Richfresh Founder on Building His Style Empire and Collabing with Lena Waithe

Fresh. That’s his name—please wear it out. 

Born Patrick Henry, Fresh is the CEO and founder of Richfresh and co-founder of Henry Mask. A tailor, fashion designer and entrepreneur, his life is a storyboard in action: there’s the cheerleader guru; the hidden machine he works through; the sunken valley where he discovers value; and then, the creation of magical garments for extraordinary people.

When he first came in contact with a sewing machine as a teenager in Memphis, Tennessee, he knew “tailoring was his tea.” Confidence in his work isn’t lost on him, nor his celebrity clientele. From John Legend to Barack Obama to EBONY’s May cover star, Lena Waithe—Fresh delivers the custom fit with that Aquarius eye—creative and colorful, unexpected and familiar at the same damn time. Below, EBONY caught up with the cut creator where he discusses his style evolution, the unexpected path to his métier, and how he secures his high-profile clientele.

Fresh shoots for the stars when it comes to his collection. John Legend, Kevin Hart and the Weeknd are among his select roster of clients.

EBONY: What sparked your interest in becoming a fashion designer? Well, do you consider yourself a fashion designer?

Fresh: I used to not consider myself a designer. I’m definitely one now—but the thing that got me interested in fashion was girls. I was a nerdy kid in middle school, who liked really pretty girls who did not like him back. I was like, man, I’m not athletic, so I didn’t have that thing girls would look for. When I was thirteen, I had a conversation with a cheerleader in my school. She was the one that was like, “If you dress better, I think girls will like you.” I was like cool, I’m going to do that.

How did you dress in middle school before that sage advice?

The cheerleader said, “You dress like a 7-year-old.” She actually said those words. I was the second worst-dressed kid in my middle school. I asked her, what is this thing called? She replied, “I think it’s called fashion.” I said alright, well, let me look it up.

I figured out, if I dressed a certain way, I could get a certain amount of attention. I fixated on that in middle school and in high school. By the time I finished high school, I realized I’m really good at this. I’m really good at dressing myself to be in any room I want. I feel like I [tapped into] this “clothing being your branding” thing.

Stepping in the room, like this was his idea first, 7-year-old Patrick Henry is fresh. Perhaps, this was the design muse for his signature stripes.

At what point did fashion become your art?

At some point, I knew if I learned how to sew I would be able to dictate where fashion goes. Otherwise, I’m going to be subject to whatever else someone has available. In my mind, I thought the big fashion designers made all their clothes. So, I just taught myself how to sew.

I found a [sewing] machine. It wasn’t something I could share with my family, so I just hid it. I don’t know, my brain just figured out how to use it, how to thread it; I got fascinated with it. I did this covertly.

Tailoring is a detailed and personal art. There’s design, cut, and fit; it’s precise. How did you hone the skill?

I didn’t go to fashion school. I thugged it out. I dropped out of college. I did a year at the University of Memphis; I was there as an engineering major. After that, I figured out that I should do an alterations business so I could make extra money with this [sewing] machine. So at 19 years old, I started calling myself a tailor. So every single day, I’m sewing. I started a business doing wholesale alterations for a dry cleaner. I would pick up the work, get everything done—fold it, itemize—and drop it off to them at a price where they could pay me and make their money. I built a business when I was super young. I was like cool, now I’m a tailor.

Tape-measured and tatted: Fresh has his father’s signature tattooed on the back of his hand.

Tell me about your move from Memphis to Los Angeles.

When I moved to LA, I was an alterations tailor; I wasn’t making clothes. When [the recording artist] The Weeknd first started working with me, I wasn’t making his clothes; I used to alter clothes for him. I’ve worked with a number of celebrities but The Weeknd was within the first 10 celebrities that I worked with doing alterations.

How did you go from doing alterations to designing clothes?

In 2014, I quit my job in Los Angeles. I was working retail at the Beverly Center. I started making colorful suits and people weren’t wearing colorful suits then. I built a little following. But my suits were cheap and were made overseas, [and my operations] poorly managed. It was good practice but that business went under.

When did your brand Richfresh launch?

I put all this together in 2018. It was a culmination of all the experiences, the failures, the small successes, the skillset that I had acquired. I decided to create a luxury brand, and that’s what I did!

There’s something refined, yet spirited, about your style. How do you describe it?

My style is familiar but it’s going to get the attention—even if it’s all black—it doesn’t matter. The way it’s cut, the way the proportions are, the details—it’s still going to get the attention. But it’s familiar, not like something from the future. It’s something you feel like you’ve seen in a past life. A friend once said, “Your clothes have a spirit to them. All you your clients look like their highest self when they wear your clothes.”

Fresh at his family house in Calabasas, California.”Even if it’s all black—it’s still going to get the attention.”

Who inspires you when you’re designing?

My father. Although he wasn’t a fashion person, he had cool style. I was born in Germany, so he was one of those really hip guys that dressed really nice. Not over the top—respectable. I like that retro 70s, 80s feel. My dad was a very disciplined person. Very big on getting it done and getting it done right. When I’m in my zone, doing my thing, I go to this energy of getting it done. I don’t stop until it’s done; I keep going.

Tell me about the collection dedicated to your father, The Binghampton Collection.

I released the collection inspired by him on the day of his passing, which was April 23rd. Not the same year, but the same day, 10 years later. There’s been a lot of growth; I’ve had to overcome a whole lot, and in a lot of ways, I feel like my dad was my spiritual guide who helped me navigate unbelievable circumstances. I was homeless, living on the streets. There were no couches to sleep on at that time. There were a lot of demons I had to deal with. I started [Richfresh] by myself with $200 fresh out of a homeless shelter.

When you were homeless, did you feel like you gained inspiration during that time?

Yeah, I gained a lot of inspiration. It was a life-changing experience. Before I was just floating around lost—drinking, partying, not handling my business. I was processing many things. I was depressed. I was everything one could be on their way to destruction. And it was like, boom! There you go, Jack! You’re going to sit your tail right here in this shelter for 90 days, and you’re going to figure it out. That was my rock bottom and my wake up call.

But that’s where I had the revelation and I had all these dreams about the future and about this Richfresh thing. I gained my inspiration there. I started talking to God more and I regained my spirituality. Every thing changed after that.

How did you and Lena Waithe become this…

This dynamic duo?  That’s my girl! I love Lena. The majority of my big interactions that people see, come from social media. The story of how I got John Legend—that was social media. I found John Legend’s stylist and I stalked his ass. We built a rapport. I said, “You got to get me John. We’re going to do it eventually, might as well do it now. And, stop playing with me, yo.” He thought that was so brash, and he said alright, cool.  I knocked it out the park. Kevin Hart, same way. And, Lena was the same way. I don’t hit up the actual client. I hit up the stylist and say, “This is who I am; this is what I do. You should really come over this way and check this out for your people.” It takes a little time and persistence but eventually I always get who I want.

“Everything I wear is Richfresh.”

Were you a Lena Waithe fan before working with her?

I was mildly familiar with Lena from a movie called Ready Player One. I’m not really plugged in to reality. I don’t watch TV. I don’t watch the news. I don’t know what day of the week it is. I don’t know what’s going on in pop culture. I’m on social media. I’m in the world but not of the world.  I saw the movie and I thought her character was cool, I was like, who is this chick? I saw her name Lena Waithe and I remembered that. One day watching my stories on Instagram, I said, “Oh, that’s the same chick.” I looked her up and I saw that she had some things going on that were pretty awesome. I thought, let me reach out and say hi. This was before Queen & Slim. She checked out my stuff online and she said “Yo, bro; you’re dope.” I said, “Drop me the address, I’ma pull up on you. Let’s get this work!”

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I pulled up on her. It was our first meeting ever and it was like we’ve known each other for years. We sat and chopped it up; I came up with some ideas for her. Lena said, “Here’s how we’re going to do this. You’re going to make all my stuff. I don’t want any creative input. You just do what you do. You’re a maniac.”

How did it feel to be given responsibility for her look?

There’s a magic there because there’s a trust. This is her image. This is very important. She does’t see the garment until she’s about to put it on. She knows it’s going to fit. She knows it’s going to be right. Having somebody who respects you as a creative like that is magical.

Lena Waithe, in bespoke Richfresh, with Ava Duvernay.

So you create the look in your mind and on paper. What’s the process from there?

I bought my factory in 2019. I’ve got a team. I have a lot of people on payroll to make my life easier. I get the order in to them; send the measurements. They break everything down. I have a pattern maker. We’re old school; we make paper patterns for every single client. I have jacket tailors, pant tailors, and hand finishers. My buttonholes are made by hand. Everything is intricately made. I have a production manager to oversee quality and a shipping department. We’ve got a whole operation—we have to. Because when Justin Bieber calls and needs a suit in two days and we still have other orders, we have to be able to get it done. This is what we’ve built here and I’m very proud if it.

From sketch to finished product.

I believe our life’s work is evident in what or who we were inspired by as kids, when things are pure. As a teenager, what posters would you have had on on your wall?

I would have had a Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger ad up on my wall. The greats: Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson. I always aspire to that—to what’s great. My dad didn’t congratulate second place.

What 3 three people would you like to see in Richfresh clothing?

I’ve gotten most of the people on my list. My number one has always been Barack Obama. Because he’s the coolest guy on Earth. Literally, the coolest man on earth. And, in February, I got Obama. I’ve got very good friends in high places, and they were able to make a connection. I made a beautiful robe for Michelle Obama’s birthday and a really awesome tracksuit for President Obama.

A robe from the Richfresh 2020 Collection.
“One of my first Richfresh pieces was a robe. My fascination is they make me feel like a king,” says the designer.

I haven’t gotten Tyler Perry yet, which upsets me. And why haven’t I gotten LeBron? You know, he wears my [Henry face] masks every day and has not worn any of my clothes. So right now it is: LeBron James, Tyler Perry and Ellen DeGeneres.

Fresh and his brother Chase, left, owners of Henry Mask.

FRESH MOMENTS WITH LENA WAITHE

How to white out. “This was for the Oscars. I wanted Lena to stand out. I love that she trusts me and she gives me creative control.”

A moment in mauve. “I wanted to do a suit for Lena without the stripes, so I went for mauve with black trim.”

A jogger pant suit moment. “Lena had been been working on Twenties for a while, so at the premiere I wanted her to walk in with a bang.” Both Lena and Fresh wear Richfresh.

“I worked with pink to infuse a Pride color for her Entertainment Weekly cover shoot.”

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