Life & Business: Reuben Reuel

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“Live to create, create to live,” are words that Brooklyn designer Reuben Reuel lives by. From the heart of New York’s Garment District, he designs and manufactures statement womenswear garments that blend vintage flair with new classic — which have time and time again been spotted on stars such as Beyoncé.

Since launching Demestiks New York in 2012, Reuben’s collections have been featured in numerous publications from style.com and Elle Décor, to Lucky, Fashionbomb Daily and the Huffington Post, to name a few. Today, Reuben’s joining us to share more about how he got started in fashion, how getting fired was one of the best things to ever happen to him, and how fear makes for a great passenger. –Sabrina

Why did you decide to start your own business, versus work for someone else?

I always knew that I had a voice in the fashion world, but didn’t know exactly when the right time would come to “speak” on my own. Being let go from a job in 2012 was the push that I needed. I knew then it was time for me to share my gift with the world and not hide anymore. I wanted to try a different approach to fashion, which was selling made-to-order and selling direct to customers worldwide through an online platform.

Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was, and how did you know it was what you wanted to do?

As a child I [had] always been interested in fashion and clothing design. In high school I had the opportunity to attend a vocational school for fashion design and it was there that I knew this would be my profession as an adult.

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What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?

“Trust God.”

What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

The most difficult part of starting my business was not knowing what was to come. It was a pure act of faith. However, I have learned to let fear ride along with me through the process; I just don’t let fear drive. There are a lot of things I still don’t know even after being in business for almost four years. Learning as I go can be great because I am able to reimagine and create new ways of doing business.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

The biggest lesson I have learned in business is to scale at your own pace and measure success at your own pace. Success is not necessarily measured in money, it comes in many different forms. I have learned that forging my own way through the fashion industry at a slower pace has been more rewarding than anything; to have other people be inspired by my business model has also been rewarding.

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Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences that you learned from or that helped you improve your business or the way you work?

There have been times when listening to other people versus listening to my heart has caused some failure. Failure will happen, and I had to accept that every day in business is not always good. But the failure helped me to create standards in certain parts of my business so I don’t overthink or burn out. I had to examine myself and face some things that I had been [ignoring]. THAT was hard, but in the end well worth it.

If you were magically given three more hours per day, what would you do with them?

If I were magically given three more hours per day I would probably use them to sleep or work… more so sleep :)

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What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?

In the beginning stages of starting my business, the biggest sacrifice I made was not sleeping and not giving myself a lot of free time. I worked long days as I was the only one at the time doing everything to produce each order. From processing the order, buying fabric, cutting, sewing, shipping, emailing customers, designing collections, styling the shoots, etc, etc. I was a one-man show. But as the business has grown, I have been able to work with local manufacturers to [sew] the order and I also have a part-time production assistant. It didn’t happen overnight, but in the end it was all worth it.

Can you name your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your business experiences?

What I am most proud of in my business experience is being able to live off of my creativity. This business has taken care of my needs and some of my wants for the past three years, and when I ponder on where I’ve started it’s quite amazing to witness the growth.

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What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?

I would definitely recommend Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Your Money Or Your Life by Joe Dominguez.

Has failing at something or quitting ever led to success for you? Walk us through that.

Yes. After I got let go from my job, I didn’t immediately start my own business. I was working for another company for two weeks and it was dreadful going to work. There were mornings when I cried going to work because I just couldn’t get a grasp of the task given to me. I sadly told my boss that I didn’t think I was the right fit, but [I was] extremely relieved because at that moment, I knew I had another plan in the works that I felt would work — and it did. A lot of times we hold ourselves back from our destiny based on fear. Failure might come, but you can’t fail if you don’t try.

In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?

The top three things someone should consider before starting their own business are purpose, core values, and vision. They should ask themselves, aside from money or popularity, what is the motivation behind doing what they do?

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What’s the first app, website or thing you open/do in the morning?

No doubt, Instagram.

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious? 

The hardest thing about being my own boss is just that: I am the boss, haha! There is a misconception that it is easy because you have all of this free time to do whatever; it is the complete opposite. But in hindsight I have so many responsibilities from a business and personal aspect. I have to make sure that this ship doesn’t sink. It’s not all bad, though, I just have to be accountable for so many things, good and bad.

  1. T says:

    SO happy to see Reuben Reuel and his work featured here! I just received one of his skirts. Based on the number of compliments I received when I wore it, it will not be my last purchase from him. I feel and look amazing in it.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Thanks, T!

      You can check out our earlier post with him from 2013, too! http://www.designsponge.com/2013/02/interview-reuben-reuel-of-demestiks-new-york.html

      He and I are from the same home town :)

      Grace

  2. Amber says:

    “However, I have learned to let fear ride along with me through the process; I just don’t let fear drive. ”

    It made me happy to read this. Fear is a normal part of living life and it’s encouraging to see people have a healthy relationship with it.

    This was a great interview!

  3. It’s refreshing to hear how tough it can be to have a creative career. Also, he’s absolutely right about Big Magic being a great resource. I finished it recently and it was just what I needed to kick my ass back into gear.

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