April Singer Straten launched Rufus Shirts in Spring 2004, and began with the development of a classic dress shirt. By taking the traditional elements of Savile Row and stitching them together with contemporary American style, they created a unique look for the "updated traditionalist".Ms. Singer's Q&A with Michael Allen
You launched in 2004. What fueled your decision?
I started Rufus when I returned to NYC after living in London for five years. After visiting many men’s stores I realized that there lacked a happy medium in men’s contemporary shirting. It was either the classically boxy shapes of decades past or the very slim European cut which overlooked the more casual approach of American style. Prompted by the encouragement of my boyfriend at the time (now husband) I set out to create a brand that spoke directly to this underserved category.
What's the origin of the name Rufus?
When I was living in London I met Brett Theodore Rufus Straten who would eventually become my husband. Rufus means red in Latin and Brett was actually called Rufus when he was a child because of his red hair. I admired his sense of style that reflected an eclectic mixing of current and classic pieces.
Tell us about the brand's value proposition.
Rufus shirts are classic yet eclectic. Manufactured in the United States of exceptional quality European fabric, Rufus was born from the desire to have a quality fashionable shirt that will travel beyond this year’s trend.
Where are the shirts currently produced?
The shirts are produced in Fall River, Mass.
Who's your target customer?
We found our target customer to be men 30 – 50yrs old. Our guy is optimistic, self-possessed and embracing of color. The details are for the personal consumption of the man who wears a Rufus shirt.
Our shirts will never shout across a room, but at a conversational distance, a Rufus shirt will confidently exhibit all the assurance and style of the man wearing it.
Walk us through your distinctive design details, and of course those signature red cufflinks.
The color red is used subtly through detailing. Red stitching on the shirt cuff buttonholes and signature red cufflinks come with all French cuff shirts. All shirts have contrast fabric on the inside of the cuff.
Our fit is classic American with generous shoulders and a fitted body. Darts down the back take out the excess fabric on the main line and the sides are shaped with out the darting on the casual line. We use a traditional cut away collar with a high neck stand and thick collar stays so it can be worn open and casual but also looks great with a tie.
Last but not least our stacked shatter resistant buttons add an element of fashion and distinction.
Assuming we had the power to confidentially grant you a do-over regarding the Rufus launch, what would it be?
Honestly I don’t know. The stars all seemed to be aligned at the launch and the business has flowed since day one.
Are there any product line extensions on the horizon?
We are beginning development of a jacket line to launch with Fall 2011. Expect clean lines and impactful Rufus details.
How do you envision Rufus brand evolving in the coming years?
As we've become known as a preeminent shirting resource, a natural evolution for us would be to introduce new shirt fits and models. In addition to the shirts our plan is to design other categories to create a total Rufus line for our customer.
Having lived abroad and worked in the international markets for several years prior to launching Rufus, I look forward to launching the line internationally.
You can learn more about Rufus at http://www.rufus.com/.