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Monday, 15 July 2013

GarconJon meets...Richard Haines

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When I think of Richard Haines, the expression 'man amongst men' springs to mind. I Googled this to ensure my understanding of the expression was correct and Yahoo Answers confirmed 'one who has integrity, a very rare man'. Spot on.

I've been following his blog What I saw Today, illustrations of men around NYC, for about 3 years now but only met the man himself last month in Milan. Sitting around a table with Aaron from Individualism, Michael from Mr Porter and fashion writer Issac from Issac Likes, I was informed that "Richard will be joining us." Before his arrival, Issac (who also did a great interview with Mr Haines for asked if knew him - "he's an amazing illustrator" - he told me. Somehow, I instantly knew which Richard he was referring to.

Haines' illustrations are simple yet complex. They're stirring and evocative. To me, they do more than just create a representation of clothing. With a career path that's been anything but straight, I had some burning questions to ask about his history, inspirations and life.

To see the full article CLICK HERE

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Where did you grow up and where do you live now? 

I grew up all over as my father was a Commander in the Navy. Born in Panama, lived in DC, Iceland and Manhattan for about 30 years. Now Brooklyn is home.

How would you describe your job title?

I love the expression 'Flaneur' - someone who observes, strolls, watches. I guess fashion illustrator and artist is more realistic. I love those titles too.

What's your star sign? 

I'm a Libra, but I always forget the rest of the rising stuff...

What music are you listening to right now?

Right this very minute? Mac DeMarco 'Me and Jon Hanging On' on my Deerhunter stream on Last.FM

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A priest, an archeologist, a dancer like Fred Astaire, an architect, then when I realized people worked in the fashion business, something along those lines.

When did you realise you could draw?

I've drawn as long as i can remember. My father almost died when I was about 5, and that's when it really started. I retreated into a world of drawing flowers and bridal gowns, much to the dismay of my parents and the nun teachers. They were not feeling it in the least. The ability to create a private world got me through.

You used to be a designer - where did the change from design to illustration come? Was it a conscious role shift? 

I moved to New York to be an illustrator but didn't think I was that good and then everything switched to photography and I got into designing clothes, until the economy tanked in '08 and I started drawing again, in a very different way and voila here I am. Full circle. Nothing is ever that conscious with me. It's more like 'oh shit, now what do I do.'

I love to look at the sketches and plans made my great artists before they create their painted masterpiece, and I get the same feeling with your work as there's so much movement and life. I see similarity to one of my favourites, Schiele. Who's influenced your work?

Well, that's quite a compliment, thank you. When I was around 12 I somehow got a hold of a book of Lautrec's drawings and I was hooked on the movement, the beauty of what he saw, the emotion of the line-pain and love. So Lautrec, the raw emotion of Schiele and Matisse and Monet were a revelation too. They were artists a kid in suburban Virginia could access too, which was crucial. Remember there was no internet back then.

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Often I feel my best street photos occur fortuitously and you manage to capture a split-second expression so perfectly with just one line. How does this come about? Is it cerebral decision-making or something else?

Ha, good question. I'm not sure. It's really an editing process-a quick scan-what is in this figure, what's important, the shape of the head, the line of the outfit, then throw in a few details that anchor it. When I was about 10 I was looking at the New York Times and I saw a fashion illustration of the Paris Couture and it was about three lines and captured the entire thing and since that day I was obsessed. What lines are important, tell the story, what don't.

How have your past roles informed the work you do now?

Oh yeah, completely. I designed clothes for years and worked with pattern makers, so I was trained on where the seams went, the pocket placement in relation to the lapel, etc. So I think that all informed my work. And I've been obsessed with fashion and style as long as I can remember. I was pouring over Diana Vreeland's issues of Vogue in the 60's. That's enough to train anyone's eyes.

Ever since Sex & the City and 9/11, it seems the eyes of the world are consistently fixated on New York. How has NYC evolved for you? Whats exciting about the city right now? Is there anywhere else you'd like to live?

I always think the two big loves in my life are my daughter and New York City. I just adore living here, even after moving here in 19-fucking-75! I love the vitality, the pace. When I go away and come back and see the skyline I am just incredibly moved. It's a totally different place now-the opposite of the 70's-but Brooklyn is a refuge for me, and I sometimes see the city through the eyes of my daughter, and she knows she's growing up in an amazing place, which I love.

I find Brooklyn incredibly exciting-especially where I live-Bushwick. A lot of artists are attracted to the cheap studio space, and there's a real sense of a creative community here, but that like everything in New York is changing fast.

I can never get enough of Paris either, in a very different way. The pace is very different, and the sensebility, but It's a city for people, for walkers, like NYC, so sometimes I consider spending half the year there, but that's a ways away, after my daughter finishes college...

Why did you start blogging?

I started 'What I Say Today' in 2008. The economy tanked and I wasn't getting any jobs in design and I was selling art books to buy groceries which was not cute so I figured I better do something fast, and blogs were free, so I just started sketching guys in the village and scanned them and the rest is (my) history. It was incredibly exciting to post my work in an unedited way after working for big companies for so many years. I felt liberated. Broke but free!

Any thoughts about the digital age we live in? With such a successful blog you must feel an excitement around social media, but as someone who's seen the industry with & without, what are the positives and negatives?

I have no attention span. I feel like social media is revenge for the years when I had to memorize facts at school and flunked everything. I love the pace, the access of social media and of course it's been a life changer for me so I'm very grateful. The opposite side is there used to be a kind of 'underground' - no one knew about publications like 'Interview' except for a handful of people, so it felt very 'inside' but that's history and I love now, period.

Why focus on menswear?

I designed menswear for years so I'm very comfortable with it. Also when I started the blog for about a week I was trying to make it a kind of menswear 'trend report' so I could get work but then I just thought, 'fuck that, just put the drawings up and see what happens.' I also think it's an amazing time for men - the way they shop, present themselves, hold themselves. It's very, very different from when I was a kid. And I'm a gay man, so duh, i like looking at and drawing men. I mean, I am crazy about drawing a lovely couture dress but the emphasis is definitely on men and a chronicle of them.

What’s an average day like for you at the office?

Well, the office is the desk across from my bed, so the commute is brief. Like everyone else on the planet I check emails, instagram, the blog, facebook, text good morning to friends, pee at some point, make coffee and then really get real about the day. That is usually an assignment, an interview, a commission from a private client, a chat with my agent, lunch, checking out a store or coffee shop, more work, then dinner with my daughter or friends or just me. Then I obsess about why I don't have a boyfriend and call some people to complain about that. Then I watch a Japanese movie and go to sleep.

Do you have a dream client?

Every client is a dream client. That's actually the attitude I have, I'm grateful for the work and the interest and that people pay me for what I do. I've done some amazing gigs in the past few years but I don't want to name names for fear of omitting someone. How's that for a cop out?

You recently did the menswear fashion week circuit - which was your best city?

They were all amazing. I mean Pitti Uomo in Florence, Milan, Paris. I know the metro in Paris better than Milan so that's less stressful but to go to all three cities and seeing so many shows was pure heaven. I'm hard pressed to go to a show and not have a great time. Then the people-at the shows, in the shows, trying to get in, everywhere. Pure theatre. Heaven.

I enjoyed seeing what you wore each day (see 1st and last images to see Richard's style) - combining a suitcase-number of items differently. It seems you've got quite a utilitarian style - how would you describe your taste in clothing?

My taste is very, very basic. I'm 61 so a lot of things just aren't going to work (i.e. sleeveless), so there's elimination of a lot of trendier stuff, which of course I wore when I was younger. My father went to work every day in a navy blue uniform and that had a tremendous impact on me. I really like to stick to great cuts and good fabric. ACNE and APC jeans, oxford shirt with a nice cut, a few jackets, and then kind of kick it up with the shoes - Prada or Stubbs & Wootton. Every summer I buy a great color pair of pants at J Crew. Last year french blue, this year bright yellow - they're like $65 and kick up the wardrobe. I always think I should do an article on what to wear over 40 but no one's asked and I just keep drawing!

Do you have a favourite menswear designer right now?

I love Prada, AMI, Carven, Public School. Dries van Noten and Lanvin, but they become a money issue in terms of personal wardrobe. J Crew does an amazing job. I like new brands like Damir Doma, a collection in Milan called Andrea Incontri. I wear the same thing every day. In the winter I wear the same navy blue sweater and jeans until I get a spot on the sweater, then I change to charcoal.

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What’s the most challenging thing about your job?

Believe it or not, time. There's not enough time in the day for the commercial work I do, the painting process I want to explore, my friends, shows, travel, new business opportunities, things I do for my piece of mind. And of course my daughter is first priority. She's 16 and I pretty much have to take her shopping to get her to spend time with me but when she wants to do something everything gets put on hold. Finding the time is a challenge but I call it a 'luxury' challenge. I'm grateful that people are interested in me and my work.

What do you like most about your job?

Two things: there is nothing more satisfying that putting a piece or charcoal on paper. For me it's just the most amazing thing in the world. To see a line make a shape is my survival, my meditation. Right up there is the access I have to people. It sounds corny but I just love meeting people and hearing their stories. All these amazing people I've had the opportunity to draw here in NYC, in Brooklyn, in Bushwick. The shows in Paris, Milan, Florence. It's the best. I'd like to think that that love comes through in the work.

I'm a huge fan of print publications - do you have any favourites?

The first time I saw Vogue I was about 14 and it was the beginning of the 'youth quake' so beautifully edited by Diana Vreeland. I remember exactly where I was - some drug store in suburban Virginia and I opened the magazine and there were these 'Beautiful People' and from that moment on I was hooked on the power of image via magazines. So basically you put any glossy, thick fashion magazine in front of me and I'm down - English, French, Italian, Japanese - I don't care where it's from. Let's put it this way, I'll never buy a magazine about sports.

What's on the horizon for Mr Haines?

Well, it's 2:45AM and if I don't go to bed soon, the horizon will be rising over Bushwick. I'd like to think more commissions for companies with integrity and passion, like the ones I've worked for. And more books on top of the momentum of my book for Prada. Exhibitions, clothing collections. I won't be specific but I feel good about the horizon.

Finally, leave us with some words of wisdom...

Well, at 61, I have a few. First, don't do shit because you think it will make other people happy -WRONG! I had to learn that the hard way. Be honest with yourself (and others) about your real passion. Second, treat others as you would want them to treat you. I mean it's biblical but it's a basic human tenant. Oh, and always show up with a fresh sketch book and a smile.

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