“Don’t worry about all of the bulls**t.” – Patrick Robinson
Today is a very special day for me as today marks the sixth anniversary of my move to New York City. Over the last handful of months, I’ve taken a step back to reflect on my time here in this urban jungle but should note that it all literally started at the top of the year where I felt like I had been dropped at a fork in the road with no compass. One path showed visions of me producing content that I felt mattered, informed and ultimately entertained others. The second path showed my student loans, rent on my apartment, the stable job that helped pay for it all. You know: the old ball and chain so to speak. With this decision to make of how to handle the choices placed in front of me, I can firmly state that 2016 has been both exciting and exhausting.
Just this summer I found myself confronting a typhoon of situations and one day it all became too much. After my version of a breakdown on the phone with my mother, I introduced an affirmation (You are amazing. You are talented. Grow a thicker skin.) into my life and not soon after that, I sat with Patrick Robinson, a highly experienced creative in the fashion space, for coffee in the NoMad Hotel’s library. Sure, we emailed back and forth on solidifying when and where to meet but I never believed it was actually going to happen until I walked into the chosen destination and saw that hair.
He was real! He was in front of me! Patrick Robinson, the man whose electrifying career I had followed for years. Design Director for Giorgio Armani. Artistic Director for Paco Rabanne. Head Designer for Gap. I don’t want to sound like a blubbering fan-girl but come on! It’s not everyday that I sit with a man of his caliber for a flat white coffee and conversation. Believe it or not, I was able to keep my cool and below is the discussion that took place.
When was the moment that you knew you wanted to be a designer?
A long time ago sometime between 12 or 13 years old. I used to surf all of the time and in some weird way I became fascinated with the idea of design. I really didn’t understand what ‘design’ meant. I just knew that I liked this idea, this creativity of making things so surfing lead to me deciding I wanted to make swim trunks and that was the first thing I did.
I really remember it still because it’s my personality to not know something and dive all the way in. I dived all the way in and taught myself how to sew and how to make patterns. That’s how I look at life.
How often do you still surf?
I haven’t surfed in years. Probably 10 years and I hate it because every time I see a picture of someone surfing… It’s complete freedom. I ski, too, and I do that more but when I ski, I feel like I’m confined to something that’s man-made. Some of my fondest memories as a kid are watching the sun go down in California and hanging out with my surfboard and catching the last wave. Just being in complete nature and really realizing how powerful the ocean is.
Do you feel like a person can find an element of freedom in their work?
Yes! The big answer is yes but I’ll explain it. The things I wanted to do was take over bigger houses and design and work around the world. There were moments of freedom in that. The parts I loved were always the creative parts but at some point I moved away from that. At some point, my career became about managing other creative people instead of being the creative person. I lost that freedom.
Freedom for me is the idea of living a life of curiosity and what you’re passionate about. That’s why when I got a little bit older and maybe a bit wiser, I decided that in the short period of my existence, I’m only going to do the things that I really want to do. [Doing that] can be selfish people say but ‘selfish’ is sometimes good. To go out there and just be free and do exactly what I’m curious about and what I’m really passionate about? That created Paskho. ‘Paskho’ means passion.
I’ve seen younger people set off and be free in what they do because they go after their passion. [There are] few people who do that because you look around and there are so many people that get trapped with all of these things that society throws at you. What you need to be successful and what success looks like, what a career looks like, what you need to do to be in the right box that we can understand who you are. That’s not free. I love people who can just go out there and break the barriers of society.
What advice would you give someone who’s been lumped into the “millennial” category and wants to break out of that mold?
If I had to give my own self advice 25 years ago and I was a millennial, that advice would be to go see the world. Don’t worry about all of the bullshit.
“Imagine a world where you were measured on how much you presented your passion to the world instead of how much money you have in the bank.”
Image courtesy of Paskho.com
How does it feel being an entrepreneur versus working for an existing brand?
Liberating. Paskho really was this idea of figuring out and presenting people’s passions in life. Most of us have in our lives something we really want to do and a lot of us hold ourselves back from that because we have 5,000 reasons we can’t do it. I’m too old, I’m too dumb, I’m too green, I need to have this big house so I can’t afford to go live as a hermit on a hill and write poetry. Whatever that is, we hold ourselves back from it and I believe that the world would be this awesome, amazing place if we stopped worrying about money and success and started worrying about how to pursue our passions.
Imagine a world where you were measured on how much you presented your passion to the world instead of how much money you have in the bank. Imagine that world. Imagine what this world would be.
With this sense of freedom and living for your passion, who have been some people in your life that have inspired you to where you feel confident enough to go after your passion?
I’d have to go to my parents first which is strange. My father decided at 45 that he was going to retire and go out there and live the life he wanted to live, see the world, do things and really just live and he figured that out at such a young age. It took me forever to get to the same place and that’s been inspiring. I’ve been kicking myself for not seeing it.
I’m building this project and I’ve gone out and asked 20 people to begin with. It’s from Richard Dupont who’s an artist to Bobby Shriver who comes from such a powerful, political family. I met [Bobby] when I was at Gap and was in charge of (RED) and worked with him to keep that alive. He has such a passion for justice and doing the right thing and he’s also the coolest fucking guy in the world. I completely admire him.
Bethann Hardison, who I’ve known since I was your age, is…I don’t know how to describe her. There’s something spiritual about her. She is one of those people who has fought her whole life to see the world and be in this world the right way. She completely understands this idea of what the world’s really about which is to go out there and live the life you’re meant to live. I never tell it to her but she’s been this huge influence on me. I’ve looked at her from afar where the things she’s done for the fashion community, for the models, and you can’t help but admire her essence. She’s the real deal and those are the kinds of people that I have a deep love for.
When you find yourself dealing with a setback, roadblock or insecurity, how do you deal with that?
I always feel if I can take a breath, take a step back…it’s funny how a bad thing can be so much bigger than all the good that we have sitting next to it. Most of us in America have pretty much everything we want. Most of us but we allow someone cutting us off while we’re driving or someone not letting us go through the subway turnstile because they’re coming out or our train being late or we can’t pay a bill that week, that we forget all of the other stuff that is amazing. It’s amazing how our minds work with that and I think there’s a part of meditation that can help. Meditation could be going for a walk, a run.
I guess refocusing your attention is the short answer.
Outside of design, what are other things that inspire you?
Nature. The city drives me mad. I love this place and it also drives me completely crazy because there’s not enough nature in it. I feel most alive and I can figure out anything if I get into nature because it’s liberating. It frees you. I remember coming back from my last trip and I landed at the airport, coming out and getting into my Uber and, all of a sudden, everything came right back. The issues, the problems, the good, the bad, the responsibilities, who I am, who I’m supposed to be, how the driver’s treating me, the traffic we’re in…all of it just came right back where before I was completely living as a nomad.
“The fun of life is, for me, the exploration and that’s who I truly am.”
Image courtesy of Paskho.com
So we’ve talked about Patrick in the city and Patrick in nature. If you had to strip all of that away, who is Patrick?
An explorer. Not the kind that’s going to climb Mount Everest. No desire [to do that] because there’s nothing up there but cold and no air. I’m fascinated and curious about people, places, animals and everything in this world. I’m fascinated and curious about everything that’s not in this world. That’s just something that’s ingrained in me. I love wine but I hate drinking the same wine twice. Hate it. I want to try a new one. I don’t understand people who have a favorite bottle of wine and they stock their refrigerator with cases and drink it over and over. That is the most boring, weirdest thing to me. I want to try it all.
And it’s okay if you don’t necessarily like it?
It’s the act of trying. The fun of life is, for me, the exploration and that’s who I truly am.
What’s one thing that you know is certain? I stole that question from Oprah.
One that I know for certain is that I know nothing? Honestly, the only certain thing in our lives is that we are born and that we’re gonna die. Everything else is the magic in-between and none of that is certain. None of it.
I turned 30 and I remember thinking I’ll never have my 20’s again and I’m not sure I listened to all of the ways my friends lived their 20’s. They all traveled, dated, got drunk and acted like they were in their 20’s. I got out of mine and it was just work, work, work. All I did for ten years was work. I was sad that I had left my youth behind and I was never going to be that again. That made me start seeing the world and making sure I was balancing the world a little bit better.
Do you feel like that’s when you started focusing more on your passions?
‘Started.’ I maybe had that feeling and started but went straight back to the grind. Then I stopped and looked back again at about 43 or 45 years old and said “What the hell? You just blew through your thirties now and have you really, really done all of the things you wanted to do? Is this what you really want?” If you’re smart, you won’t ever stop asking that question but you already know the answer. You just have to let it out.
Do I know the answer?
You do. You know the answer. Your job is to lay it out. For most people, what that inner thing is, it’s not in your brain. It’s in your heart.
It’s probably big. It’s probably really big what you want to do. Go do it. Just take one step towards it. Just say you’re going to do it and take a step towards it and everybody will come help you. It’s amazing. The whole world will line up to help you if you just put it out there. It’s insane how that works.
That reminds me of something that Oprah said along the lines of “everything great in your life is already designed by the universe and all you need to do is download the file.”
It’s there! Everything you want to do is there because other people do it, too. I can tell you, it’s not hard. Just go out there and do it. Eh. That’s not true. It is hard…but it’s fun hard.