Through the imagery of “combining men’s daily street style with original illustration,” fashion designer Richard Haines’ blog “What I Saw Today” is an addictive read. Haines’ career spans working as a designer for Calvin Klein, Bill Blass, Perry Ellis and Sean Combs to currently illustrating for In Style magazine and J Crew.
PINK: You have been penned “The Drawtorialist” because of your work and following on “What I Saw Today.” Tell us about your blog and your fashion illustration work. When and why did you start blogging?
I started the blog about two and a half years ago. My career was in fashion design-menswear, and I was looking for freelance work. I figured if I started a blog, it would be another way to market myself. And I have always loved watching New Yorkers–it’s my favorite past time. So the furthest thing from my mind was the blog as an illustration vehicle but it took off immediately; the whole thing has been pretty amazing. After working for so many large companies, and being so edited, it was an incredibly liberating experience to directly put my work out into the ‘universe’–it was very empowering. I still feel the same way!
PINK: “A Visual Record of Cool Stuff Guys Wear…And Other Things That Inspire Me” is at the top of your blog. What inspires you these days?
I’m usually pretty consistent in what I find inspiring. It’s a guy who puts himself together in an interesting way. It’s not necessarily about fashion and clothing. I love watching guys with style–the way he wears a hat, the way he stands–it’s much more about attitude and swagger. I’m inspired almost anyplace: on the train, at a party, a coffee shop; there’s usually at least one guy who’s put himself together well and I know will be fun to draw.
PINK: Is your style of illustrating similar to when you sketched designs while working for Bill Blass and Perry Ellis?
Yes and no. It’s developed over time, and working at fashion companies, a drawing is usually meant to convey specific information to a pattern maker, or done as a merchandising tool in the development of a collection. My sketching at those companies was fast and furious. There was no time to really sit down and do a sketch with color. Now I really sketch to convey more of an attitude, or a gesture. I have the ability to include a detail like a pocket or a pleat, but it doesn’t have to be so technically correct.
PINK: Where do you find and what catches your eye to draw your subjects?
I can spot someone interesting in any part of New York, but right now the interesting parts of the city are Bushwick (where I live), Williamsburg, the Greenpoint, and the lower east side. I moved to Brooklyn about two years ago, and the ideas and art are happening here, and for me this is where people are putting themselves together in really interesting ways.
PINK: What do you say when asking someone if you can draw him? Are most receptive?
New Yorkers love attention and they love to feel special. I’ve had one person out of hundreds say that he wasn’t interested in being drawn. Everyone else is flattered by the idea and immediately strikes a pose–it’s pretty amazing. But I always ask if I can take a picture or sketch them on the spot. I have a whole routine where I quickly explain what I do and as I’m talking, I hand them a card with my name and a link to the blog–just so they know I’m not a stalker!
PINK: You must meet many interesting men this way.
I was sketching one night and I realized I’ve made a career out of sketching hot, well put-together guys. I mean I find that pretty incredible. And most guys are great to talk to. The people who have come to my studio for a sitting are all interesting, bright guys. One of the best perks of the job is just getting to meet so many incredible guys. Not a bad gig at all!
PINK: This past summer, I attended an exhibition of your erotic drawings that was hosted by fashion designer John Bartlett. How different is it to illustrate someone in the nude to someone dressed?
Well, aside from things kind of unexpectedly “arising” when drawing a nude guy, I like to maintain a pretty clear boundary between the subject and me. The guys come to my studio and make themselves totally vulnerable by being nude; I respect and appreciate that, and want to maintain that. When I first started sketching nudes for the show, I wasn’t prepared for how hard (no put intended) it is drawing guys naked. In the same way one wears clothes to hide flaws, the same is for drawing. I realized I couldn’t hide a mistake with a pocket detail or shirt pattern. And for some reason I was drawing the genitals to be much larger than they really are! It took me a while to get comfortable with the whole package!
PINK: You had a busy New York Fashion Week (NYFW) in September, can you tell us some of the exciting things that went on?
In September, I really made an effort to go to as many shows as possible. I love everything about them, except trying to get in. The lines of people waiting to get in are just as interesting as the shows themselves, and the few times I got backstage to sketch models prepping was the best! And things just keep unfolding. I had a SRO [standing room only] ticket to Narciso Rodriguez’s show, and saw a magazine editor friend who got me a seat in the third row. Then she took me backstage and introduced me to the guy doing the hair. He said he could get me into the Jeremy Scott show, so the next day I was sketching the models getting their hair and makeup done. As I was doing that, I ran into Kanye West, who had done a story about my blog the year before. We chatted and he invited me to a screening that night. So I went from standing room only to sketching Jay-Z and Beyonce in about 24 hours. That’s what I love about New York; you never know where something will take you.
PINK: What are your plans for the upcoming NYFW in February?
I’m sketching for the New York Times T Magazine’s online site. I’m sketching the European collections, as well as covering the New York shows, so I’m really psyched about that – it’s kind of a dream come true!
PINK: What is next for Richard Haines in 2011?
I just signed with one of the top agencies here, Jed Root, so I’m super excited about that. They are real pros and I’m excited about working with them on expanding my work and discovering new venues for it. I also would love to see a ‘What I Saw Today’ book and animation develop this year.
For more information visit Richard’s blog: http://designerman-whatisawtoday.blogspot.com/