For Ruiz, known for his elegant confections made of French fabrics, the newly opened factory will allow him to add three additional seasons — pre-fall, holiday and resort – to his spring/summer and fall/winter collections.
Eventually he plans to expand into a full lifestyle brand ranging from ready-to-wear to accessories and home furnishings. A line of men’s shirts and tuxedos will debut within the next year. And with some operations moving to the new factory, he can add a bridal salon, full-time wedding and event planner and shoe boutique to his Coral Gables showroom. All are slated to open by July 1.
The Miami-Dade additions follow Ruiz’s rise on the global fashion scene. In February, he opened his first showroom in New York, which has translated into 72 new accounts in the United States and abroad, doubling the number of stores where Ruiz’s designs will be carried to 165, said Ruiz’s partner Brad Rosenblatt.
And in a major coup, retailer Neiman Marcus has placed its first order. About 200 exclusive Rene Ruiz evening gowns will be sold at select Neiman Marcus stores nationwide, including Bal Harbour, beginning in August, Rosenblatt said.
In all, Ruiz’s factory is creating 2,000 evening gowns and cocktail dresses that will be delivered to stores in next three months — four times as many as he was able to create before from his small atelier at his showroom in Coral Gables.
It’s another step for Ruiz, who first began fashioning women’s dresses more than two decades ago.
“The goal is probably to have about 300 to 400 specialty stores around the world and a variety of high- end Neiman Marcus type stores in Canada and Europe,” Rosenblatt said.
Sales for the upcoming 12 months are expected to double from the previous year, to more than $5 million, he said. The flurry of orders prompted the need to expand, hire more workers and open a factory.
So, two weeks ago, the company leased out half of Leonora Fashions’ building at 1055 E. 15th St. More than 280 candidates applied for 50 jobs in the first week. So far, they have hired 22, and expect to hire 30 more by the end of the year, to bring the total to 75 employees between the Hialeah factory and the Rene Ruiz showroom in Coral Gables.
Inside the factory, sewing machines are humming, piecing together fall 2013 fashions, which will start shipping June 1. Neiman Marcus’ orders are also underway, to ship the beginning of August.
On a recent day, everyone was busy with their assigned role in the production process. Four seamstresses are now dedicated to just making the bustiers that invisibly underpin every Rene Ruiz dress — up from one seamstress in the former atelier. Other seamstresses drape fabrics or sew lace as hand finishers apply crystals and beads.
“We think it’s very important, said Fuertes of the Beacon Council, of Ruiz’s new factory. “It’s indicative of the strength of Miami’s position for design, and I think Rene really embraces that. He is committed to manufacturing and producing everything here locally.”