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Senior Starts Clothing Company

Last March, a high school entrepreneur started Ruby Laine Apparel, showcasing her original designs.

Erica Richardson, Staff Reporter
Originally published December 8th, 2020

Photo credit: J Garner PhotographyPope with some of her clothing

Photo credit: J Garner Photography

Pope with some of her clothing

Who knew that coronavirus-related boredom would blossom into an up-and-coming street style company for senior Ruby Pope? 

“I’ve always been into streetwear,” Pope said. “I wanted to start something that [hadn’t been] done before, and I love bandanas.”

  Pope was partially inspired by the recycled fashion of Frankie’s Collective, a brand that only uses secondhand fabric and clothes and “reworks” them into new pieces. She liked the colorblock design of one pair she bought and started thinking about how she could modify a pair of Ballard sweatpants she already owned.

“I spent four or five hours one day, just hand stitching four patches onto the first leg, and then the next day I did the back,” Pope said. “It was super time-consuming.”

She finished her sweatpants and loved them. Others did too.

“I showed them to a few friends and wore them out, and I got lots of compliments on them,” Pope said.

While visiting her family in Delaware, she solidified her sweatshirt design after a few rounds of trial and error with the help of her mom.

“Most of my suitcases were filled with blank sweatshirts and sweatpants, even though it was 90 degrees in Delaware,” Pope said. “We would run down to the 5 & 10 store, get some bandannas, and go back to the house.”

Pope designs new pieces in the Procreate app on her iPad, sketching out new designs and trying different colorways (an arrangement of fabrics in a collage). Once she has a design, she cuts out her bandanas, pins them to the clothes and finally sews them.

Her goal for her designs is for them to look handmade and be high-quality.

“I would post the new sweatshirt on my private story and people would slide up and say, ‘Oh, I love that,’ and then I kinda got the idea to just start building this brand,” Pope said.

Her business idea really took off once her clothes were photographed by a professional photographer and modeled by her friends. Pope got a variety of shots both in the studio and on the street for her brand’s instagram (@rubylaineapparel).

“It was super fun to see everyone in my clothes and see things start to happen in a fun and happy environment,” Pope said.

Her publicist is helping get her clothes into big cities like Los Angeles and New York City. In the future, Ruby Laine Apparel may open a pop-up shop that could have the option of Pope designing custom pieces in store, but for now, her next step is an upcoming drop.

“I’m excited to see how this drop goes,” Pope said. “I haven’t done a big drop like this [before].”

Late November, her brand released 500 pieces, including 100 garments from her “Social Justice” line. Half of the proceeds from this line will be split between and donated to the Justice for Girls Coalition of Washington State and Nomad Boxing Club.

Justice for Girls represents disadvantaged girls in the criminal justice system and aims to increase opportunity for those on probation for truancy or in poverty. 

“There doesn’t need to be as many people in [the criminal justice] system as there are. [Justice for Girls] is working toward changing that,” Pope said.

Nomad Boxing Club teaches self-defense and empowerment work from the public parks of Seattle and is “dedicated to inspiring and motivating its members to succeed,” according to the club’s website. 

Nomad Boxing Club rotates their practices in around different outdoor parks, hence the “nomad” part of their name.

“We want to support [the boxing club] because it’s getting colder outside where they practice,” Pope said. “They need money to support [their program].”

In addition to supporting local Washington organizations, Pope pays homage to her city through the names of her sweatshirts and pants.

“You know that Pink Elephant Carwash? I’m naming the pink sweatshirt ‘Denny Pink’ because [the carwash] is on Denny way,” Pope said. “People probably won’t understand it at first, but [on the website] I’ll have a little description of what the [color] reminded me of.”

Along with “Denny Pink,” she also has “Space Gray,” for the Space Needle, and “Theo Brown,” after Theo Chocolate.

Along with her unique names, Pope is also currently in the process of getting a patent for her designs so her company can grow without the threat of someone copying her garments.

“At first I was really worried about [plagiarism],” Pope said. “But once I get this patent, people can get in trouble for copying my designs.”

Along with the process for getting her patent, Pope is also balancing her academic life. One of the main challenges with being a teenage entrepreneur are the limitations of school.

“School is putting a lot on me right now,” Pope said. “I already had to drop a class because I can’t do everything.”

While Pope is working to balance Running Start and her business, it gives her options after she graduates.

“I am happy that I have a plan for after high school that I’m excited about and my parents are excited about,” Pope said. “I want to build this brand as big as I can.”

Pope may apply to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in California to refine her business strategy and management.

“If I were to go to college, I would want to build my brand,” Pope said. 

Pope was considering the Institute’s Apparel Industry Management major as a potential option after high school.

“Basically, [Apparel Industry Management] would be what I’m doing right now [for her brand],” Pope said. “Which made me think, why would I go and pay thousands of dollars to do what I’m doing now.”

Another way Pope plans to improve her business is by locking down her sweatpant design.

“We’re having a tough time finding a good sweatpants style that [is] good quality, have pockets, and have different colors,” Pope said. “It’s been a trial and error, the sweatpants are so much more expensive and hard to find.”

Eventually, Pope wants to have factories making her ideal sweatpant design, similar to cargo sweatpants.

“I want to get to the point where I can pick out a good-quality material and get it made in the style that I want with pockets,” Pope said.

Pope plans to expand her line to include plus sizing in the near future.

“I really want to incorporate plus sizing into RLA,” Pope said. “We will definitely do that, we just have to figure out a good sweatpant source [first].”

Ruby Pope used her extra time in quarantine to become an entrepreneur with the COVID-19 lockdown barely fazing her business.

“We’d probably be working with more people face to face if it wasn’t for Corona, but I seriously wouldn’t have this idea if I wasn’t sitting in my room bored as shit for however many days until that idea came,” Pope said.

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Senior Starts Clothing Company