It’s been a typical workday for Ricardo Perez, owner and Creative Director of custom suiting and tailoring company the Dapper Club. He’s had a schedule packed with client consultations, fittings, working lunches, phone calls and coffee runs. When we sit down at 7 p.m. on a Friday inside the Wicker Park showroom space Perez’s company and Marc Nolan share, his workday is still far from over.
Since founding the Dapper Club in 2014, Perez has housed his company in multiple locations, grown his brand organically, gained a social media following, and made countless articles of custom clothing for both men and women. He’s seen failures, but his successes have far outweighed them. His passion for custom clothing has endured and so has his dedication to a business model that prizes customer experience, individuality and expression – a business like the Dapper Club.
“Custom clothing is better quality, better fitted, and better suited for different personalities, body types and tastes,” Perez said. “With Dapper Club, men can have quality clothing unique to them, and it provides a different shopping experience.”
Perez said it was his mother who first instilled a love of fashion in him; she stressed the importance of being well-dressed and presenting one’s best self to the world. When he started working as a personal stylist, Perez became frustrated with the ready-to-wear clothes he was providing his clients – the fit, the fabric quality, and the mass production thus the unoriginality. This dissatisfaction started him off on the path to custom clothing.
Perez has also largely been influenced by his time in the military and his love of music. After studying classical and jazz music, Perez idolized musicians like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Louis Armstrong – and of course, began to idolize their dapper wardrobes. Then Perez enlisted in the Marine Corps where he was struck by the precision tailoring required of all uniforms – so much so that it still influences his tailoring practices today.
Perez said that once he realized he had an eye for fashion – knew how to put outfits together, how to coordinate colors, and how to mix and match – he knew he wanted to help other men learn those skills too. In combining his passions, the Dapper Club was born.
But more than a love of music, a military background and a general interest in fashion motivate Perez; there’s a certain sense of duty and drive he exhibits through the Dapper Club. When asked what else could have fostered his passion and his resolve to dedicate his life and career to fashion, Perez paused, then said that his Mexican heritage drives a deeper desire to serve and inspire the Latinx community.
“I wanted to empower Latinos,” Perez said. “The public has a certain negative perception of how Latinos look or are, and I wanted to change that perception.”
In striving to change the look – literally – of his community to one of professionalism and success, Perez said he focuses on education during consultations with Latinx clients – how to properly wear suits, what colors or patterns to combine, what colors look best on their body type – so they have those tools for life.
Perez doesn’t just talk the talk either – his daily dress is representative of the fashion advice he espouses to clients and it’s indicative of someone who truly loves fashion and has adopted the dapper lifestyle he so admires.
On the day of our interview, Perez wore a custom white button-down and burgundy slacks, a silk scarf and a pair of Marc Nolan loafers. Perez’s daily uniform is much like the Milwaukee Avenue showroom we sit in: a perfect marriage of the Dapper Club and Marc Nolan.
Perez has been buying shoes from Marc Nolan owner and founder Sebastian Malczewski since he was in high school and the two developed a rapport throughout those years of patronage. When Perez launched the Dapper Club, Malczewski began displaying his suits in his store and Perez did the same for Malczewski by displaying Marc Nolan shoes in his showroom at the time, a studio loft space in Bridgeport. Perez later set up a pop-up shop at Marc Nolan and began doing consultations there as well.
It became clear that housing their businesses under one roof was lucrative for not only the Dapper Club and Marc Nolan, but for customers and clients as well – their businesses combined into essentially a menswear one-stop shop. Perez moved his entire operation over to Malczewski’s storefront in Wicker Park and began sharing the business. Soon after, the two moved into a larger location on Milwaukee Avenue to continue their partnership.
Being a young entrepreneur is no easy task. Perez’s youth – just 27 years old – makes his success that much more impressive, while his persona is that of someone with decades of experience in his field versus mere years. Through owning his company, Perez has had to strike a balance between big picture goals and minute details that keep a business afloat.
“As a small business, if you want to execute correctly on all levels, you have to focus on prospecting clients, managing employees, doing quality checks of products, putting marketing plans together, executing those marketing plans, dealing with finances, and doing your best to service and cater to your current clients, all while trying to have a personal life,” Perez said.
Juggling the daily stresses that come with owning a small business and managing a team is a daunting task, but Perez is seemingly undeterred by these challenges. And he’s certainly hungry for even more success.
From its Chicago headquarters, the Dapper Club currently serves clients around the U.S., though Perez said his long-term goal is for the company to develop an international client base and to become one of the leading custom clothiers in the world. And while he may be young, his goals are free of naivety. He said he’s learned that in order to succeed, it’s important to do a lot of research, dedicate yourself to your craft, ask for a lot of advice, find a mentor in your industry, and of course to work really hard.
Perez claims, “Grind in your 20s so you can enjoy your 30s,” as the best piece of advice he’s ever received. So after all this grinding, how does he plan to enjoy himself?
“On the beach somewhere with a margarita,” Perez said.
No doubt he’ll be dapperly dressed there too.
Written by Hannah Swank
Photos provided by Ricardo Perez
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