Bespoke, as in made-to-order or custom made, tailoring has been around for centuries. The term was originally made popular in the 1700s in London and since then it has retained its tradition as business tycoons, politicians, royalty, and celebrities particularly have enjoyed being part of an exclusively clientele. Bespoke tailors of the past are in large part no longer, primarily because today’s technology and assembly line production is the norm. Today there is the ability to produce bespoke garments utilizing these advanced methods and at much more affordable prices than in the past. This modern day approach to bespoke garments is exactly what you will find at RICARDO Custom Clothing.
Looking to better understand what makes this downtown haberdashery unique, we recently popped into RICARDO’s and found him with a client looking over his exquisite fabric selections from the finest mills in the world. Afterwards, we were able to spend some one-on-one time with him and although we were not given a peek into his private little black book of distinguished clientele we did learn about what kind of men rely on him for their clothing needs.
Maritza Cosano: How’s your store different from any other of its kind?
Ricardo Grimes: I am all about the relationship with my client. I am not in the business of just selling clothes. I provide a unique brand of service. I cater to my client’s desires as it pertains to the manner in which they want to dress and present themselves to the world. Looking their best reflects the best in them and I am their resource and counselor in achieving their full sartorial potential.
MC: So who would you say is your typical client?
RG: I would not say that my clientele is typical. My clients cover a wide range of demographics, body types and fashion styles. But my “ideal client” is a gentleman who believes that the way he dresses says something about who he is and he appreciates being able to rely on me to help him accurately reflect that. In many cases they, like me, have a real passion for dressing well.
MC: And what do they all have in common?
RG: I think deep down we all care about how we look and when you are well dressed you just look better than when you are not. What all my clients have in common is that when they see themselves in a well-fitting good looking outfit they like it.
MC: So these are men who are looking for custom wear and appreciate help in making the best choices for their build and fashion style.
RG: Correct. These are executives, athletes, entertainers, and others who are looking for someone to help them look their best. These are men who want a personal concierge and have no desire to look through racks of clothing. They want the look and quality of Brioni, Canali, Ermenegildo Zegna or Armani without the extraordinary expense and with exquisite tailoring. I also get a lot of wives and girlfriends who come to me for the men in their lives.
MC: And would you say that their style is the conservative type?
RG: Some prefer traditional or timeless looks while others are more fashionable or trendy.
MC: When someone comes to you and says, “Ricardo, I need your help.” What is the first thing that you do, before you even select a piece of clothing for them?
RG: I want to know more about them. What they do for a living and what they do when they are not working. Are they conservative or more fashion forward? Since my business is all about relationships we need to get to know each other. Conversation is part of the process.
MC: So essentially you want to know more about their lifestyle.
RG: Yes, for instance, I ask them if they are married or single, and how they like to spend their time. Are they socially active and attend a lot of functions. Do they go to the Polo matches or the opera and who are they going with. Perhaps they have multiple homes and dress differently in different environments. I just want to know more about the individual.
MC: And once you gather all that information, what happens next?
RG: Generally, there are two kinds of clients that walk through my door: the ones that know exactly what they want and those that want me to help them decide how to present themselves. So, I have men who come in and say, “I am looking for this.” Some even come with photographs and say, “I saw this and that’s the look that I am going for.” And others come in and say, “Well, I’m not sure what I want, but I want to be conservative.”
MC: And then they rely on you to steer them in the right direction…
RG: Right, like in the selection of fabrics, the different designs and the pairings of shirts, ties and other accessories. If the relationship really develops my guidance may go beyond one outfit to an entire wardrobe.
MC: Who would you consider to be the easiest of clients? The one who brings you the photo or the one who doesn’t quite have a clue as to what they want or what their style really is?
RG: Well, it’s always easier to deal with someone who knows exactly what they like and what they want, because then you’re matching their expectations. When you are introducing someone to a new style or fit there is the potential for a slow adjustment to something new and different than what they may be accustomed to.
MC: Have you ever had a client who comes to you with a photo or an idea of what they think is best for them, and after you talk to them you realize that that particular look would not be good for them? How do you connect with that client?
RG: Sure, I have. And if I’m going to have a relationship with someone, honesty has to be part of that relationship. And if I feel that the color, style, pattern, or whatever they’re going for is inappropriate, it’s not in step with what is traditional or acceptable, then I’d share that with them. But in the end, I deliver what the client wants.
MC: What’s your background?
RG: Professionally, I have worked for large corporations and small companies. I have been an executive and have owned my own businesses. Most of my career has been in the financial markets including insurance, stock market and investment banking. A few years back I was looking for another business to start and stumbled on the opportunity to partner with a well- known Italian fashion brand. The plan was to be their North American representative but for a few good reasons that agreement was never consummated. But in the process I recognized my passion for fashion and decided to re-invent myself. Almost, five years later I find myself still enjoying giving my clients the experience that I longed for when I was in their shoes.
MC: And have you always lived here in West Palm Beach?
RG: I’m a Cuban born Irishman. Father, Irish; mother, Cuban. They met and married in New York City. My father had to be out of the country on business, so my mom went back to be with her family in Cuba, and I was consequently born there. I have four brothers: two Brazilian, one Bahamian, and one Peruvian. All from the same parents. We just grew up in all those places. I moved to the United States in 1967, to Columbus, Indiana, which happened to be the home base for my father’s
company. I went to high school and college in Indiana and moved to Florida in 1979.
MC: And since this town has grown exponentially, most especially the downtown area. What are your thoughts on the business climate in downtown WPB, as it relates to your business?
RG: Well, as you stated, it has changed quite a bit. I consider myself fortunate to be in an area that offers tremendous living and working environment and opportunities. West Palm Beach continues to develop and realize its full potential. And I believe I, like others, will continue to benefit from that.
MC: For sure, Downtown West Palm Beach is evolving, and rightfully so. This is a fabulous area. You are steps from the intracoastal, a ten-minute drive to Palm Beach International Airport, not to mention a short drive from the ocean and Palm Beach, one of the world’s most famous islands.
RG: I am very lucky to have found this spot and be located in an area where people can easily access my shop. I am in close proximity to residences and offices near downtown and have benefited from that visibility. But I am also a short drive from Wellington, Palm Beach Gardens and of course the Island. And, since I am mostly visited by gentlemen who are specifically coming to me for my unique services it is nice to be nearby.
MC: And with the proximity to Palm Beach, do you have any clients from the island?
RG: Of course, but I would love to have more.
MC: So how do you spread the word that you are here?
RG: Typically, from word of mouth. My clients tell their friends and that has led to an exponential growth. Maybe this article will also help.
MC: Where do you find your merchandise?
RG: The fabrics come from the finest mills in the world, Vitale Barberis Canonico, Scabal, Loro Piana, Dormeuil, Holland & Sherry, Thomas Mason and many others—generally from Italy and England. I also source accessories from some of the top brands such as Stefano Ricci and Italo Ferreti ties and silk pocket squares.
MC: Aside from that, I see that you have some ready to wear items.
RG: That’s right. These are products that I search out because I think that the value and appeal are there. I shop at the men’s shopping shows every year—Vegas, Chicago, New York—and educate myself as to what is new in the industry.
MC: And do they inspire you to create new styles?
RG: Well, as Oscar Wilde said, you can never be over educated or overdressed. Educating myself helps me better advise my clients. I am always trying to learn what is new and innovative. Fabrics and styles are changing all the time.
MC: Trends are great, and many of them come and go. And there’s much to be said to those timeless fashions like those pieces that can be found at your store. Which leads me to my next question. What are your thoughts about people who don’t dress appropriately, especially in the work force?
RG: I know what you mean. When I was a young working man there was an understood dress code. A well-dressed man was either successful or working towards it. “Dress for Success.” I believe that when you look good, you feel good, but more importantly, your attire reflects your work ethic and personality. For those reasons, I and my generation grew up wearing suits every day. You don’t see that much anymore. And although a suit may not be called for as often, I think that men not dressing well is a shame.
MC: And that’s unfortunate. I cringe when I see men and women in flip flops at restaurants or in a business environment. Where do you think that influence comes from?
RG: I’m not sure. I’m not fond of it. I think some people have gotten lazy about dressing. For a man to have spent a good many years educating himself and then work hard to become successful, then buy a beautiful home, a luxurious car, surround himself in a nice office space, and then show up to work in a pair of chinos and polo shirt, I think it diminishes his image. I think a guy in that position needs to take the time to put on nice clothes, and wear a tie and jacket when appropriate. And like I said earlier, you can never be over educated. It’s easy to put on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. And there are times when that’s called for. But you never get a second chance to make a first impression and you will always be better perceived if you are well dressed.
MC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
RG: At some point in a man’s life he realizes that it is a good idea to have a doctor he can count on for reliable health advice. If he is an active business man he will also determine it is prudent to have a good attorney and accountant at his disposal for sound legal and financial counseling. Likewise, every gentleman who is striving to be his best should have and value the sartorial guidance of a good clothier. This is the one professional who can help him accomplish the best looking version of himself.
Ricardo Grimes’ custom clothing store for men, offering custom suits and jackets, ready-to-wear apparel and accessories is located at 423 S Olive Ave, West Palm Beach. He can be contacted at (561) 370-3552. Visit his website Ricardocustomclothing.com for information about his services.
WPB Magazine popped into RICARDO Custom Clothing for a one-on-one time for an interview with Ricardo Grimes who has been proving a unique brand of service at his store in Downtown West Palm Beach for over five years now.