Andrew Richardson

Posted by Stephan Moskovic | August 8th, 2010
An image styled by Andrew Richardson (Streeters New York) is unmistakable; the exquisite details, the luxurious labels and of course the raw sensuality Richardson is famous for. His path from menswear designer to sought after stylist has been a unique one and the pictures he’s helped to create are amongst fashion’s most memorable. With the creation of his eponymous publication, Richardson Magazine, Andrew moved from being a purveyor of porno chic, to becoming its ultimate arbiter. With Richardson A4 fresh off the presses, Christopher Michael catches up with Andrew to discuss motivation, titillation and of course, fashion.

An interview by One Management's Christopher Michael for
Cover portrait by Olivier Zahm for
Right: photo by Terry Richardson for Interview Magazine

Christopher Michael: Sometimes it’s quite boring and generic to start an interview off with the beginning of the story, but with a past like yours, it’s hard not to…. How did everything begin for you exactly? …Going back to before the Madonna sex book even, etc.

Andrew Richardson: I grew up in England and spent part of my childhood in the Middle East, then moved to New York as a menswear designer when I was 22. At the time, I was going out with a girl who borrowed an apartment from a couple of guys who were photo assistants; they seemed to be traveling around a fair bit and having a lot more fun than I was…So, I began to work as a stylist assistant and I worked for Brana Wolf. Through Brana I met Steven Meisel, and through Steven I worked with Anna Sui when she was an editor with him doing Italian Vogue. Then, I worked for Paul Cavaco and spent a lot of time working in Steven’s studio, about 3 years with those different stylists, which gave me a really great base. I was very spoiled watching those great talents make those great images, and being provocative, it really fit for me.

In fact, he took some photographs of me for Italian Vogue which ended up getting me papers to work here; I got like 10 tear sheets, which was what was needed then to be able to get a model visa. So that was a very pivotal time in my life. Being Paul Cavaco’s assistant on Madonna’s sex book definitely enabled me to go into sex shops and meet people who make custom rubber wear and all these sorts of things that I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise, not at that point anyway. It opened up a whole new world to me that I was probably slightly intimidated by beforehand. There was a shift of emphasis. When I broke off as a stylist on my own and began to work with Mario Sorrenti and Terry Richardson, the work we did was partly a byproduct of that shift for me. Through that, the magazine (Richardson) came to be… I had worked for a magazine called Dune in Japan, and I had shown Fumihiro ‘Charlie Brown’ Hayashi, the editor of Dune, my scrap books, you know just random images and bits and bobs I had stuck in these art books over the years. He said he would be interested to see what kind of sex magazine or porn magazine I’d make, he got the seed money and that’s how Richardson began.
CM: That leads me to something I was quite curious about… In terms of your beginning and how long it took you to be comfortable and able to bring your current aesthetic to the stories, and teams, and projects you were working on… How did you get to that place, that level, where the overt sexuality that has become your trademark was really unleashed?

AR: Magazines back then began to sort of gravitate towards sexual provocation, to make images compelling. Sex just seemed to come through and I was in the right place at the right time, I never really thought of doing anything else. I’m straight… well, as straight as a fashion stylist can be (laughs)… and that was what turned me on, that was what was exciting. When I was a kid I was very into Yves Saint Laurent and the images of Helmut Newton, the way they both presented this woman in a very provocative way but still being in control. I always tried to encourage irony and a sense of humor into the sexuality in the pictures I’ve worked on.

V 56 / Photo: Steven Meisel / Fashion Editor: Andrew Richardson
CM: You just made a point in saying that you were ‘straight’ but, didn’t you say in Interview magazine that you were bi-sexual?

AR: It’s kind of a funny thing… When I was a younger man, I had a couple of investigative adventures, so to speak, which is why it’s funny that he misquoted me that way. I do find myself looking at cute boys walking down the street differently now… almost as if once you get outed in print it changes something within you (laughs). But yes, I was misquoted. I really gravitated towards the gay club scene in London and New York when I was younger because that was the best scene, I enjoyed that kind of mentality and attitude and never had problem with that.

CM: In the world of editors there tends to be a cross over into the Art Direction on the part of the stylist, would you say that happens with your work as well?
AR: A lot of stylists work in a way where they are sort of dressing themselves in a picture. I’ve always been more geared towards the photograph and what the idea is, who the character is. Who is she when she wears that? Who is he when he wears that? For me, that’s the way I like to think about stories… it’s more about the idea. I’m like a closet photographer in a way. I do a lot of referencing and really collaborate with the photographer on what we see in the world around us. Recently, I did a story with Terry on “The Jersey Shore” for Interview magazine; I was really into the show, so I said to Terry, “Wouldn’t it be great to shoot these guys?” I was interested because the sexuality in that show is associated predominately with the men, and the women are kind of secondary. That’s really what I think styling is about for me… being able to process my environment and what I’m interested in, who I know and what’s coming in… I come from that school where at 13 or 14 I was reading The Face and it really affected me. I lived 30 miles from London and it was everything I wanted to be a part of and couldn’t, I was too young and couldn’t afford the bus fare… it was what turned me on. That magazine was really great because it featured fashion, culture, and music; a post-punk, culture magazine… that’s the point of view and the school that I come from. Trying to make a fashion story that is more like an album, an image, like a single. You know, you really want to do a story that someone is going to tear out of a magazine and put up on their wall.
CM: With photographers who’ve assisted other photographers, they always seem to walk away with an idea of how they were shaped or affected by their mentors so to speak… As a stylist, do you feel that you were also influenced by the people you had worked with in the beginning, such as Brana Wolf and Paul Cavaco?
AR: I think Paul Cavaco was definitely an influence for me, and Brana too. With Paul, it was his way of being. He was a great person to work for. He had a great sense of ease about working, it wasn’t a neurotic process (the way he worked), it was also very much about the image. He could do a whole story with a white shirt, and it was about the way he worked things out on set. Anyone can get a Balenciaga look off the runway and put it on a girl and it looks great. Paul taught me how to work using simple things. Also, I was very influenced by Melanie Ward and Anna Coburn and what was happening in the ‘grunge’ movement in London, the way they used transgressive elements in quite a plain way. I think Paul had a real confidence in his ability to make anything stylish… He depended less upon what you put on the girl and more about what you did with what you had. If you get stuck on a shoot and you can’t figure it out, and the idea you had and what you were building towards isn’t really working… if you divert from that, and if you don’t try to work it out within the idea, you can really end up in a lot of trouble. So I always try, for better or worse, to work out what we were originally trying to do. You are going to have to make mistakes to learn and make it better next time. You have to sort of go through that whole thing. I think that’s how you develop, and Paul was really good at knowing how he would be able to resolve the look in the picture.

CM: At what point in the whole journey of your career did the magazine come to be?

AR: It came to me really; I didn’t decide to call it Richardson either. It was late 1997 that it began to be talked about and we got the money and began to shoot it in early1998, Laura Genninger and David Ortega from Studio 191 agreed to art direct and we had Issue A1 ready to print in March of 1998.

It took the Japanese publishers a long time to go into print because I think they got something different than what they thought they were going to be getting. Jefferson Hack was in Japan and they showed him the dummy and asked him what he thought and he said, “I think it’s great,” and with that the publisher decided to go ahead and print it and we got it in late 1998, early 1999. I sent a copy to a friend of mine, Lee Swillingham, who was art directing The Face and he put a small quarter page piece about Richardson in the magazine. It had a couple of images and maybe 100 words about the issue. From that, we got a lot of interest in the magazine…This was also pre-internet, pre-email even… It ended up getting on Rolling Stone’s August hot list in 1999. So there was hype on the magazine itself and the fact that it was not widely available, we had only 500 copies that we were sent from Japan, turned it into one of those things that everyone wanted and nobody could find. I think the reason why it did as well as it did was because it didn’t disappoint and was in the right place at the right time. That gave me the confidence to go on and do another one. At that point, I separated from the Japanese publishers, due to issues with censorship and creative differences, and did A2 and the next one, A3, and then ran out of steam. It’s very hard doing everything, hustling the content, distribution, getting paid, keeping the whole thing going. I had always used my styling work to sort of keep the magazine afloat and 9/11 slowed things down in New York for a couple of years… I was at a crossroads and decided to put all my energy into fashion and started taking it all more seriously. Steven Gan was very supportive and I ended up working at Harper’s Bazaar, with David Sims and Mario Sorrenti. I got involved in brands like Belstaff and Aquascutum, doing consulting, and became a quite serious fashion editor at that point working on shows and campaigns, etc. So when the recession hit in 2008, work slowed down and I had more time. I had been thinking about the magazine all along, collecting things in folders and thinking, “oh well, that’d be good for Richardson.” Luckily people were still interested in it and I got help and support from Pascal Dangin and Dov Charney from American Apparel and thankfully this current issue A4 is doing really well.
CM: What is the relation between and the print version?

AR: You’ll see in the print version you have the QR codes and if you have a QR reader on your phone you can scan it and that will open up the online version where you can watch say a film that is referred to in the print version or a translation of an article while you have the magazine in front of you. So you have this Analog Digital interface. What we have on the website is not really a reflection of the magazine, it’s an ancillary device to the magazine and then what we’ve started doing now is blogging…So we have a ‘feed’ section on the site where we put up something every day or every couple of days, something that interests us… That’s what’s exciting in a way; the magazine is a beautiful object, a resolved rigorous publication, whereas the website is a much more spontaneous easy way of communicating. We have 4 or 5 different contributors and they each bring their own sort of thing to the mix. There is a gay point of view, a lesbian, a straight girl, straight guy- different types of people who are sharing things that they are interested in. It’s very important that this magazine is not a ‘straight’ magazine, it’s all sex and we try to represent that in the blog as well.

Related Posts:

7 Comments to “Andrew Richardson”

  1. Whatevah says:

    He’s good looking!

  2. Models and Style says:

    Im not a big fan of his work..
    but great article and interview !!

  3. Tini Bracero says:

    This article is great and inspiring. I find QR codes/readers interesting and perfect for the cber world we are, as a nation revolving towards.

  4. The interview questions are well done and brought out seriously awesome answers from the subject. Thanks for sharing this!

  5. Different and kinda cool.

  6. Alex says:

    Andrew has a very sensitive & considerate eye. I love his awareness, use & control of light.

  7. Alison Lednis says:

    Horrible work….just pure porn. I am sick of men presenting images of women in this way, look at the work he did with Araki for Vmagazines…. disgusting, and all that ‘confusion’ above over his own sexuality…. very strange man…….