August is officially National Black Business Month and PAPER is showing love to some of our favorite Black-owned businesses throughout the entire month. Our dedicated series, Booked x Busy, is all about shining a light on the entrepreneurs and brands that embody Black excellence.
Black creatives have long set the bar for what's new and next in fashion. Flip through the glossy pages of any James Van Der Zee book, research the often-forgotten history of James Daugherty or dig through the crates of Dapper Dan's legacy and you'll see that Black fashion continues to stand the test of time.
One name sure to join the ranks of these legends is Patrick Henry, better known as Fresh.
Meet Fresh for the first time and he's what you'd imagine Prince may have been had he ventured into fashion design instead of music. Yeah, Fresh is that guy.
A bespoke tailor for top A-list celebrities, Fresh sits at the helm of designer label Richfresh, which has become known for its beautifully vibrant color-blocking and impeccable fit. From custom suits and jackets to tracksuits and accessories, the LA-based luxury line has been seen time and time again on Lena Waithe, The Weeknd, Dwayne and Zaya Wade, A$AP Rocky, John Legend, Diddy and countless others.
With Fresh's laidback Southern charm (he reps Memphis, TN) to his laser-focused creative eye, his formula for success is a mixture of innate fashion sense, hard work and sheer skill.
PAPER sat down with Fresh to chop it up about his unwavering confidence as a designer, why he has the best fashion swag in the game and how he continues to bless Hollywood as the ultimate Drip God.
How did Richfresh get its start as a custom tailor and attire brand. What inspired you to start it?
I started professionally tailoring when I was 21. I moved to LA in 2013 and worked for Ermenegildo Zegna, selling luxury menswear. By the time I quit, I was number one in sales, so I felt confident that I could sell my own brand. I started selling custom suits and made a little buzz. After a series of bad turns and poor decisions, I wound up in a homeless shelter. It was there that I had the wild idea to create an independent Black luxury brand with a unique aesthetic. I decided to call it, Richfresh.
Photo courtesy of Richfresh
You've always been one to blaze their own path. What are some challenges to be a solo entrepreneur in fashion?
Seeing the future is one of the greatest challenges. Creatives often see what's next before its time. The problem exists in getting a customer base to trust your vision.
What makes you stand out is that you are very hands-on with each Richfresh piece by customizing and tailoring each by hand. It's so rare to see that nowadays. Why do you continue to do so?
I'm a rebel. When I was 22, a tailor told me that I should do something different, he told me that I'd never get rich by being a tailor. This made me want to prove him wrong. Later, someone told me to keep my production in China, that's the only way I'd make any profit. So, I decided I'd buy a factory and build it out to make all of my clothes in LA. I like to prove people wrong. Most of my decisions have been in defiance. A friend once told me that my now-iconic stripes and yellow tab was a stupid idea, that it would never work. I just had to go and prove him wrong.
You've always been bold and daring. How do you integrate your personality into your design process and each look you create?
I once had a chance encounter with Tom Ford years ago. I walked into a fabric store in LA and he was just standing there. So, I walked up to him and we actually had a nice chat. The big takeaway was that I noticed Thomas C. Ford (the man) is Tom Ford. It was just an extension of himself. He makes products that he'd actually wear and use. Well this is who I am, these are clothes I'd wear every day. Richfresh is an extension of who I truly am. I'm just happy to share that with the people.
How has Richfresh evolved throughout the years? Where do you see the brand within the next five years?
God is the greatest. Richfresh has evolved at a cosmic level over the past two and a half years. Our product range has grown from suits to athleisure to now including our signature tracksuits, bags and accessories. We're building our ready-to-wear business right now, so I expect Richfresh to be the biggest fashion brand in the world within the next five years. I have so much in store for the people and I have a lot to prove.
What's a dream retailer or partnership for you?
I have plans to do business with Bergdorf Goodman in the near future. When I moved to New York in 2007, I applied for a job there. I almost got it, but they checked my credit score. It was shitty, so they didn't give me the job. I felt slighted, so I vowed that one day they would sell my clothes. And that my clothes would be the shit. They're the luxury standard, so that's where Richfresh should be.
There are some who believe that Black designers shouldn't be a part of the industry when it comes to luxury goods. Are you looking to have a seat at the table, or would you rather build your own?
I've always been a firm believer in being self-sufficient. I didn't have the benefit of investors or a big cosign. My mindset is, if I'm waiting for a seat at someone else's table, then I'm waiting. Well it just so happens, I'm incredibly impatient. I want what I want, when I want it. So, I'd rather spend that time building my own table and then decide who can have a seat with me.
Your tenure in fashion is far from traditional, which is refreshing to see. What advice would you give a younger Fresh?
I can't really give him much advice. He did alright. He was a single dad, raising a little girl, broke, depressed. I'd just tell him that one day soon, he'd be very proud of himself.
Your dedication to Black culture has always been palpable; you've been able to use fashion as a canvas to showcase that. When it's all said and done, what do you want your impact on the Black community and culture to be?
As Black people, it's necessary for us to see ourselves. I want someone to see themselves through my ambition. LeBron James probably wanted to hoop because he watched Michael Jordan growing up. With Richfresh, I wanted to stay luxury and independent because in 2013, Nipsey Hussle was selling his Crenshaw mixtape for $100. That made sense to me. I want Black people to reject the narrative that we are less than. We need to see that we can dominate any environment.
Photography: James Law
So many celebrities have proudly rocked Richfresh. Who do you want to see rocking it next?
What fashion trends are you loving right now? Which ones are you over?
I'm loving comfort being the new trend. I'm so over clothes and shoes hurting when they're worn. Like, WTF? Why did that ever become a trend to begin with!
You've also managed to reinvent the tracksuit with Richfresh. As casual and leisurewear has been more embraced amid the COVID-19 pandemic, how have the last few months affected your business or creativity?
It has really made me focus on building a product beyond custom clothing. Something direct-to-consumer that people would want to wear every day; something that buyers from all over the world would collect like jewelry. Right now, I'm really focusing on making comfortable clothing. Our presiding mantra at Richfresh is, "Comfort is Key."
You're not only the founder of Richfresh but also of HENRY Mask Co., your face mask brand. For every mask purchased, one is donated to frontline workers and families in need. Tell me a little more about HENRY Mask Co. and what giving back means to you.
My brother Chase and I started HENRY this past April, as LA was turning into a severe hot spot due to COVID-19. We wanted to respond to an immediate need, addressing the overall shortage of masks nationwide. We managed to quickly evolve HENRY Mask Co. into an essential lifestyle brand. And now the brand has made it all over the world in just a few short months. The best is truly yet to come.
Fill in the blank: My Black is...
My Black is EXCELLENT.
Thanks to you, the world is fresher than ever. What's next for you?
Be on the lookout. I have a behind-the-scenes docuseries coming out on Quibi. They'll be following me around on my day-to-day exploits, building a luxury brand and interacting with superstar clients from all over the industry. The vibe of the show is a total LA rockstar lifestyle.
Then of course, there's HENRY. They're the most attractive masks in the world. And they just happen to also be the most comfortable.
And I will be launching my Richfresh ready-to-wear line soon. I'd tell you more, but where's the fun in that? All I can say is stay tuned.
Photography: James Law courtesy of Richfresh