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Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

Rivay is powered by vintage cars, fine espresso, and the love of luxury men’s casualwear.

There’s an immediate sense of ease when you meet Jon Ruti, the 45-year-old founder of Rivay, a luxury menswear collection of everyday classics. We’re at G.E. Brown, across the street from Rivay’s first brick-and-mortar store, and he’s wondering if we should walk to the park for our interview. “Why not, right?” he says nonchalantly, less of a question and more of a statement. And therein lies the mindset that’s driven Rivay from the beginning. 

“I was a prosecutor at the Bronx DA’s office and then the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor (SNP),” Jon shares. He shakes his head slightly, as if he himself almost can’t believe it. “I liked it but always had the itch to create.” Jon, who’s also the artist behind Rivay’s line drawings and serves as the brand’s photographer, tells me that his mom encouraged him to attend fine arts college instead of law school, but “there was a big push for finance, law, or healthcare when I was growing up.” Two years into his SNP role, Jon quit to launch Rivay and never looked back. 

Around that time, Jon met his now wife, Katie, “on Tinder back when it was new and classy,” he laughs. Katie, who’s been sitting beside me this entire time, tells me about their first date. “He said he was launching a menswear line and I sort of rolled my eyes,” she admits. “It was pretty bad,” jokes Jon. Katie’s long brown hair is in a low, loose ponytail tucked under a navy Rivay Airways twill cap. “I’d been working in fashion as a menswear designer for well over a decade at that point,” she says, and humbly recaps her experience working for Jenna Lyons, Mickey Drexler, Todd Snyder, and Andy Dunn, to name a few. Jon notes, “It was very serendipitous that we met.”

Months later, the two moved in together. Jon focused on Rivay while Katie dominated her career as Vice President of Design for Bonobos. They kept their work and relationship separate, with Katie stepping in when Jon would struggle. “There’s only so much one person can do in a certain amount of time,” explains Katie. Jon was the creative force behind Rivay but needed someone to design, source, and help propel the brand forward, faster. The duo questioned what Rivay’s future could look like - the answer was, “pretty great.” Katie joined Rivay as Co-Founder and Head Designer, and they moved to a home outside of the city with a basement that was perfect for a design studio. “I spend more time in the basement than anywhere in the house,” quips Jon. “Honestly, I feel like we’re living the dream. It’s awesome.” 

The husband and wife team describes Rivay as an elevated take on classic military and workwear styles. The apparel is manufactured in Portugal, which is “just as good as Italy and we’re using some of the best fabric mills around the world,” says Katie. Their shared passion for craftsmanship brings the quality and refinement of tailored clothing to casual wear, focusing on fit, fabric, and construction. “Rivay guys want to look a bit rugged in a clean, put together, cool way,” says Jon. “We want casual to be about freedom, comfort, and practicality but still maintain a level of poshness.” Katie nods in agreement. “We want our customer to look natural and classic but like Jon said, still cool. It took a while to create that vibe but we finally landed on it because it's a true representation of who we are.”

Jon and Katie are a breeze to chat with. We’re having so much fun talking that we get off track a few times and have to remind ourselves that we’re having an interview. The pair is instantly likable, laid back with an air of elegance and sophistication, which is precisely the vibe of their apparel. “I love cars,” mentions Jon, whose army green 1990 Mercedes G Wagen, affectionately known as GG, is his daily driver and also trusty sidekick that sits as a massive prop at Rivay pop-up shops. It’s a genius marketing tactic (one of many up Jon’s chambray sleeves) to align the apparel brand with a lifestyle and subtly define the Rivay man. “A lot of my own interests are reflected in the collections,” Jon states. “It gives authenticity to the brand, which is important to us.” 

Rivay’s shop is a mere 200 square feet, a purposeful move to offer an intimate brand experience and the delightful opportunity to get to know its founders. “The town is having a renaissance and we want to be part of it,” says Jon, who grew up in Bedford. “We’re planning cool events and are excited to be a destination for men.” The interior, awash in a moody navy, is thoughtfully-designed and uniquely outfitted with conversation pieces. “The first thing I bought for the store was a vintage chair on ebay that we reupholstered ourselves,” says Jon. He lights up when he talks about it, which tells me that finding this first statement piece holds meaning.  “We have a really strong sense of what the store should look like, and we know what the Rivay guy is going to connect with.” The shop’s custom built wood shelves are lined with collectibles, as is the Rivay website. “When we find vintage collectives that our customers would be interested in, we add them to our inspiration boards and design around them,” explains Katie. “Then we offer the items as a compliment to the Rivay lifestyle.” From unique ashtrays to collector pins to vintage books and beyond, it’s the effortless and timeless quality that gets their creative engines revved up. “We have a deep appreciation for the stories behind people, places, and things, and an insatiable curiosity about the world around us,” muses Jon. “We try to champion that spirit in all of our designs.”

Rivay’s enthusiasm for adventure and camaraderie has made its way into the brand organically, by way of the personal “go-with-the-flow” ethos of its founders. They’re unapologetic about following their instincts, bucking the rule books and instead, doing what they know works for them. Case in point: Rivay’s male models are real guys that share similar interests with the brand. “I met Alex, one of our models, at the Pound Ridge gas station,” Jon shares. Alex had seen Katie and Jon around town, driving her 1970 Mercedes 280SL, and it was their first run-in. “He said that I had to come by his car barn right that second to see his collection. So I did.” The two became fast friends and Alex shot a campaign for Rivay shortly after, followed by a lighthearted and compelling interview for Rivay’s blog, The Rivay Dispatch. “We love the natural customer,” says Katie. 

The name Rivay comes from the French pronunciation of the word rivet, specifically those displayed prominently on the bodywork of old cars and airplanes, which Jon has always had a penchant for. The ah-ha moment happened over drinks with a friend, as most do, specifically one who’d just returned from managing the Double Ralph Lauren store in Paris. And so, Rivay was born, and just as rivets symbolize one of manufacturing’s oldest, strongest, and most beautiful construction methods, Rivay is a celebration of that same philosophy and dedication to quality. 

“Giving people an emotional connection to our brand is the most important thing because they’ll take that with them. It takes patience and a bit more time, but we value creating moments for our customers that align with who we are,” says Jon. “The result is much more satisfying and longer lasting. We want people to feel our clothes, not just the fabrics and the fit, but the inspiration and the lifestyle surrounding them.” @rivaynyc | rivaynyc.com | 633 Old Post Road, Bedford

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