How Two Lawyers Built One of America’s Coolest New Clothing Brands
Brick-and-mortar retail, we’re told, is an endangered species. But Res Ipsa, an eclectic clothier specializing in kilim loafers and one-of-a-kind garments made from repurposed fabrics, has been on a store-opening streak.
The doors to its New York outpost at 259 Elizabeth Street opened in March, bringing the brand’s total store count (which includes a showroom at its Marrakech atelier and a home goods shop in Aspen) to nine. It’s an impressive feat for a label that was established in 2013 to sell ties.
More from Robb Report
Casablanca and Nordstrom Just Opened a New Pop-Up Filled With Colorful Athleisure Wear
Adidas Will Sell Its Remaining Yeezy Inventory and Give the Profits to Charity
One of Sweden's Coolest Tailoring Brands Just Dropped a Summer-Ready Wardrobe
Neckwear, which the brand still offers, may feel out of place with its present off-duty aesthetic and a retail footprint that falls mostly in resort towns (its first store opened on Nantucket in 2017; locations in Aspen, Malibu, and Vail followed soon after). But ties were very relevant to co-founders Joshua Moore and Odini Gogo, who were then working as lawyers in Atlanta and searching for their ideal 3-inch-wide specimen.
After connecting with a veteran tiemaker who’d helped Ralph Lauren get his start, Res Ipsa—which took its name from the legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, Latin for “the thing speaks for itself”—was producing ties in New York’s Garment District and selling them to Atlanta-area retailers. But a funny thing happened on the way to becoming a neckwear brand.
During a visit to Istanbul, Moore and Gogo made a chance connection to a family-owned workshop that used antique kilim rugs to manufacture shoes, dopp kits, and weekender bags. These accessories, which the duo snapped up to support the tie business, were soon outselling it and getting requests from retailers throughout the Southeast.
Res Ipsa’s product line snowballed from there, aided by the globe-trotting itinerary of its founders, whose frequent travels saw them scooping up deadstock textiles ranging from Amish quilts to African wax fabric, and eventually establishing that atelier of their own in Morocco. It is there—and occasionally in a partner factory in Los Angeles—that Res Ipsa produces kimonos, belted cactus jackets, work shirts, and other pieces of Bohemian garb from this global grab-bag of personally sourced, and often vintage, fabrics (an exception to the rule is Res Ipsa’s American flag Cowichan sweater, an evergreen item knit by indigenous artisans in British Columbia).
Thanks to this emphasis, many of Res Ipsa’s garments enjoy one-of-one status, as well as a more transcendental quality. “We believe that inanimate objects can have soul,” Moore tells Robb Report. “Things that are made with love, made with care, made from vintage material have a soul to them, a quality that can’t just be replicated by mass-produced goods.”
As a result, just a fraction of Res Ipsa’s output ends up on its online store, giving the retailer’s physical locations a greater sense of purpose. “We’re physical beings, so we need to be able to feel things, touch things,” Moore says. “You’ll never be able to ascertain the quality of something from a photo online, and so our store experience is much more robust than our online experience.”
The inventory of each store also varies based on stylistic preferences and local climate: crochet shorts proved to be a big hit in Malibu, whereas Aspen is more likely to stock heavy, handwoven coats. The star of the New York store has been vintage Levi’s 501s that were repaired with upcycled fabrics and hand-painted with Americana motifs ranging from football players to rodeo stars.
The wanderlust that’s guided Moore and Gogo thus far shows no signs of slowing down. In the near future, the two have plans to establish additional stores in Houston, London, and Paris, with ambitions to one day open a Res Ipsa hotel in Morocco where guests live among—and buy—the furnishings.
“We put stores in places that we like,” Moore says. “We always look forward to going to the place that is next, and it keeps the magic going for us.”
Best of Robb Report
The 10 Most Expensive Watches Sold at Auction in the 21st Century (So Far)
Sign up for Robb Report's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.