Rick Soto is the first to admit that there were drawbacks to running a menswear boutique out of a renovated food truck. “A lot of people came looking for tacos,” he recalls with a laugh.
After discovering a passion for fashion at a young age, Soto began working to build his own clothing brand, first through a necktie company that he ran part-time while working other full-time jobs, and then with the 125-square-foot truck that served as his mobile suit shop.
Despite the shortage of space, Soto, who did fittings, took appointments and sold suits from inside his Austin truck for nearly five years and was able to amass an impressive client list, including Vince Young, Brian Orakpo, and Zachary Levi, all of whom visited and were fitted in the retrofitted vehicle. “I know it wasn’t always the most comfortable situation,” Soto says, “but everyone liked the novelty of it and it was a good way for me to get started.”
Soto’s grinding paid off. These days he is known as one of Austin’s stylists to the stars, dressing a long client list of sports figures, including Emmanuel Acho, Terry Bradshaw, and Clint Dempsey, for events such as red carpets and draft days across the country. His main advice when it comes to style? “I can sit here and tell people the traditional rules, but at the end of the day, if you don’t feel good, don’t do it.”
Growing up in Victoria, Soto says he always loved drawing and dressing well. “In high school I had this silver suit with a white pinstripe, and it was just so big and so baggy but I thought I looked good,” Soto says, laughing. “Nobody could tell me anything.”
Soto says he honed his talent for “mixing and matching different things” while working retail jobs at K&G Fashion Superstore and Jos. A. Bank while attending college at the University of Texas at Austin. After graduating from UT with an advertising degree in 2008, he spent several years working advertising jobs in New York and Dallas before returning to Austin in 2011.
“I loved how Austin supported local businesses, and I liked how it wasn’t too big or too small,” Soto says. “I think I would have gotten swallowed up in Houston or Dallas. I like to say I was a bigger fish in a small pond here. And I just love it here.”
In 2013, Soto started his necktie business on the side of his day job in pharmaceutical sales. When the drug Soto was selling lost its patent three years later, Soto took his severance package and used it to purchase the truck that would become his 125-square-foot mobile store. After five months of renovating the truck with the help of his dad, whom Soto calls a “jack-of-all-trades,” Soto officially opened Soto & Co. in May 2016.
“I think any parent is nervous for their child to take this type of leap without any financial support,” Soto says. “My dad was like, ‘How much are you selling these suits for?’ Back then it was like six hundred dollars. He’s like, ‘Man, nobody’s gonna spend six hundred on a suit out of a truck.’ And I was like, ‘Just wait.’ ”
In addition to walk-in clientele, Soto began working with sports figures—many of whom had to duck through the doorway of his mobile shop—thanks to referrals from a college friend who had become a sports agent. As Soto’s client list grew, so did his business. Among the notable college and professional football players that Soto has dressed: Bijan Robinson, Jamaal Charles, Micah Parsons, C. J. Stroud, and NFL quarterback Matt Leinart.
“Being in school during the national championship, obviously Matt Leinart and USC were the ultimate rival,” Soto says. “They’re like, ‘Do you want to do a suit for Matt Leinart?,’ and I’m like, ‘Of course.’ I’m not going to say no, but it’s so weird, because you see him through the football lens and then you meet him and he’s like the nicest guy in the world.”
Soto has also made more than one hundred suits for Acho, a former NFL and Texas Longhorns football player and current Fox sportscaster whom Soto now calls a “super close friend.”
After running Soto & Co. out of the truck for nearly five years, Soto opened his first showroom in East Austin in 2020. In the summer of 2021, he moved to his current two-thousand-square-foot showroom on Hidalgo Street, a beautifully appointed, light-filled space with retractable glass garage doors, a bar cart populated with Austin-based liquors, and walls covered with framed jerseys and sports memorabilia signed by his many celebrity clients. With the upgrades came the price increases: these days his suits start at $1,300.
“[Customers] have full rein on what they want to create,” Soto says. “They’re like, ‘Oh, I like this lining and I like this button and I like this fabric.’ You put it all together and they see it and it’s even better than what they expected. That’s the best.”
In addition to his sports clientele, Soto also frequently dresses people for events such as galas, speaking engagements, and graduation ceremonies. He says he particularly likes helping nonbinary and transgender clients find the right fit.
“When somebody comes in and they can never find anything that fits them so they have to go custom, and then they put it on and they see themselves for the first time in how they want to look, that’s always been the coolest thing,” Soto says. “They come in with insecurities, their hips are this or that, they want to cover something because it reminds them of one gender and not the other. . . . You can take that information and create something that addresses those concerns, and then they see it and they’re like, ‘Oh, man, I’ve never felt this good before.’ ”
Soto can also be frequently spotted wearing his own creations at events around town, including May’s 2023 Austin Under 40 Awards gala; he was nominated in the retail category. One of his tuxedos even played a key role in a gender reveal party he hosted for friends and family a few years ago.
“We did a blue tuxedo and a pink tuxedo, and whichever one came out, that’s how we knew if we were having a boy or a girl,” he says, adding that a friend was charged with bringing out the correct color tuxedo. “We opened it up and that’s when we knew it was a girl.”
After the reveal, Soto donned the tuxedo, which now stands as a cornerstone piece in his showroom in honor of his daughter, Santi, now two. The showroom also features a photo of and original signage from that initial Soto & Co. truck.
Soto says he has future plans to expand in El Paso and San Antonio and that he’d also like to get more involved in high fashion and women’s clothing. He is also opening a new wine bar in Austin, the RSRV, with two friends in early 2024.
He has one more goal in mind, too—dressing Austin’s own “minister of culture,” Matthew McConaughey. So much so that there is an empty frame on the wall of Soto & Co. that says “Reserved for Matthew McConaughey.”
“I’m just trying to speak it into existence,” Soto says with a laugh. “Hopefully he hears about me one day and then I can fill that frame with a picture of us.”