Brand Interview: Ruell & Ray
We recently sat down and spoke with the owner and denim enthusiast of Ruell and Ray. Here is our discussion. Watch out for them to disrupt the market.
IG – Thanks for talking with IG. Please tell us about yourself.
RR – I am a 27 year old women from South Carolina who currently lives in Blacksburg, VA.
IG – What was your occupation before starting your own denim line?
RR - I worked at Abercrombie & Fitch for four years as a Visual Manager and Assistant Store Manager and after that I worked for a very awesome company Patagonia as a visual merchandiser. Management is what I studied at Clemson University. Most of my past career has been in visuals.
IG- What made you to decide to become an entrepreneur and branch out on your own?
RR – I was never satisfied working for other brands, I wanted more, I wanted to be my own boss. I hated reporting to work everyday to work for someone else. I started searching for my dream, what did I want to be when I grew up? I couldn’t settle for ordinary.
I have always been a huge fan of denim. I remember blowing so much money on jeans, the real unique and expensive ones. After a lot of soul searching, being inspired by this newer era of American made, and by not being able to find great raw selvage denim jeans for myself – I decided to start my own denim line for men and women.
IG – What is the strategic plan for R&R;?
RR – We want to provide exclusive denim jeans for both men and women, while doing our part as a small business by helping environmental projects around the world. We are members of 1% for the Planet, we give 1% of our revenues to environmental groups of our choice.
IG – Why does the R&R; exist?
RR – The company exists for a few reasons:
1. For our customers by providing them with amazing jeans.
2. Being able financially to do our part in helping our environment be a better place. Without this company we would not be able to give as much as we can. And it allows our customers to be a part of it as well.
IG – How many employees does R&R; have? What is your present yearly production?
RR – We are a start up company. I am the sole owner and the only employee as of now. I have had a lot of great mentors and help along the way. I am excited to get to a point where I can bring on board some people who are just as eager as I am about making Ruell and Ray a success. Right now we will start out with 200 pairs of jeans, after that we hope it grows to at least 1000 or more by the end of our first fiscal year.
IG – What was it like starting a business during an economic downturn?
RR - It has been a struggle to get money to help support and start this business. I remember being 17 years old and getting a $5000 credit limit credit card. I couldn’t even get that now for my business. I had to work and save tons of money just to start. I was so fortunate and blessed to have a family friend help me out.
IG – What are the most important things you have learned since launching your business?
RR - To be PATIENT. Ouch that is a hard one for me. I am a year into this and I am still waiting and waiting. Production facilities are definitely not on my timetable. It is a very long process.
IG – What is your philosophy on price-points, quality, and quantity for R&R;?
RR – This is tough. Because of the way the economy is at this point charging a hefty amount seems ridiculous and we know that. But we also are advocates of buying one pair and wearing them out. Our price points range from $275-330, the reason for this is quite a few things:
1. Everything, I mean EVERYTHING on our jeans are USA made (buttons, zippers, thread, fabric, labor, rivets..) this is not cheap. Everyone goes over seas now for cheaper product and/or labor, which spikes the prices here in America. We want to be a part of bringing manufacturing back to our homeland.
2. We use limited deadstock fabrics- what that means is we use fabric that is not produced anymore. We use what is available and what we can find that is the BEST quality fabric. Limited and exclusive. Our jeans will be numbered one by one. We are all about Quality over quantity, especially since our fabric is hard to come by in large amounts.
IG – Does R&R; have any plans to expand globally? If so, where?
RR – As of now, we just want to get in the stores we love around the USofA. But we would definitely want to do that in the future.
IG – Describe your customer service philosophy? Is customer feedback important?
RR – If we didn’t have customers we would not have product. So what they say goes. We will do whatever it takes to make someone happy. Customer feedback is huge. We want to know what they want, so we can tailor our product to their needs, within what we stand for.
IG – How do you maintain quality control over your product?
RR – We are working with the best facilities in the US who adopt our same concept of quality. I am very particular about the quality of our product. I trust the people I work with and have seen they type of work they do. I also will inspect every single garment before it goes out to any customer.
IG – Describe R&R;’s market. Who is your target customer?
RR - We are after (men) that effortless, stylish guy who wants a great pair of well fitted jeans and who will beat the heck out of them. When we think of our target customer guy we think Philip Crangi of Giles and Brother. A flea market shopper, a fixed gear bike rider, a vintage collector….someone eclectic. That is our vision for our male customer. That is who we are after, but really anyone who wants a slimmer fitting great pair of jeans and who wants to support a great cause!
For our women, we think the same eclectic individual, who has a knack for style…a female version of our male. A women who is sick and tired of wearing stretchy jeans (not that there is anything wrong with those).
IG – What differentiates R&R; from its competitors?
RR – There is a hefty amount of great competition in my line of work. We are different because we use Deadstock fabrics (for our entire line) to try to make our footprint smaller and we are members of 1% for the Planet. We also will have a heavy focus on women’s selvage, which is a very small market right now. Since all of our competition has great jeans, we can do that too, but we wanted to do something a little more meaningful instead of just creating a great pair of jeans. We also will be doing a few different styles that our competitors are not doing as of now.
IG – What do you want R&R;’s target customer to say or think about your business?
RR – That we are a company that produces some amazing jeans, while being responsible. We also want them to know that they are always treated right and fair. We want them to know that we are a company that has integrity.
IG - Describe R&R; five years from now
RR – In five years I would love for us to have a brick and mortar, possibly in Atlanta, GA. I want us to be KNOWN for only denim. We don’t want to branch out to any other clothing. We only are doing jeans. We want to be the go to for jeans. I also would love for us to have our own manufacturing facility.
IG – What do you do for R&R; outside of R&R;?
RR – In my spare time I do road biking, there is something freeing about it. I go out there and clear my mind. Also family is a very important part of my life, I do a lot of spending time with them.
IG – If you could travel to any three places in the world, where would they be?
RR – Patagonia, Iceland, and the South of France