Ruffeo Hearts Lil’ Snotty is what you get when you mix avant-garde silhouettes, streetwear swagger, and Japanese kawaii culture. Started by Brooklyn-based weirdo designers R. Mackswell Sherman and Sarah Jones back in 2005, the brand sits at the epicenter of a new movement in fashion that strives for ethical production and challenges notions of gender, while making it all look fun and futuristic. Their androgynous garments fit in eccentric ways—some T-shirts are dress-length, while some hoodies have an antifit-style like something out of a sci-fi movie. And the clothes are covered in geometric shapes and their own band of characters’ faces, all in vibrant Day-glo coloring.
The pair, who come from the small town of Olympia, Washington, wanted to create a line that brought together functionality and wearable art, while also practicing transparent business practices and local production. Neither of them graduated college and are self-taught when it comes to sewing and design. The first piece Sarah ever sewed was a unicorn costume for one of Mackswell’s experimental theater performances. Back in Washington, Mackswell was a rapper, known as Nameless, who performed multipersonality, feminist speed rap. He also practiced puppetry and had a love for film, which lead him to create multimedia shows. The first piece Sarah and Mackswell worked on together was for a story based on a love affair between a Hoover vacuum and a unicorn, who ends up giving birth to a Shop-Vac that gets kidnapped by Chuck E. Cheese.
In the mid 2000s, Mackswell and Sarah were active in protesting for workers' rights and fair-trade manufacturing, so when they were fed up with the lack of results, they decided to produce ethically made clothing themselves. What they came up with was RHLS, a line of well-tailored “streetwear” created to fill the void left between the experimental side of fashion and the stuff people are actually wearing on the street.
The emoticon designs that are endemic to the brand, and can be seen in Le1f’s music video for “Wut,” were born a couple of summers ago out of Mackswell’s screenplay about parallel dimensions and the Planet Z of Funness. The characters, such as Empathetic Eyes and Bitch Face, and their respective ponytail and cowboy hat tops, create a mix and match, choose-your-own-adventure type of fashion.
In order to expand their brand, Mackswell and Sarah moved to New York City, where they opened MOVES—a concept store dedicated to brands with transparent business practices—linked up with rappers like Le1f, and started sponsoring a bunch of other artists. I visited MOVES, which looks more like a funhouse that a boutique, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to talk shop with the up-and-coming designers.
Visit RHLS's concept store:
419 Graham Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211