THIS IS FRESH. HE’S A LOS ANGELES BASED DESIGNER AND CUSTOM TAILOR WHO DRESSES MAINLY CELEBRITIES AND ATHLETES. FROM GROWING UP IN A SMALL TOWN TO LIVING IN A BIG CITY, FRESH HAS CREATED SUCCESSFUL BRANDS LIKE RICHFRESH AND HENRY MASK, FROM THE GROUND UP. HIS INSPIRING STORY PROVES CONFIDENCE AND DETERMINATION ALWAYS PREVAILS.
Fresh, you’re our first male muse! How would you describe who you are and what you do?
I'm a designer. I'm a tailor. I'm an entrepreneur. I design luxury tailor garments for a lot of affluent people here in the [United] States—a lot of celebrities in Hollywood. I make really comfortable, fly garments, and I’m just an all around cool guy. I'm also the co-founder of the most stylish mask brands on the market right now, Henry Mask.
You grew up between Arkansas and Tennessee. Did those cities impact your perspective on fashion and do any memories stick out from when you were growing up?
I got the fashion bug in Little Rock. I'm one of those people that can notice what's missing, as opposed to focusing on what's in abundance. Being in a place like Little Rock, you notice that no one has great style. No one looks like any of the people that you see on TV or in the magazines—why is that? My brain was always going in that direction. When I moved to Memphis, it was kind of the same thing. That was the first time I got to kind of rebrand myself as a well dressed teenager because I used to dress really bad and I saw how [my style] changed the way people treated me and dealt with me. It made me very hypersensitive to every little thing being perfect. [Memphis] kind of created the rebel me where I didn't really care what anyone else was doing and I [was] going to do my own thing.
When did this transition happen?
Back in middle school, when I was 13, I was tutoring a cheerleader in math. I decided to talk to her about girls like, you need to know math, I need to know girls. The last thing she told me was that girls like guys that dress a certain way, and [I] should dress better. So I found two fashion biographies, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein and I read both of them, and it inspired me to do more [and] to learn how to sew. I got so consumed with the idea of fashion, so I threw myself into it 100 percent. [When I] moved from Little Rock to Memphis, this voice of God came to me and [said] you get to rebrand yourself and put all that information to practice. I figured out in the car that I wanted to be like, a heartbreaker. I got to Memphis, I worked three jobs that summer, spent all my money on clothes, and I was getting my haircut twice a week. On the first day of school, I just remember I was so fresh.
When did you realize being in fashion was a career you wanted to pursue?
[During] my senior year, I helped dozens of other kids at school with their clothes or [to] dress in a certain way. I was really good with seeing what other people needed to get a certain outcome. I [was] good with colors, I understood what worked, what didn’t, and I was 18. I remember a lot of scholarship offers came in [from] really prestigious schools. I remember not wanting to do any of them, nothing excited me, because there [was] nothing fashion related, [like] the business of fashion, the merchandising of fashion, none of that. I decided that I wasn't going to take any of those scholarships, [I felt like] I owed fashion a debt of gratitude. I became exactly who I wanted to become because I figured out fashion. Since fashion did this for me, I’m going to do something for fashion.
In 2018, you founded Richfresh—what pushed to you to start the brand?
I moved to Los Angeles in 2013. I worked at the Beverly Center, with a company called Zegna. They were luxury, Italian pieces that were very expensive. I was selling $2,000 - $2500 suits, $400 shirts, $150 t-shirts—I [had] never sold anything that expensive. I'm really good at connecting with people and month after month, I was number one in sales. I was there for about a year and I quit. I wanted to go start my own thing and I dabbled in custom tailoring a little bit.
I started a brand and I called it Rich Fresh Man, because at the time, I started going by the nickname Rich—I got it tattooed on my knuckles. In Memphis, if you’re really well dressed they call you fresh, there’s nothing higher than fresh. At the time, I was only doing menswear so if you put on these clothes, you take on the embodiment of a rich, fresh man. I did that from 2014 to 2018 with very little success. I made some money, but I wasn't handling my business, I was losing customers left and right, just blowing money. I had [various] addictions, I was just in a bad spot, I was depressed. That business ended up folding in 2017 and I was homeless. I realized that I was in that position because of me. You’re only where you are because you drove yourself there, and you can drive yourself out of here when you're ready. I thought if I ever get a second chance, I would do it differently. This time I would do it luxury, only luxury. I’d be very attentive, I would have local production here in LA [and] I would have a defining characteristic. I just crafted it differently in my mind.
While I was homeless, I didn’t have [anything.] I was thinking hypothetically, what would [my brand] be? I’d call it Richfresh—I'll make it one word, for men, for women. It's like a super adjective. This is how fresh you are if you happen to be rich. Then I saw who I was supposed to be: this rock star tailor, he's got pink, funky hair, piercings, tattoos and everyone loves him. I had the real coming to God moment, [and realized] this can actually be my reality, I just have to make some changes. Like I said, I had a bunch of addictions, and was keeping myself from success. I cut all the bullsh*t out and then the world opened up for me. In February 2018, I started Richfresh.
We love the minimal branding and bright colours you use. Who is the Richfresh muse?
It's funny [because] my muse is actually my brother, Chase, unbeknownst to him. My brother was always like the “playboy” he was always the extrovert—he's a badass. He would wear whatever the f*ck he wants. I was always the more serious, older brother. [I thought] what if I had to be the rock star? That kind of became a muse for the persona of Richfresh, like the physical embodiment. I never really liked attention, and I realized to go where I needed to go with this brand I had to court attention and my brother's the master of that. So, I channeled him, building out my character and also building out the product.
Your pieces have been worn by the likes of Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade and Lena Waithe (to name a few). How does it feel to have your pieces be widely recognized within the industry?
It feels fantastic. It feels amazing. It's a dream come true. What people don't know is I'm an introvert. I stay in the house, I stay in hotels. But I've always seen my product and recognized its value. It's validation and assures me that I’m moving in the right direction, because people value the thing that you create, so you're moving in the right direction. It just gives me the confidence to just keep doing more.
How did you find a good work-life balance?
I don't have the best work-life balance. I work all the time. Which is why so much has happened in such a short period of time because all I do is work. I haven't dated for 13 years. My daughter has been in New York with her mom for the past six years, and I don't have her as much as I used to. I'm not a very social person, so I don't do all the clubbing [and events.] I would rather stay home, work and figure out some things—create something that’s never existed and put my energy into it. I've never taken a vacation so my work-life balance is sh*t. One day, I will get it balanced, but not yet.
Speaking of work, you recently started Henry Mask, a monthly mask-subscription service, which is genius. How did you come up with the idea and put it into motion so quickly?
When [the pandemic] hit, I was in LA, and everything slowed down. When I bought my factory, I inherited their staff. So, I have 15 tailors, my office manager, my operations manager—I have people that are relying on me for their well-being. What the pandemic [taught] me is I have to figure out a way to exist online. I didn't know it was going to be masks . My brother suggested that I do a mask and I told him no. Fortunately, fate intervened and we had some clothes that we needed our tailors to make, but they needed masks, and we couldn't find any. We couldn’t stop working because we couldn’t find a mask, so I made one. It went from something to do for our staff to a small source of income for us.
I used to do origami a lot when I was in high school, and I just took some paper and started folding it up to get a certain shape that would sit ergonomically on the face a certain way without that metal nose strip. I sat down on my machine, made one and looked at my brother and said: “This is it.” Our last name is Henry, so we decided to brand it that way. I decided to do it as a subscription model because the problem that we were solving wasn't that there weren't any cool masks out there—there weren't any masks. You couldn't get a mask if you wanted a mask. Why would we make a one time product when there's literally a shortage of this thing? I [also] wanted the price point to be inexpensive and accessible. Once we [launched], every single day we’ve generated business. It’s not just an aesthetic product that looks good, but it serves a purpose and helps to keep people safe.
At this point in your life, what would you consider your greatest accomplishments?
A couple different answers. I was a single parent for a long time, and it was to a little girl—Our bond is really special. I think her self development, her self esteem, her confidence in herself really fostered during that period of time [when we were together.] I'm really proud of the parent that I ended up becoming. I'm also really proud of the brand that I built Richfresh, with no money. When I left the [homeless] shelter, I probably had $100 to my name, but I had an idea to do something. I didn't get any investors, I just hustled and I built something great. I built a strong team and have been able to maintain [Richfresh] doing it the way that I chose to do it.
When do you feel the most empowered?
I feel the most empowered when [someone] challenges me. If someone says I can't do something, that's when I feel the most empowered. That's like the story of my existence. I don't really get off on people telling me what I can do. I really get off when someone tells me what I can't do. It pushes me to prove them wrong. Everything I've done has been to prove someone wrong. I want to prove my dad wrong, [because] he didn't think I'd be able to do fashion. I wanted to prove tailors wrong, who didn't think I'd be able to get rich doing tailoring. I feel the most empowered is when someone puts me in an underdog position.
Which physical attributes do you love the most?
I used to hate everything about myself. I used to think my nose was big, my lips were big. My eyes had bags around them, my ears were pointy, my hands were long. I was skinny— I hated everything. Now, I like to say I love everything. I love my hands. I've always liked my hands, and I love the tattoos on my hands. The second [attribute] is my eyes. I think there's a lot of communication in my eyes. My eyes are real genuine and they tell you if I think you're full of sh*t or if I think you’re dope. And then, I would say my hair. I’ve got really cool hair.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity from audio to text. Photos were taken via Zoom.