Arts & Culture
The Richter Co. revitalizes downtown while unearthing fashion
Published: May 2, 2012
The Richter Co. is a new casual Americana clothing company that is not only made in the U.S. of A, but made right here in SA. Producing their lifestyle brand of men's button-down shirts in an up-and-coming area on Broadway reflects one of the company's core values: contributing to the revitalization of downtown San Antonio. The 15,000-square-foot space at 616 Broadway operated as a clothing-manufacturing outlet in the 1930s, according to Richter founder Mario Guajardo, who spent two years searching with co-founder and girlfriend Teal Thompson for just the right building. The renovation celebrates the city's past with the restoration of the original hardwood floors and salvaging of antique sewing machines and furniture. More recently the building was a warehouse for amusement machines, several of which were also left behind to become part of the present ambience, including a jukebox and a couple of AM-FM Victor radios. Even the viscose news chairs are reminiscent of another time — one best captured in my favorite period series Mad Men. According to the whimsical team's PR, the Richter building is a boutique by day that transforms into a speakeasy by night. We're told to "Imagine Maxim's in Paris meets Freeman's in New York."
The couple is already hosting interesting mixers here, including last month's "TEDx San Antonio 2012 Kickoff Mixer" to inform San Antonians about TEDx's mission of "ideas worth spreading" and start planning the October conference. More than 75 of the most awesome and influential San Antonians dedicated to revitalizing the community showed. And some of us — OK, me — had a little too much fun pretending to be hanging out in Donald Draper's 1964 Texas pied-á-terre.
But Guajardo and Thompson don't just tap into the romantic spirit of San Antonio with a sexy setting. Their classic custom-fit cotton clothing also represents old meets new. "Everything you see in our boutique and event space is reflective of our brand," says Thompson. "It is very unique, interesting, heritage Americana." The men's long sleeve button-down shirts are all about "bringing the romance back into being a gentleman and understanding the needs of a modern lifestyle: to be well put together, in a casual but stylish way." The two are also in the process of developing a women's clothing line consistent with their brand, as well as manufacturing custom-fit T-shirts.
I've been saying for years that women should get to have a T-shirt that better defines our figure, instead of a T-shirt that defines round and frumpy. And shape is exactly where Guajardo begins the design process. "Clothing is about the fit," he says, "You have to find the right fit. You can spend hours and hours trying to find the right clothing." After working for Lacoste for seven years, Guajardo found a world-class designer to help power his vision: Freddie McQueen, formerly a senior designer at Ralph Lauren, now senior designer at JC Penney Co. Due to McQueen's high profile, the two could only meet fabulously in places like New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or Chicago. "Because of her job she'll be in Beijing or Shanghai and we'll have to have a two-and-a-half-hour meeting at a magic show," says Guajardo.
But Guajardo is confident in fashion's future in San Antonio, too, and hopefully Freddie McQueen's next stop is here as well, just as Guajardo, a Mexico City native, came to hang his cowboy hat here — along with his business. "When we think about fashion, we think about Paris, but the world has changed. Fashion is about connection with the spirit. Creativity and the commitment to create something unique is an obstacle; today we forget that Levis used to manufacture here."
Alas, if there's anything we've learned lately from fashion it's that perhaps it's all about unearthing what was already here, just like the revitalization of our downtown. •
For more information, visit the Richter Co. on Facebook at facebook.com/therichterco.
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