The Delights of Richie Richardson
by Nan Parati
Don’t tell me you’re going to interview a fashion designer and not worry about what in the world you’ll wear to the conversation.
As it happens, the fashion designer you’re meeting that day rises from his desk, gives you a warm, earnest hug and instantly becomes your new best friend, so that what you have on goes to the very bottom of the list of anything that crosses your mind again. And I can’t help but think that he does that with everyone who enters his world, regardless of how they’re dressed.
Fashion curator Richie Richardson was born to a creative graphic-design family in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. His childhood in the loving and supportive “all-for-one” island community built the visionary universe that Richie continues to this day in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, some 2300 miles and cultural lightyears from where he grew up.
I asked what brought him to this old New England village so distant in look and essence from the islands he grew up in, and he said, “Love. I always follow my heart.” And indeed, it was the pull of human love and the suggestion that Turners Falls might be his place to expand to that lured him from New York City where he had worked in creative design since emigrating there in the early 1990s, and from his Brooklyn fashion boutique, Richie Richardson Designs that he’d launched in 2000.
The world in New York was high fashion and diverse style from all over the earth, and Richardson’s eyes and heart lit up at the idea of infusing Western Mass with that kind of innovative excitement.
“When you arrive in a new place, the place gives you gifts that are intangible, and you become part of it. I wanted to become part of Franklin County,” he says, “and I wanted to bring a new fashion diversity to this town.”
"I wanted to become part of Franklin County... and I wanted to bring a new fashion diversity to this town.”
The words “Fashion Designer” imply to many an exclusive, haughty world that most of us encounter only in magazine ads; photos of models wearing impossible clothing that few in the real world manage to pull off. The whole idea of “fashion” seems an odyssey quite foreign to many, but, Richardson laughs, “Fashion is what unites us in the world! Every morning we decide through our clothing choices how we want to represent ourselves that day.” I look down at the new, cool blue shoes I’d chosen to wear as my best true self for the interview and recognize what he’s pointed out to me.
Even the grungiest clothing creates our daily statements, and Richardson finds that fascinating. “Fashion is diversity.” he says. “It teaches us about history, cultural influences and connection.” As for the novel outfits featured in fashion magazines, he says, “Those are run to garner attention to the designer’s name. It’s essentially just attractive advertising to lure the interested in to seek what else they’re creating.”
He also points out that “One out of four people in the world works in the fashion industry.”
“The world thinks fashion can only come from ‘the Industry,’ when, in fact, most fashion in the world comes from people working in their homes and with their families as a cottage economy.”
When I show what openly passes for skepticism at that statement, he opens his fingers to count off the farmers who raise the materials that garments are made from, dye-makers, machinists, seamsters around the world, all the way to those who work in clothing stores, influencing fashion by what they choose to feature.
And, he points out, “The world thinks fashion can only come from ‘the Industry,’ when, in fact, most fashion in the world comes from people working in their homes and with their families as a cottage economy.” This is the fashion that interests Richardson the most. People who never considered themselves fashion designers, but who create and sew styles they feel represent themselves and their people are the designers Richie and his Turners Falls company FAB most enjoy giving a voice and platform to. His creators come from all over the world, and Richardson takes greatest pride and delight in those from Africa and the Caribbean, worlds not often represented in the realm of high fashion.
In September 2022, Richardson will launch his third FAB PASSION FASHION WEEK NEW ENGLAND under the creative direction of international fashion impresario Richard Young, with styling by Jerry Jordan Brown of Brooklyn Fashion Week, Richardson’s partners in his fashion venture. The show will feature designs and their creators from the US and the Caribbean. It’s an event he began two years before the pandemic shut everything down, and this is the first time he’s been able to present since the 2019 show.
One joyful and important highlight of Richardson’s shows is where designers model vintage clothing they’ve renovated and infused with new life and an evolved look. Richardson stresses the importance of buying “Long” fashion; clothing made with care and longevity in mind, over cheap garments fabricated by people who are paid very little to do so in some countries. The Upcycle show encourages and promotes the evergreening of clothing, something Richie supports and delights in as much as he loves the creation of new works.
Richie Richardson delights in many things in life, and the greatest of these are fashion, humanity and the world of diverse interests.
See it all come together in Richie Richardson’s beloved world of Franklin County, Massachusetts.
For more information visit Richie Richardson’s ArtsHub profile and his website: Premier runway show | FAB Passion Fashion | United States
FAB PASSION FASHION
The only fashion show of its kind in New England, the annual event runs three days, jumping off with an invitation only, VIP reception, The Meet and Greet Launch on Friday, October 21st from 6-9pm at FAB in Turners Falls.
The Premium Fashion Shows on Saturday, Oct. 22 will introduce new styles, and will be held in the dining commons at Greenfield Community College from 6-9pm.
The Upcycle Show takes place on Sunday, October 23 from 2-4pm at the Discovery Center Great Hall, 2 Avenue A, in Turners Falls.