I fell in love with fashion when I was 13. I was in middle school in Little Rock, Arkansas, and was a really nerdy, shy, and quiet kid. I had taken to this cheerleader, and I ended up tutoring her. I said, “I’m going to teach you math, but I need you to teach me about girls.” Over the course of a couple weeks of these tutoring sessions, she broke down all these things that girls like: They like a bad boy, someone who fights, all this shit. These were things that I just couldn’t do, it didn’t fit my personality.
Then in the final session, she told me that girls like guys who dress nice. I said, “Well, I can figure that one out!” So I started studying fashion. I read Ralph Lauren’s biography, Calvin Klein’s biography, and it had such a huge impact on me that I found an old sewing machine and snuck it into my room and I taught myself how to sew. My father was in the military and was very macho, so I had to do it very covertly. But I enjoyed it, and I learned how to do it my way.
By the time we moved to Memphis, Tennessee, when I was 15, I had a better understanding of fashion, how clothes should fit, and color psychology. And on my first day at high school, I was the best dressed kid at school. I was trying to escape this old version of myself that was very insecure, and so I put on the air of a very secure teenage boy. And I just saw how people perceived me differently, dealt with me differently — and the girls started paying me a lot more attention. I had wanted to be an architect before, but after that experience I decided to figure out a way to do fashion because I wanted to help impact other people like myself, and help them find more confidence.
So fast-forward to graduating from high school in Memphis, and I turned down over a dozen scholarships to do standard academia because they didn’t have fashion programs, which my dad thought was crazy. My dad was not someone who you wanted to disappoint or piss off, and I did both. But I knew that I had to go against the grain, so I didn’t take the scholarships, and I got kicked out of home.
I was 18, on my own, sleeping in my car, staying at a friend’s house, just bouncing around. I did later apply for a scholarship at the University of Memphis, which they gave me because I had good grades and tested well, but I dropped out after a year. I was doing alterations on the side from my dorm room to make a little money. And when I left at 20 years old, I started my own business doing alterations, then opened my own dry cleaners and tailor shop in downtown Memphis. But that didn’t go the way I wanted it to. I was more into the idea of self-employment than employing others, so I was just working myself too much. And when you’re at the register, you’re not out marketing. So I lost the benefit of growing the business by running the business. I got married real young, and had a real rocky marriage, and we had a daughter. I just didn’t have the mental ability to keep the shop going. So at 24, I shut that down. I rebranded myself as a concierge tailor, basically a tailor with no shop, and while people would travel from far and wide to meet this whizkid tailor, I was barely making ends meet.
I just felt like I needed to go somewhere else to be challenged, so I moved to New York. There, I worked for Hickey Freeman and learned some intricate tailoring techniques from a bunch of old-school foreign tailors. But a year later, at the end of 2007, the market crashed so I moved back to Memphis. I ended up getting custody of my daughter, which was what was necessary at the time. So now I’m back in Memphis, trying to figure out how to make money, and how to raise a kid on my own. I just didn’t see a future there, so I put my daughter in the car and just drove across the country for three days to California.
I got a job working for Zegna in Los Angeles, I opened their Beverly Center store, and did that for a year. But I’m still tailoring and making suits on the side. I started throwing these little parties where I would have beautiful women come and serve cocktails, and I would hustle suits. But I’d sell suits for a few hours, and then we were just drinking, doing coke, and being wild kids. After a few years of doing that I just burnt out. All that partying takes its toll. I wasn’t getting the product in on time, it wasn’t consistent. And on top of that, I had a drug problem, so your brain doesn’t function the way it’s supposed to. At this point, my daughter had moved to New York to stay with her mom, which saddened me because I was so used to having her around and now she wasn’t there. And my dad had passed suddenly just before I moved to LA. He taught me a lot about how to be a man, how to take care of business, how to take care of your family. So I was dealing with a lot, and suppressing it with alcohol, women, and drugs.
And so in 2017, it all came to a head. I had disappointed a lot of my customers, blown all my money, and I didn’t really have a trustworthy group of friends. All the people I was hanging with were a bunch of bullshitters. We were all bullshitting together. There was no-one I could lean on when times got tough because none of them had any substance. They weren’t here to be my friend, they were here to party. I was in a bad spot, I had a client who owed me $15,000, which at the time felt like $15 million. And by the end of 2017, I was literally sleeping on the streets, on f***ing park benches. I would just walk around until 3am or so, as long as my body could be conscious, and then I’d find some place, lay down for a couple hours, and then be up when the sun rose and walking around again, just trying to figure out.
Next, I found a little shelter and I stayed there for three months. The first couple months was just me being an angry human. “Woe is me, this shouldn’t be happening to me, this isn’t fair. This customer beat me out of this money. It’s his fault, it’s not my fault. I’m too good looking, I’m too smart, I shouldn’t be here. God, this ain’t fair.” Then one day I had the most beautiful experience ever. I was in the shelter, and I left the client an angry voicemail, basically, “You better give me this f***ing money that you owe me or else.” Then I heard someone laughing at me, so I spin around, “Who the f***?” But there’s no-one there. And then a few seconds later, I hear a voice talking to me, “You’re here because this is where you set your compass. You didn’t operate with integrity. You’ve been abusing your body. This is where you’re supposed to be. But the good thing is you chose to be here, and you can choose to get out of here.” And that was it. It was just a very brief conversation between me and God. That night I had a dream, and I saw a different version of myself; my hair was pink, I was walking around and there were cameras flashing, I lived in a beautiful house, and there was a Maserati parked in the driveway. I woke up in the morning, and I was like, “Oh shit, I think I just saw the future.”
So I decided, if I know that’s the future, I can’t trip about the present. I just told myself, “This is the homeless part of your success story, you get to have one of those stories.” It was January 2018 at this point, and I decided I had to get out of this place by my birthday on the 28th. I spent all my time just writing and planning. I made a list of current me and future me. I just had to be very real with myself. Current me had all these various afflictions; sex addicted, drug addicted, alcohol, depressed, a bullshitter, an excuse maker, all these things. My future self had none of those. I just wrote down who I needed to be. That’s when I had the idea to change my name, to become someone totally different when I left that place, like Saul becoming Paul.
My birth name is Patrick Henry. I used to go by Rich when I moved out to Los Angeles. I like the idea of manifestation, so I figured if I tell people all the time, “Yo, what’s up? I’m Rich!” that eventually it would happen. But the entire time that I used the name Rich, I was the opposite. So I had this spiritual awakening and I changed everything about myself, I changed my entire lifestyle, and with that I took on the name Fresh. Where I’m from, Memphis, fresh means something. You can be stylish, you can be fly, you can be all these things, but if you’re fresh, that’s the pinnacle. And I wanted to be the embodiment of that. So I just took that name on and at the same time I started my company, Richfresh.
Before that, all my suits were cheap. I didn’t value myself the same way. I told myself, “When I leave here, I’m going to do some luxury shit.” Even though I didn’t have any money, I just figured I could pull it off. God wanted to know what I was prepared to sacrifice; so I stopped drinking, l stopped smoking cigarettes, I stopped doing coke, and I stopped eating meat. Then I saw a flash of the one thing I did not want to give up; it was the women. I was chasing women so much, and it just depletes your soul. I needed to start viewing women as people, not sexual objects. And so I did that too.
I found a spot downtown where a lady would make my clothes, but she was so inconsistent and it was really burning me up. I blew up on her one day, and said, “You’re so unprofessional, it is unacceptable.” And after that she just refused to do any more work for me. So an Uber picked me up one day, and the guy asked me, “How’s your day going?” I told him things were pretty shitty, that I was a tailor but had nowhere to make my clothes. And he said, “I know a factory that makes clothes in Miracle Mile.” So he turned his meter off and drove me 45 minutes to the building. I got out and thanked the guy, he didn’t ask for any money — he was an angel. I opened that door and there were tailors everywhere. I got out the shelter in the third week of January of 2018, with $300 in my pocket, and I made $1 million that year. I bought that factory in January of 2019, and then I got the Maserati the next month.
When I launched the brand in 2018, it was just suits. But I had this moment where I wanted to do some color blocking, and the only material that was colorful enough was neoprene. I had altered a neoprene suit for The Weeknd, so I knew that neoprene could be worn as a suit. I had seen a lady in the airport, and she was wearing a sweater, the front was one color, the sleeves were a different color, and the back was another color. And I said to myself, “That’s just changed the game.” So when I came back to Los Angeles, I wanted to replicate that concept in a suit. So I found orange neoprene, royal blue neoprene, and tan neoprene. I made an orange suit with tan sleeves, and the back of the jacket was blue.
I fell in love with color when my dad worked in sales for Revlon. He had this book that would show these different color palettes and what they represent. So the same face with this makeup means this, but with different makeup it means something totally different. It’s all about how the colors come together. It was fascinating to me how the colors could change mood and behavior. So I really started studying that, and that was the start of it for me. And Memphis is a very colorful place. The arts, the buildings, the people are all very colorful. Color was just all around me. Having a deeper understanding of how colors have meaning was really helpful for me once I started my brand.
I don’t have a listed phone number, I don’t have a listed location. It’s all word of mouth, and people reach out via email or DM. I’m like this ghost, people don’t even know that I’m a real. Then once we meet, I want to know a little bit about you; what makes you tick, what’s your personality type, what colors move you? That will inform what I do next. And I take 30 different measurements. I’m very, very precise. Once I have the measurements, then it’s just architecture.
I wrote down all the people I wanted to acquire as clients: Barack Obama, Justin Bieber, Kevin Hart, John Legend, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres. Then I called Kevin Hart’s stylist, and I said, “Hey, you’re f***ing up, you need to put Kevin in Richfresh.” “Who are you?” they said. “I’m Richfresh, I’m the greatest of my generation.” She didn’t go for it at first, so I just kept at it. And finally she gave in. She’s like, “Oh my God, you wore me out. Fine.” And I charged everyone, that was my other thing. I didn’t give anyone shit for free. Everyone else was doing that. I was like, “You make all this money, you’re going to give me some of it. This is what I do great. I’m not giving you greatness for free.” Surprisingly, people respected that. So I got Kevin, and I was making lots of suits for him. He saw me in a tracksuit one day, and said, “Man, those are nice. I want a tracksuit.” So I made him a tracksuit. Then I did his whole family in tracksuits — him, his wife, his three kids — for a premiere. After that, he was hooked. They ordered 40-odd tracksuits for ‘Me Time’, a new film Kevin’s made with Mark Wahlberg. There’s a part in the movie where Mark’s character is obsessed with tracksuits. That was nuts, man. It’s amazing validation when people who don’t know you see your work, and then they find out later it was you.
I don’t have any schooling. I’m very unorthodox. I love marching to the beat of my own drum, because it’s got me to a really cool point in a very short period of time. I watched Ozwald Boateng, because you didn’t see young Black designers who weren’t doing streetwear. He’s very charismatic, I gravitated to his whole persona. And obviously Ralph Lauren, he’s the king of cool — a Jewish kid from the Bronx who defined how American dressed. And what’s next? I just took on a partner to commercialize the brand, I’m designing luxury sneakers, I’ve got a whole range of nylon tracksuits. I’ve got some really cool things that I’m going to bring to the market in the next few months. I’ve been working on a sneaker for the past year and a half.
Right now, I feel great. I still have this underdog feeling where I still have a lot to prove. Nothing is written in stone yet. It’s written in concrete, but not yet dried. I read once that success is not owned, it’s rented, and we have to go out and earn it every day. I know where I want to go, but I know it’s going to take as much work as it took for me to get here, to get to what’s next.
Fresh was talking to Mr Feelgood co-founder John Pearson.
Check out Richfresh on Instagram.