Califonia Bountiful

It's a bountiful life: He's got it all sewn up

May/June 2020 California Bountiful magazine

Artisan's aprons combine fashion and functionality

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A former server/bartender, Alfred Ramos now makes handcrafted aprons for restaurant employees. For designs that require printed fabric, he chooses California-grown pima cotton for its superior quality. Photo: © 2020 Lori Eanes

More than a decade ago, Alfred Ramos was a server/bartender also filling time by moving boxes at a Bay Area tailoring shop. There, he began to appreciate and pursue the art of tailoring. Today, his company—Stagger Lee Goods—blends the two worlds by producing functional and eye-catching aprons. Ramos needed a day and a half to make his first apron; now, it takes just 25 minutes to cut and sew.

Your company mainly produces handmade aprons for the restaurant industry, right? I was in the service industry—bartending and serving—so most of my aprons are marketed toward the front of house. You want to make a statement if people are wearing it behind the bar or coming up to you at a table. If you're cooking in front of people, you should be wearing an extension of yourself and an extension of the restaurant.

What material do you use? Everything is sourced from Japan, Italy or the U.S. I use California pima cotton for my prints because it's a little softer, it's more pliable and it turns out better when you're doing a digital print. I've tried different canvases before and the print doesn't take to the material. Pima cotton is a bit more expensive, but the quality is there.

Is there anything different about your aprons? I think an apron has to be engineered well, and it has to function well. Then you can add color contrast and make it look cool. I put leather straps on my aprons, jean buttons on the chest and a keyhole button on the tip of the apron. You can take off the straps, wash the apron and then put the leather back on. When I bartended, I had cross-back aprons, and the apron could roll off your shoulders when you bent down. So I made a locking device in the back.

How do you approach a project? When I take on a new client, I like to get a color palette. If I can visit the restaurant, I will go and see what kind of vibe they have. That's really important.

In your work in and with restaurants, have you noticed any trends involving California-grown products or ingredients? Over my years in the industry, I saw the birth of farm-to-table in San Francisco and was part of a restaurant that only served produce grown and harvested in the Santa Cruz region. With California wines making their way into nearly every Bay Area restaurant, I remember offering guests unique options and rare vintages from wineries throughout the state. California wines hold a very special place in my heart.

Photo: © 2020 Lori Eanes

Are you influenced at all by the kind of food that people are serving or cooking? Yes, I usually like to let the client give me a breakdown. I listen to my clients and let them tell me about their concept and what they are trying to achieve. What I try do to there is make it come to life, give them options.

Is there something about your design that is more attuned to the city or California? I pay attention to a lot of different things. I like to cater to people in California in certain types of atmospheres. Like someone in a warmer atmosphere and a warmer environment—if they're doing cocktails and outdoor seating, I want to get them in something lightweight, something comfortable and something local.

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