In my experience I have come to understand that many designers have enough trouble just designing their singular collection and then there are the exceptions to that statement; enter Hubert Rufskin! Here is a man who not only masters his métier as designer of several collections but also has mastered the art of photography.
Rufskin caters to his audience in every way possible, both visually and as a merchant/designer. As you will read, he is acutely aware of who his customer is and what appeals to them … which is certainly more than most creatives can attest to. As Diana Vreeland said “give them what they never knew they wanted” and yes he does just that. He lures them visually and then he offers them the reality and it’s all just a click away… presto … instant gratification!
In the end you must admit that all of the categories that RUFSKIN caters to makes him and his brand a lifestyle with a laser focused product assortment aimed at a segment of the buying public that “wants in” on what RUFSKIN is all about!
Jeffrey Felner: Can you give us a brief history of your career and collections?
Hubert Rufskin: Graduated from ESMOD-GUERRE LAVIGNE in France, went to Brazil for a few years, started a small line called “LA BAGAGERIE”. Then a junior line “TAL e QUAL”, returned to France; Nice first then Paris. Worked at Bernard PERRIS, then signed with André COURREGES (then owned by the Japanese group ITOKIN)…Met my husband in Paris and followed him to the USA right after Clinton was elected. We moved to California and I worked for a large corporation, designing surf, swim and ultimately lingerie. Our accounts counted MACY’S, VICTORIA’S SECRET and a few private labels etc…I always designed for women. In 2001, I was helping a friend with a small swimwear line and after he decided to go back to car design, Douglas (my husband) and I took the bull by the horns and quit our respective jobs and in 2002 RUFSKIN was shipping its first orders. We started with few men jeans styles and I never designed for women after that. We never followed the fashion calendar, no season, no collections, just capsules whenever we want and built our company on a Brazilian concept where it consists in selling product in stock. So we manufactured and sold directly after. No pre-orders. The items are on our site “live”. Absolute freedom! And of course 100% made in California.
JF: What is your inner motivation every day? Mentor? Inspirations? Icons?
HR: My friends mock me and say, “Hubert does pretty things” or “paint it white”. I guess they are trying to tell me that I am always doing something and that you can’t give me a can of white spray paint. I am constantly thinking about a new piece or a new concept for my images. I love taking pictures and that’s where our “house/studio” came into place. We built an outside studio and unless we are traveling for work or pleasure, you can always find us in the desert every weekend. I think that I got that quest for “prettiness” with my art teacher Olga Ohms. My grandmother enrolled me in a private school of art in the south of France where I am from and the couple who created this studio, Marcel Ohms (sculpture) and Olga (painter) really forged my sense to create … To make something visually rewarding … I was 6 years old. 10 years later fashion became the venue that I chose to carry that quest and bring me pleasure. As far as inspiration I think that I am a total “junky”. Everything goes. I am visually addicted. Because of my travels and experiences, my “icons” are a various range of people; artists, chefs, artisan perfumeurs, sculptures, movie directors, our way of life today is fueled by visual extravaganzas and I love it.
JF: could you sort of profile your customer and your customer base and explain why you have targeted them?
HR: In 15 years we saw some shifting in our customer base, mainly because of the product itself and our image. We started with a very strong image and a “punchy” style. It was all about “sex and rock & roll, our jeans were super low cut, with details like zippers around the crotch, laces on the side, hippy rock mixed with Tom of Finland. We even had a stretch denim underwear line pushing the envelope even further. As we diversified our lines of products with swimwear, underwear, sportswear and even custom leather our audience and customer changed as well. Today we do have a very solid and faithful base that has embraced our California lifestyle and follow RUFSKIN’S evolution. From providing a new product that was very difficult to find back then, (guys had to buy girls stuff in order to feel sexy) Today’s RUFSKIN lines we managed to keep our core customers and flirt with new audiences. RUFSKIN is definitely a lifestyle and very California.
JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why?
HR: This question always gets me thinking because I don’t live in the world of “if” (lol) … But let’s give it a try…First it would be a summer evening outdoor dinner on the “Costa Brava” (Cadaques would be nice). Salvador Dali (master of nonsense) Mapplethorpe (visual rapist), my dear friend Betty Lago (Brazilian model who just passed), Carme Ruscalleda (Catalan chef) and Charlize Theron! (Don’t ask! She is sublime and I love her I don’t give a f—k attitude) … that should be quite a night.
JF: If you could choose any collaboration what or who would it be and why?
HR: We had the chance to do a small capsule sport collection with the Tom of Finland Foundation but in that case it would not have to be a “commercial” operation. I am nuts about KIDROBOT, so anything LABBIT or DUNNY. I know for a hippy caveman it sounds weird but I am still an “adolescent rebel” inside.