Ever since he was in preschool, Christopher Muth has been dressing in suits and ties. “My dad wore a suit and tie to work every day, and I really wanted to be like him,” he says.
So when Muth and Ryan Klauder teamed up to create the lifestyle and fashion brand Rex Riccardi, something as suavely nostalgic as a pocket square seemed like a natural choice. “A lot of guys wear a T-shirt or polo and they throw a blazer on,” says Muth, who lives in West Chester. “I thought having a pocket square that’s a statement piece would be really cool.”
A few years later, Klauder and Muth continue to grow the business, all while juggling school. Klauder, 19, is a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, where he’s studying business. Muth, 18, is a graduating senior at Devon Prep.
Muth’s partnership with Klauder began in middle school at Devon, when both were accepted into the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. Debuting as a local chapter in 2013, YEA runs most of the school year. During that time, students create business plans, work with local entrepreneurs and pitch them for startup funding.
In the first weeks of the program, students are prompted to think about business ideas. As they brainstormed a fashion brand, Muth and Klauder realized that both of their fathers wear pocket squares. Finding the right patterns would prove key. “We talk a lot during the program about using your contacts in the community,” says YEA executive director Ellen Fisher. “It just so happened that Chris had a relationship with Super Bowl champion Garo Yepremian.”
Yepremian was living in Media when he lost his battle with neuroendocrine cancer at age 70. A childhood cancer survivor, Muth knew the former NFL placekicker through his father. Yepremian was also a painter, something Muth also picked up. Battling a common foe, the two had crossed paths over the years.
Muth approached Yepremian’s wife and son to see if they could use some of his paintings as patterns for their first two designs: the Rex—a colorful display of reds, teals, yellows, greens and blues—and the Riccardi—a darker square dominated by blues and blacks.
Rex Riccardi is the Latin translation of England’s King Richard II. “He was the one who started wearing [pocket squares] in his coats as kind of a fashion piece,” says Klauder.
It’s important to Klauder and Muth to have a philanthropic aspect to their business, so they donate 10 percent of each sale to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. It’s a trend Fisher says is becoming increasingly popular among YEA students and young entrepreneurs. “They’re very committed to doing social good,” she says.
Officially established last spring, Rex Riccardi led Klauder and Muth to victories in YEA’s local and regional competitions. They went on to become the first-ever national champions from the Philadelphia chapter. “I played lacrosse during the spring, and I actually had to miss a game to go to the national competition,” says Klauder.
Rex Riccardi continues to grow. In January, the pair launched three new pocket squares, all available on the company’s website. “We have other artwork planned for release. We were also talking about a galaxy design—Louis Vuitton did one,” says Klauder. “It would be cool to branch out into more products. But right now, we’re focused on building a strong pocket square line.”