Richie Hunter

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It is hard to believe, but Richie Hunter is only 23 with a birthday coming up October 10th. He was born in Buffalo in 1994 and the 10/10 of his birthday has resonated. He has a signet ring in the form of an X and he uses it to mark his creations. Also in leather, the number 100 signifies the highest quality material. XX has been the closest Richie has come to signing his work. In every way the number signifies “The Best.”

Richie was born in Buffalo into a Catholic family that came apart at the time of his birth. Richie did not see much of his father when he was young, but the importance of his presence grew as Richie grew up. His mother was a hair stylist who was also an excellent cook and his father had a business painting cars. Sometimes he did a regular paint job, but he also did custom jobs, making elaborate patterns. From both parents Richie inherited an interest in doing things with his hands and the same is true for his sister Lisa Rose who became a neurosurgeon. Richie observed and learned, at first from his parents, but also transcended their interests. He was also good at dealing with mechanical devices. One time his mother came on him and discovered that he had taken some doors off their hinges. It was probably lucky for him that he could put them back up. He watched his mother cook and became an accomplished cook himself. He began his career as a hat maker by taking a course on-line.

Richie's education can be divided between two schools though there was a brief time at a third. He went to Christian Brothers Catholic High School in Buffalo and then after a short time at Parsons in New York, he attended South Carolina Art and Design (SCAD). In high school he was a traditionalist. Even though he was interested in modern art, he felt he had to master realistic draughtsmanship. He gave himself a course in history of Western art. One result was that when we was asked to do realistic drawing at SCAD, he far outstripped his classmates. However, for Richie mastery of tradition laid the basis for engaging with modern art. In high school he and a friend founded an art collective called Good Neighbr (the o at the end is intentionally left out). This effort grew enormously; the group engages in a wide range of activities involving numerous people.

After his time at Parsons, Richie transferred to SCAD. There he majored in Accessory and Industrial Design, and he took full advantage of what the school had to offer. His long march took him through the wood shop, the metal shop, and plastics. He engaged in a competition to create a space-ship, half practical and half fantastic. Using a three-D printer, his group swept the competition and came out on top. Eventually he moved on to an interest in clothing and then leather work. At first he made shoes and hand bags, but gradually his interest shifted to hats, in which the materials were cloth and leather. Richie's theory about materials is that one should use the best and make objects that improve with age. His pants look like an archeological site with many levels of cloth, some worn away, some patched. The pants are quite beautiful reflecting the passage of time in a fascinating way. Richie spends a lot of time on materials; he can spend hours in used clothing stores find strong and beautiful fabrics, and when he gets leather, he gets the best. In hat making he is also made blocks on which to build the hats. As he concentrated on hats, Richie found he did it for love as much as money. When he gave a talk on hats at SCAD, the professor was impressed and asked Richie for a hat to illustrate the talk. Richie agreed. A young woman at Happyluckyno. 1 gallery admired his work and he made her a hat and then one for her father.

Richie's hat business has taken off. He can make a hat in a day, but he prefers to move from project to project every few hours. He might be making quite a few hats at the same time, and each one is a unique quality product made of leather or cloth. As people have gotten to know about his work he has gotten more and more orders. He is now backed up three months, and he has gotten orders form celebrities. He prefers not to publicize these as he is afraid of being overwhelmed by orders.

Thinking about the future, Richie's mind goes in several sometimes inconsistent directions. For example, he might like to have a large workshop, maybe in China, where he could keep artistic control but increase production by having a staff work under him. Or he would like to travel the world and visit all the different design places in Italy, Scandanavia, France, Japan, China and Korea. Or he would like to have a place in the country where he would hold small parties for dinner and then show his work to the diners. Or he would like to become an apprentice under Philip Treacy and learn from the great Irish designer. It is important to remember Richie is only 23 going on 24. He has a lot behind him, but much more ahead of him and whatever road he chooses, he will do a lot. As he was quoted in college at the end of a profile entitled “Style and Mystery with Richie Hunter.” “I love learning new things. I love making things with my hands.”

Jonathan Judge