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Joey Rodolfo
Seattle clothing designer Joey Rodolfo, founder of Buki. (Joey Rodolfo Photo)

Joey Rodolfo is a longtime sportswear designer, innovator, and entrepreneur who has spent years, in more ways than one, looking for the right fit.

After a career in which he worked at or launched such brands as Unionbay Sportswear, Bench Co. Ltd., Cutter & Buck, JR 1879 and Resort II, Rodolfo took the design helm at Tommy Bahama for 10 1/2 years. But he was still searching for something different, even after progressing that brand beyond just being a “Hawaiian shirt company.”

Rodolfo, who is GeekWire’s latest Geek of the Week, has just launched Buki, a Seattle-based technical sportswear brand for every day.

“I’ve been interested in fiber technology for the last 15 years,” Rodolfo said. “My interest has always been to figure out how to knit and weave fabrics in different ways. I took a special interest in what was coming out of Japan and how technology was going to really benefit how people wear clothes, specific to our American drycleaning habits and having to wash and iron everything.”

Rodolfo focused on thermoregulating properties, in which fibers are embedded into fabrics that will thermoregulate your body temperature. By mixing his own variations of fabrics with traditional materials, Rodolfo said he’s “inventing” new fabrics that form the basis for what he offers at Buki.

Buki, which has a small group of about seven people working out of a design studio in Seattle, launched a month ago and has product that it is shipping to stores. A pop-up shop also just opened at Stewart Street and Sixth Avenue in downtown Seattle “to educate people on how this technology works, the application of the technology and the comfort of it,” Rodolfo said.

Buki clothing line
(Buki Photo)

“We call it a wardrobe revolution,” Rodolfo said, of the men’s and women’s items that he thinks should live in your closet seven days a week. “I’ve been paying $100 a week to dryclean my pants and shirts and all that stuff and now all of a sudden I throw it into the washer, it comes out and I’m ready to go. It’s built for speed and comfort.”

Rodolfo said the “a-ha” moment is when people get to put a garment on and feel the softness of the frabric and the ease and comfort.

“I fly all over the world,” Rodolfo said. “My biggest gripe is, ‘What am I gonna wear to fly?’ I can’t wear a pair of sweatpants that gets really baggy in the knees, baggy in the butt. I want to wear something where I get off the plane and I can walk right into a meeting and still look ready to go.”

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Joey Rodolfo:

What do you do, and why do you do it? “I have been interested in fiber technology for years and Buki is the perfect platform to merge high end apparel with hyper-functionality. I decided to call the brand ‘Buki’ because it’s Japanese for ‘defend and protect’ which is what these fibers do for you. Our proprietary fiber technology provides a multitude of benefits such as thermoregulation, moisture- management, anti-pill, dynamic stretch & recovery — and everything is machine washable. We want to simplify our lives, and certainly our clothes should be part of that lifestyle.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? Our lives are becoming more and more influenced by technology and clothes are no exception. It is a fair expectation to expect more from your clothes. We are vastly different from any of the other claims of technical performance because our performance qualities are built in by construction of the garments, not by chemicals or dipping processes — which are prevalent in our industry. We believe we have constructed a wardrobe revolution.”

Where do you find your inspiration? I find inspiration in music. I surround myself with my favorite music, which happens to be jazz, everywhere I go, whether I’m in my car, in the office, or traveling. My favorite song right now is Greg Adams’ ‘Didn’t Want To Do It.’ In fact, I liked it so much, I bought the rights to use it in some of our Buki marketing!”

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “My iPhone. It is has everything — my schedule, email, camera, apps, and most importantly, my phone numbers for everyone. I’m big on connecting with people (around the world) via phone and so having my contacts close is an absolute necessity.”

Buki office space
(Buki Photo)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “We’ve created an open workspace to support our collaborative culture. We have about six long tables that fit together in a really modular fashion for every day working and for team meetings or we can take them down for a photo shoot. It’s been great to have such a fluid, flexible workspace to support a multitude of office activities and keeps us moving forward.”

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) “My best tip for managing everyday work and life is to prioritize and delegate. Being in the leadership position, you must prioritize — so I start each day with identifying what is most important for that day and start with a few quick wins. And it’s such a great feeling to have checkmark’s on your to-do list! Also, I have always believed in building great teams and empowering the team to make decisions and keep the ball moving.”

Mac, Windows or Linux? “Mac, definitely Mac!”

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Kirk is classic.”

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “I would definitely choose the Time Machine so I could fix up every mistake I’ve made in my life.”

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “I would invest every penny in continuing to build a digital presence for Buki.”

I once waited in line for … “I once waited in line to see Chaka Khan and it was worth every minute.”

Your role models: I have always been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. At a young age, I adopted his philosophy of “Form follows function.” This has been my mantra for as long as I can remember and it influenced my own personal mantra, “Classic is simple and simple is classic.”

Greatest game in history: “The Dodgers game one of the 1988 World Series. Kirk Gibson’s walk off home run was unparalleled.”

Best gadget ever: “I don’t know if it would really be considered a gadget, but being someone that travels a lot, I think putting wheels on a suitcase was pretty ingenius.”

First computer: “I don’t remember. But I do know that I’m a die-hard Mac fan now.”

Favorite app: “I like Zack’s because it’s a quick, convenient, easy way to keep up with the stock market.”

Favorite cause: “We support several great causes, but my personal favorite is the Boys & Girls Club because they help foster such a positive, productive space for kids to explore, learn, better themselves, and grow up.”

Most important technology of 2016: “I think the most important technology this year has been virtual reality because we are starting to see how impactful it is going to be in our everyday lives.”

Most important technology of 2018: “Because I think virtual reality is going to be the ‘next big thing’ and we have only scratched the surface, I believe this is what I would also call the most important technology of 2018.”

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “As cliche as it sounds, pursue your passion. When you do what you are passionate about, you won’t work a day in your life. And my Dad taught me to be just as kind to the doorman as the company CEO — I religiously follow this advice and it has served me well.”

Website: Joey Rodolofo

Twitter: @joeyrodolfo

LinkedIn: Joey Rodolfo

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