The native Angelinos behind Pocket Square Clothing talk bowties, Olympic dreams & their inspiration
Andrew Cheung and Rodolfo Ramirez grew their menswear brand from a modest collection of bowties to a flagship store and manufacturer in Downtown Los Angeles. When the pandemic hit, a quick pivot to an essential item strengthened their bond with the city—and they're dreaming even bigger for the future.
When it launched in 2011, Pocket Square Clothing was a very small business with outsized ambitions. Founders and former college roommates Andrew Cheung and Rodolfo Ramirez envisioned their lifestyle brand as a vehicle to explore their individual styles, drawing inspiration from across Los Angeles—and much-needed skills from their mothers.
"We went in knowing nothing about the apparel industry, but we had a mutual interest in clothing design," says Cheung. "Both our moms worked as seamstresses when they immigrated to the US, and they were the ones who taught us everything about designing and sewing clothing."
Beginning with a collection of bowties, Pocket Square grew to include a range of menswear, custom suiting and shirting, and yes, pocket squares. (The name is a nod to that subtle yet flashy accent peeking out of a jacket pocket.) They eventually opened a flagship store and, motivated by an ethos of sustainable sourcing and local manufacturing, purchased their own apparel and accessories factory, LA's 50-year-old Top Hand Manufacturing.
This milestone represented the realization of a shared dream to build a business in the city that's given them so much.
"We are creators at heart, and the cultural fabric and intersection of all creative fields in Los Angeles have been at the heart of our creative endeavors," says Ramirez. "Art, architecture, fashion, music, and film in this city inform and propel how we build our brand every day."
The business became a success, with designs available in more than 300 retailers and an army of influencers and collaborators sharing their brand message around the world. And then, the coronavirus pandemic hit.
"The pandemic has largely forced us to close down our own in-person operations, including our retail store and suiting consultations," Cheung explains. "We went from being on track to having the best year of our business to losing over 90% of our income overnight."
They knew they had to adapt fast, but how? Tapping into the city's unrelenting spirit, they found a way forward.
"We were able to pivot and reinvent our brand from designing men's clothing and accessories to re-purposing our collection of fabrics and knowledge to be one of the first brands to design and manufacture face masks for our nation in the midst of a PPE shortage," Ramirez says.
They expected some interest, but were nearly overwhelmed with the demand.
"The response was explosive," he says, noting that they couldn't keep up with sales at first.
The future is never certain, but the two entrepreneurs have set some lofty goals for themselves and their company. Not only do they look forward to expanding into categories such as home goods, grooming, and eyewear, but they're also aiming for a certain custom job that would elevate the brand to the highest level.
"We hope to work up to the 2028 Olympics and make uniforms for the US team," Cheung says. "It would be a dream to have clothing designed and made in LA for the LA Olympics."
It would also be a fitting goal for a company that credits the diverse population of Los Angeles with much of its inspiration.
"If you are a creative, Los Angeles is the place to be. Doing it alone is extremely hard, so you need to find your community of supporters," Ramirez says. "With the sheer resources, talent, diversity, and relentless creative energy, there's arguably no better place to start your own business."