Photos by Marcus Ingram (@junglebrother)
Matt Rho (@rhomatt)
Location: Richmond, VA
Managing Partner & Co-owner, Shockoe Atelier
The Lost Culture stopped by Shockoe Atelier in Richmond, VA to chop it up with Matt Rho, Managing Partner and Co-owner. Matt comes from a private equity firm, and made the move to Shockoe Atelier to help with the business side of things. Located in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom, Shockoe Atelier specializes in hand-crafted denim, which Matt has a hand in designing.
Q: How did you get into fashion?
A: About three years ago, a friend of mine, Anthony Lupesco who founded Shockoe, had been at it for about a year and wanted to bring on somebody who could help him with the business side of Shockoe. We were friends and I always admired what he was doing, so I came on to do the business side of it. That was my first time working in fashion. I had always been into it and I’d always been into clothes, but never on the business side of it.
Q: What inspires your style?
A: This idea of an outlook on the world where you appreciate as beautiful things that are messy or complicated or ugly. Trying to see into things enough to see the beauty in them. Wearing clothes in a way that expresses that as a value feels right to me. When I get dressed in the morning I feel really good about what I’m putting on because it’s an expression of that belief system.
Q: How would you describe your personal style?
A: It’s denim inspired in almost every way. It starts with denim. The thing about denim is wearing a pair of jeans is all about how the jeans age and fade. That got me into this idea of how clothes age and patina over time. That steered me toward Japanese aesthetics. In Japan, Japanese aesthetics are founded on this concept of wabi-sabi, which is kind of the beauty in transient things. As things decay, how they become more beautiful as they age. I started getting into that idea of things, which got me into vintage. In vintage clothing, you can really see that effect of the years of wear on a garment. My style is a mash up of American vintage, European vintage, and Japanese all centered around this idea of denim and indigo as a foundational palette.
Q: Any style advice?
A: I always tell people you have to be really honest with yourself and dress in a way that feels right to you, but at the same time, always take a risk. If you don’t, you’re going to look like everybody else, which is fine since that’s the way 99% of people dress, but I don’t think that’s style. That’s conformity. Style is understanding who you are and what you believe in, and taking a little bit of a risk to express it.
Q: What music do you listen to?
A: I have pretty old school musical tastes. I grew up on classic rock, so I still listen to a lot of that. Then Americana – Gillian Welch – I listen to a lot of that kind of stuff, and then some of the newer, mainstream Americana type bands like Avett, Mumford, Head and the Heart here from Richmond. I love those guys. It’s pretty conventional musical tastes.
Q: Where do you shop?
A: I buy specific pieces that I look for online. When I find it at a place, I just buy it. It doesn’t matter where. I end up buying a lot of stuff from Unionmade. They always have a good selection of things, especially Kapital. Most of my clothes come from here [Shockoe Atelier]. I’m shopping out of our stock room a lot. There are a lot of vintage stores. There’s this one great couple in Japan who go on buying trips to Europe to buy European vintage. They’ll take it back to Japan, repair everything, and sell it on Etsy. I picked out this amazing 1920s Japanese firefighter’s coat. It’s so sick. It’s amazing. It’s so old and has such an interesting look to it.
Q: What are your current favorite pieces in your wardrobe?
A: My first pair of Shockoe jeans [pictured]. They’re some of the first jeans Shockoe ever made. If you look closely, the stitching is not great and the details are much better today in terms of what we’re doing, but these are special to me because it’s the first pair of Shockoe’s I ever had. As they wore down and started ripping apart, I repaired them over time. There’s probably five rounds of repair on these jeans. That’s why they’re really special to me because of all the work and love I’ve put into them. I wear them every day I possibly can. This is mostly what you’ll see me wearing on bottom. These boots [pictured] that I saved up for a year to buy. Not just saving like oh I’ll skip Starbucks today, but I actually sold a bunch of things I really loved on eBay to be able to buy these. They are Guidi 788 back zips, horse hide, black. They’re amazing because the way they make these they angle the shaft at 45 degrees. When you put your foot into it, the front scrunches up. It has this amazing look. This is a great example of buying very few things, but buying things that age really well over time. In ten years, these are going to look so much better than they do today.
Q: How long has Shockoe Atelier been around?
A: We started in October 2012. Back then it was Shockoe Denim. We were churning out jeans and trying to make the best jeans we possibly could. We got better and better over time. About two years ago, we changed the name to Shockoe Atelier to reflect this idea that we wanted to do more than jeans. We did that for a few seasons. Right now, we’re actually shrinking everything back to focus just on denim. It comes full circle.