Ruca partners Conan Hayes and Pat Tenore describe their latest project as a lifelong process. To them the new brand, geared for the “action-sports boutique,” as Hayes describes it, is more about relaying a message than reeling in dollars.
“We’re not starting Ruca because we see some big market opportunity or an unfulfilled niche,” says Tenore. “Ruca is a platform for ourselves to share what we feel is real with the community. It’s our way of communicating our vibe. Hopefully other people will feel it as well. That’s what I feel style, fashion, and design are all about: like-minded people feeling the same way about life.”
The creative outlet is a self-financed operation — one that is only backed by family and friends, says Hayes. “In the beginning we almost took on an investor, but at this point it’s just the two of us Hayes and Tenore,” says Hayes. “We want to stay true to our vision for Ruca. We want to monitor our growth and have roots to build a strong foundation and customer relationships. Taking money because it’s in front of you is not always the best thing for a new company.”
And Hayes should know. Hayes’ first entrepreneurial endeavor was Seventeen, a surf-skate-apparel company based in San Diego, California. A trademark issue with Seventeen magazine led to the ultimate demise of the surf brand. So what has he learned?
“Everything in life is a learning experience,” says Hayes. “I’m not seventeen anymore. I’ve traveled the world and have met many friends and contacts over the past few years. I feel the time is right for Ruca — it’s a perfect platform to share my experience.”
This time around, the look isn’t so surfy. As Hayes and Tenore have grown, their tastes have evolved. They’ve pooled their experiences from life in New York and the North Shore, and created a look that blends function and fashion with design. “We’re so opposite, yet we’ve experienced so much together,” says Tenore of his friendship with Hayes. “Our relationship has always been ‘One foot in a limo, the other in the gutter,’ meaning we’ve always been fortunate enough to view and see many things that aren’t normally accessible for a pro surfer and a designer. Our conversations would always be about how we could make a difference in fashion and how we could use our experiences, different surroundings, and connections to create our own brand and vision.”
Hayes adds, “The look clean, functional, and real.”
Ruca’s first full line, dubbed Recession Collection, will debut at the September ASR. Its launch line, called Transition One, is available for at-once delivery. Tenore says one unique aspect of the line will be a limited-edition series of T-shirts featuring artwork from musicians and professional athletes like skateboarder Ed Templeton.
“Five years from now I see Ruca further along in our vision, which will enable Pat and I to continue with design, photography, and staying true to our vision,” says Hayes. “Hopefully by then we’ll have reached one of our goals in which we can better bridge the gap between fashion and action.”