Richard Haines refers to New York City as an endless runway. The place is a wonderful inspiration for a man who moved to the Big Apple to pursue illustration, who then became a successful fashion designer before returning to where he started as one of today’s most sought after fashion illustrators.
His works regularly grace the pages of InStyle Magazine and his hugely successful website, which features both his personal and professional work, has received accolades from amongst others Paper Magazine, New York Magazine and GQ. It is not uncommon to see Haines seated front row busily drawing from life and capturing the moment in pencil and pastel on paper before posting it on his blog.
Haines’ current popularity can be traced to his successful career as a designer for J Crew, Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, Sean Combs and Bill Blass. The experience garnered at each of these fashion companies complemented and nurtured his formal training as an illustrator, helped train his eye and informs a refreshingly direct approach to figurative drawing and image making.
I want to take a look back in the early days of your career. Can you describe a moment when you decided that you wanted to become an illustrator?
That’s hard to determine as I’ve drawn all my life. I tried to make it as an illustrator when I moved to NYC in the 70’s but I wasn’t confident of my work and it was a contracting field so I gave it up for fashion design. I started my blog in 2008 and that’s when my new career took off. I’m very grateful to have the career I have now as an illustrator. Patience is a virtue!
Is there a particular person or point in time that inspired you to be a fashion illustrator?
I remember seeing fashion illustration in the New York Times as a kid and loved them. They spoke to me! And Antonio’s drawings in the 60’s were a revelation. He combined beautiful skills with the revolution taking place. They were brilliant!
There are thousands of illustrators on earth. What do you think made your work stand out to grasp the attention of iconic design houses like Dries Van Noten, Lanvin, and J.Crew? How did these projects come about?
Ha! I ask myself the same thing. I think it’s timing and making oneself available and a willingness to collaborate with others. I always think ‘how can my skills best enhance the designer. It’s not all about me!
And don’t forget Prada!
What kept you motivated to continue to pursue your passion?
The meditation of drawing.
As artists, we choose different methods to create and come up with different concepts. Can you discuss a few methods that fuel your inspiration?
I love observing the interactions of people. It’s quite beautiful. So a club, restaurant, shop. Anywhere there are people, there’s inspiration.
How do you feel about artists as it correlates with the importance of mental health? I know artist use their emotions and allow theirselves to be vulnerable to create. Is that something you do when illustrating?
My drawing is an extension of who I am. Being vulnerable is part of sharing work and exposing oneself. It’s part of what we do. And if I don’t draw on a regular basis I start getting edgy and rattled. So yeah, it’s a huge part of my mental well being.
Do you believe all art should have a message?
People have different reasons why they make art. It’s not up to me to answer for them. For me, the message is how I see the world, what I think is relevant. Interestingly enough my work has more political content since the last election. It’s been the only way to process what I find deplorable.
Should fashion reflect what’s going on in the world and when creating your artwork do you try to be somewhat politically correct?
I think art is a reflection of our world. I don’t think about what’s PC, but I do believe in what’s fair and just and respectful.
With menswear becoming more gender fluid, what are your thoughts on the state of menswear today? Is masculinity an important factor anymore?
That all depends on the definition of ‘masculinity.’ I don’t think of that word in terms of muscles or swagger. I think true masculinity is acceptance and kindness.
Having background in design, do you see yourself building your own brand in the future?
I never say never to possibilities.
Who are some of your favorite new designers that you feel have personally inspired you?
I love Dries and Raf and Prada. Not new but so powerful in their commitment to their visions. New brands I like are Lamarie, Officine Generale, Editons MR.
by Brandon Murphy