“That I can still fall in love…”. Former New York Fashion Designer and esteemed Fashion Illustrator, Richard Haines, shares an insight into his youth, why his daughter inspires him and what he would write on the back of a toilet door.
YOUTH and ROLEMODELS
How would you describe your upbringing. Did you have a role model growing up?
I was born in 1951 – had a very typical upbringing. Actually not typical, but very 50’s. My father was a military officer, my mother stayed home and raised me and my brother. Looking back it was very stable but stifling. Even at 5 I felt constrained and had a sense of not belonging. There were no role models until I discovered art – Matisse, Lautrec and later Warhol became my beacons and role models.
What was your relationship with queer culture as an adolscent?
There was no queer culture when I was an adolescent! I would find books by artists like Aubrey Beardsley so I knew there were other people who felt the way I did, but they were very private, subconscious feelings. The only time homosexuality was mentioned culturally was a minor character in a movie who eventually committed suicide, was a drunk, or killed off by rough trade.
It wasn’t until the late 60s and early 70s and when the Gay rights movement started that queer culture became accessible and public. And the shame and isolation started to lift.
Before coming out you were married to a woman, do you remember the first moment that you acknowledged that you were attracted to men?
I’ve always been attracted to men. I vividly remember standing in line in a museum when I was about 12 and seeing a guy and having this rush of feelings. It was so strong – but I didn’t know what to do with it. But it was very deep, natural. Intense.
What advice would you give to your adolescent self?
To trust my instincts. I think we really have a sense of what’s best for us, it’s just that years of people telling us not to trust them has mucked up our sense of self. So now I do the work to bet back to my true self. To uncover.
Who inspires you?
Certainly my daughter. She is smart, questioning, no bullshit, and very funny. And anyone who lives their life fearlessly and goes up against traditional (straight/white/male) culture is inspiring. It’s time to move past the status quo.
“I think anyone who has platform needs to push back. What’s happening now in our government is hideous and there needs to be a collective enough.”
Where are you most creative and where do you draw inspiration for your illustrations?
Moving to Bushwick was a revelation for me. It was a kind of liberation. People on the streets here inspire me. Paris always inspires me, it’s always revealing another level of beauty. I love watching the interactions of people – in clubs, in restaurants – the need people have to be with each other. It’s very human and makes me want to draw.
How has coming out impacted your life and art?
That’s huge. I love drawing guys, it started with guys here in Bushwick – it’s a whole process where I hear their stories as I draw them and it connects me to them in a deeper level, which informs the work. My being out has allowed that, and it’s been an amazing way to document this moment in New York. There are a million ways my life is impacted by living honestly, but that’s the first that comes to mind.
What role do you think fashion plays in politics, do you think creative directors and designers need to do more?
I think anyone who has platform needs to push back. What’s happening now in our government is hideous and there needs to be a collective ‘enough.’ And everyone needs to vote to get these people out of office – everyone.
In your opinion what is the meaning of life?
To create and draw. Hopefully my work connects with people on a level that means something to them, and on a larger lever, to be of service. To be selfless…it’s taken me 66 years to get to this point.
Cardio or free weights?
I do whatever the apps tell me to do! It’s interesting that I’m in better shape now than I was 10 years ago because I track my calories and exercise on my phone. It’s a kind of accountability. And with cardio and weights, I just try to keep a balance, but I love to walk – NYC is the city for walking and looking.
“To thine own self be true.”
What have you learnt about yourself this year?
That I can still fall in love, and that I’ll never spend enough time in Paris.
Are there any young creatives that excite you for the future?
Oh god yes. I mean, that’s the point of young creatives, to excite and to look to the future! I love the way gender is being redefined, the way the ‘white straight male’ power base is being challenged. It’s actually an incredibly exciting time. Scary at times, but that goes with cultural shifts.
Goals for 2018?
Keep drawing, keep traveling, more time in Paris. More meditation, more exercise, less carbs.
Do you have any future projects that you can tell us about?
I’m working on a book – I’m working with a wonderful friend who’s also an editor, and I have an agent. The next step is the publisher…
What would you graffiti on the back of a toilet door?
‘To thine own self be true.’