The desire to build something from scratch is in the hearts of many entrepreneurs. Many follow through, realizing their vision and passion. Others are plagued by what-if scenarios and the constant threat of losing too much. We recently spoke with Elliott Rampley, founder of Rampley & Co - an artisanal pocket square maker in London creating works of art. An entrepreneur at heart, a simple observation of the lack luster options for pocket squares led him to start Rampley & Co. The colors are vivid and prints one of a kind, making Rampley's products a niche offering. Elliott joined us at Casa di Sartoria recently, to talk about his journey.
Tell us about the brand, specifically your role as a founder.
We set up the company out of a desire to find something a little different in the market. I’ve always worn pocket squares and loved them as an accessory but found it amazing that women’s scarves have had these stunning patterns and designs ever since Hermés in the 1930's, and yet nobody was really doing the same with the male equivalent. Most of the retailers I was trying had the same old paisley, polka dot and flat colour which of course are all wardrobe essentials but I was looking for something a little different. From the outset we decided we wanted all of our pocket squares to tell a story and have that point of differentiation.
Tell us about the significance of the name.
The name is based on my family name and the bird we’ve used is a Robin. It’s a bird close to my heart but also something that we felt was quintessentially British and fitted nicely with how we wanted the brand to appear.
Was the competitive nature of the menswear industry ever a threat to starting the brand?
We didn’t feel that there was a threat, no. We felt we were doing something very different to other brands in the space and creating a beautiful and premium product. I think if you focus on creating a really beautiful product then you’re most of the way there. It helped that both myself and my co-founder had a strong background in digital marketing so we were able to get our brand out to an international audience and gain traction quite quickly.
With such a unique offering of prints based on art, history and architecture, are there any other brands that do something remotely similar?
There are very few that we found doing really interesting things, especially at the level of quality that we deliver, and so we feel we’ve got a really strong and unique offering. I do personally really like what both Rubinacci and Hermés do though.
Were you in the menswear industry prior to starting Rampley & Co?
No, I’d always had an interest in menswear and had followed the industry out of interest and passion but had never worked within it specifically. My background had mainly been working with luxury brands and in digital marketing.
Most founders tend to be trailblazers who want to build a brand out of passion, but still creating something unique in the process. How would you describe yourself?
I’m not sure I would say I’m a trailblazer but I’m certainly incredibly passionate about what I do. I still love the fact that I’m able to design a product that I would wear myself and then have a physical product at the end of that process that I can use on a day to day basis - and so I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved so far. It’s also a great feeling to know that there are people from all around the world wearing our products on a day to day basis. The biggest thing for me personally though is the partnerships that we have. It’s incredibly satisfying and pleasing to be able to work with some of the most amazing art institutions in the world and to work with these museums and galleries in London that I wandered around and loved as a child.
How difficult was it for Rampley & Co to gain exposure?
It’s of course a competitive space operating in menswear but we’ve been able to gain a foothold because we offer something that isn’t already out there and have a really big point of difference. I think our consumers love that every one of our products tells a story and that we’ve really focused on creating a beautiful and very high quality product as well as being very passionate about what we do.
What ultimately differentiates Rampley from other brands?
Our commitment to quality is certainly a point of difference. There are lots of brands at a lower price point but we know that our product is absolutely the best it can be. We’ve also stayed away from being driven by creating two main seasonal collections like most brands and really we just create beautiful prints by what is inspiring us at that particular moment. We don’t tend to follow colour themes or anything like that, we just create designs we love and I think our customers like this approach.
How has the brand grown?
We’ve seen really good growth ever since our launch. The partnerships have helped this as has social media, and we’ve had really strong coverage from menswear bloggers around the world that love the product and continue to wear and promote our product on social media.
How has your role changed over time?
When we started, I was certainly involved in every aspect of the company but inevitably as you grow you need to outsource certain elements. I’m still very much involved in the design process though, which is what I love and wouldn’t want to give that up.
Where is your business most successful?
At the moment we have business from all around the world. The US and the UK are definitely our biggest markets at the moment though.
What were some of your biggest struggles?
It always takes a little time to get off the ground. The biggest challenge we faced was finding the right manufacturing partner. This is always the most time consuming but also of course the most important part that you want to get right. As we had no experience in this field, it definitely took a little longer than hoped but it’s definitely an essential facet of your company. And something you should definitely spend the time on getting right at the start.
How important is the pocket square in a gentleman’s attire?
Personally I believe it is an absolute essential and really the key to lifting an outfit. Men’s fashion can be very dry and often quite monotone when it comes to smart attire and jackets, and the pocket square adds that little flourish that will absolutely get you noticed. Regardless of whether people know about Rampley & Co, I always get asked about my squares and people always point it out. It adds this intrigue factor that you wouldn’t get with a tie or socks but it’s also incredibly versatile and can be used in any situation from a day at the office to a wedding or a very casual outfit.
Your favorite pocket square from the collection?
The Death of Major Peirson is still my favourite and our best seller to date. It’s a fantastic piece of art that has a wonderful story as well as making an exceptionally beautiful pocket square.
How should one pick a pocket square?
Follow your heart and make sure you pick something you love and that you’re comfortable wearing. There are always certain squares you could pick that are more versatile and would go with a number of outfits but there’s nothing quite like wearing something that makes you smile and you’re proud to have in your pocket and talk about!
Your advice to entrepreneurs?
If you’re looking to start your own business then my advice would be to absolutely just go for it. There’s never a good time to start a business and there are always a million and one excuses you can come up with for why it’s a bad idea but it’s honestly the most wonderful and satisfying thing I’ve ever done. Beyond that make sure you find something you’re passionate about and focus on quality!
Plans beyond pocket squares at Rampley & Co?
I can’t say anything just yet but watch this space!
Photos: Rampley & Co