percent of Pocket Square’s revenues come from making clothes for grooms and groomsmen at weddings. They also occasionally do collaborations.
Retail price points for the brand’s main collection range from $26 for a pocket square to $56 for a tie. PSC also offers bespoke clothing. Average price points range from $150 for a shirt to $900 for a suit. Some suits can go for more than $2,000.
For LA Originals, an initiative from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office to showcase the city’s manufacturers, they made a capsule collection of ties and pocket squares, producing a pocket square with a map of downtown L.A. and ties with palm-tree graphics. Retail price points for the LA Originals collection range from $35 for a pocket square to $65 for a tie.
The brand does no conventional marketing nor advertising. Instead, a crew of social-media influencers such as Quentin Thrash, Norris Danta Ford and Donovan Briggs post pictures of themselves wearing Pocket Square Clothing on their social-media profiles.
Despite a low-key marketing campaign, the company has managed to place its products in 350 independent boutiques around the world and at big department stores including Lane Crawford and Le Bon Marché.