From modest beginnings (just four pairs of jeans), California-based Rufskin now celebrate 15 successful years. Hubert Pouches and Douglas Coats are the design dynamos behind the sexy, sometimes subversive, global menswear brand. Together, they look back at their achievement.
“There’s no doubt about Tom Of Finland’s influence on our brand. His drawings emit more than just sex…”
How did the Rufskin story start? What inspired you to create the first pieces, and what were they?
We started the company with denim, actually. Hubert was helping a friend with his line and designed four jeans in addition to his own collection. Our friend decided to go back to car design so we went ahead and honoured the orders we took at Magic in Vegas [an international fashion expo].
You have the Rufskin Denim jeans range, you also had a denim bikini brief at one point. Is denim still a favourite fabric?
The company was created around denim and the stretch denim underwear line came immediately following because it was the primary concept of Rufskin. Hubert, while working in Brazil, allowed us to add the underwear, swimwear and the sportswear collections soon after. But the company itself prides itself on Rufskin Denim.
What were the options for sexy men’s jeans back in 2001?
Almost non-existent and that was the reason behind these first four items. A few months later we went on to create the brand Rufskin.
Where does the name Rufskin come from?
It comes from casca-grossa, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu term meaning “tough skin”.
What were the early days of the business like? Was there a period of trial and error before you found your groove?
The early years were as one can imagine a start-up business to be; long hours, frustration and lots of hard work. We created a small studio in our garage and packaged and shipped our goods from there. We were lucky that we decided to manufacture our denim jeans locally so we were able to keep a better eye on production. We were both juggling between our other jobs until we finally realised Rufskin was taking over our lives completely and that we wanted to dedicate our time to something we owned together. Besides, working from home turned out to be really satisfying.
The Rufskin cut accentuates masculinity – the curves, the muscles – is this the influence of Tom Of Finland?
There is no doubt about Tom Of Finland’s influence on our brand. To be honest, his drawings emit more than just sex, they emit a sort of masculinity that one wants to reach for. If we can make someone feel like that with our designs, then we’ve done our job. Other influences came from cult classic porn directors like Rip Colt, the American West and global athleticism. Thierry Mugler, Tyen and Steve Hiett are a just some of the photographers we have always admired.
There’s a confidence to Rufskin gear. It’s vibrant, gregarious… not shy. Is that a reflection of your own personalities?
We are a dynamic couple who are fortunate to have enough personality differences to keep our relationship going. Hubert is a hard working, boisterous, Catalonian French man, and Douglas is less animated, super outgoing and sometimes a little too dreamy for Hubert’s taste [laughter]. That being said, the result is a reflection of all the above.
How have you managed mixing your business partnership and your relationship?
That is a question you should ask our team at Rufskin HQ. To be honest, that concept at work is a huge part of the balance of our relationship.
Rufskin designs often have very intense colour ways and combinations, the swimwear colours are sexy and playful, the prints on the Ts and tanks are wild. You love vibrant colours, right?
More than just working with colours, since the beginning of the brand we have been pioneers of “sublimation media” which means we are able to print on fabric from anything – from images, graphics, collages, etc. So inevitably colours get into place and Hubert has no restraint for mixing unusual colour combinations. Interestingly, Hubert always wears black. Douglas is more denim, Western and preppy.
Rufskin are known as a brand that’s constantly innovating and bringing fresh, new designs to the market. Where do all these ideas come from?
We strive to hold true to our original conceptual designs as much as we can, while simultaneously forging new creative pieces that could be influenced from anything and everything. Not to mention the millions of images flashed in front of our eyes from the digital world.
What are your best-selling or “hero” pieces at the moment?
Besides our signature denim jeans, Rufskin’s concept and structure is based on continuous, small capsule collections but few pieces still are our top sellers like our running tights and athleisure styles.
Many men’s brands de-sexualise menswear. They make underwear loose and baggy to hide the male shape as though they are ashamed of it. At DNA, we love Rufskin because you celebrate the male body and aren’t afraid of making it sexual. Has this always been your intention?
Not sure being baggy or tight fitting is the issue here. Everybody has a different idea and sexualizes everything including a little cloth covering some dude’s jewels. Rufskin designs for men so it is only common sense to try to provide a piece of clothing that will tastefully enhance someone.