Q&A with collector Richard Anderson
Richard Anderson is one of the biggest U.S. collectors of fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier. Originally from Wanamaker, Indiana, Anderson started out in a career in the luxury division of the Ford Motor Co. Fashion was always his first love, and his career allowed him to live in major fashion capitals of the world. Besides his Jean Paul Gaultier collection, Anderson also has an immense collection of Vivienne Westwood and Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace designs.
He currently volunteers at the Hoosier Salon in Carmel, IN.
Gabriella Harbridge: When did you first fall in love with Jean Paul Gaultier?
Richard Anderson: I remember when I finally got the nerve to go into my very first boutique. That was in 1986. It was in New York City and I was the midwestern kid, fresh out of school, and I saw these people walking around that looked like walking corpses. It was the height of AIDS. It was the height of just gloom. I am walking in Manhattan and I see all these people that would go into this store, and the first thing that caught my eye was the clothing that was in the front windows. It was just crazy, and happy and joyful. And then watching these people who looked like skeletons that would come to life when they would go in there.
And I finally got the nerve and opened the door and saw all of the crazy, insanely priced clothing, which was different from my midwestern price background. Where I came from, normal people did not spend $2,000 on a suit. I walked in and they immediately made me feel at home. I joked around and the clerk said, "Honey we have a clearance section." And one of the Gaultier sweaters that I absolutely loved was there on that back clearance section. I paid $60 for it, which was a lot of money in 1986 for a sweater and I still have it.
H: How long have you been collecting haute couture pieces?
A: I have always been collecting since high school, so the early 1980s.
H: How many pieces do you have in your collection?
A: It was counted for me by two IMA textile conservators when the collection was here. They counted 1,549 pieces in the collection, although I have added to the collection since then.
H: Have you ever met Jean Paul Gaultier?
A: Yes I have. I have met him a couple of times. One of the funniest was in Barney’s New York, and I am standing in front of him and the conversation goes as follows:
JPG: "These clothes...who tailors my clothes for you?"
RA: "No one. I buy off of the rack."JPG: "You are kidding we have to have these tailored. What, your jacket size is about a 48?"
RA: "Yes, either that or a 40 depending on how baggy between a 48 or a 50 because I am doing European sizes as well."
JPG: "Bring me some jackets"
They had some jackets brought to us. I tried them all on and there was no alterations needed whatsoever. He proceeds to tell me:
JPG: "Your build is better than my house model."
My instant reaction to his statement was, "Can I take his place?"
We both had a good laugh from it.
H: Have you ever met any other designers?
A: Yes, I have met Vivienne Westwood, because I own one of her original double hair dresses, a double knit polyester, from her very first shop, which, might I add, is the most horrifically constructed garment I have ever seen. I got to tell her that. Her response was, "Honey, it was punk we didn’t know what we were doing." It is awful, but I am tickled to own it.
Also among other famous people I have met, I used to work in the luxury division of the Ford Motor Company and I had the opportunity to deliver a car to Elton John. Through the nature of the job that I did, I also was able to meet Giorgio Armani. Even though my career was not directly in fashion, everyone remembered me for the clothes that I wore. My clothing became my calling card. My career and my love of fashion went hand in hand.
Honestly, if I might add, I am not impressed. They are people they just happen to have a public persona. Some are nice and some I would not give the time of day to them.
H: What about Jean Paul Gaultier do you like most?
A: I have many reasons, but one of them is because his clothing fit me like a glove. I never needed to have anything altered.
(I also like) his drive, and I just happen to be one of those people who understands his work. I thoroughly enjoy his work, not because of the label.
H: I recall you saying you have lived in Milan, would you be able to share some experiences you had there? Where else have you lived in the world?
A: Coventry, England; Charlemagne, France; Milan, Italy; Stuttgart, Germany; Melbourne, Australia. That’s about it, the big places at least.
H: Do you have any advice for aspiring fashion students or collectors?
A: Real fashion takes patience. You have to wait to get it. Fast fashion? That is mall wear, but to actually get a true sense of style and begin to collector pieces from a certain designer, you have to have patience. There is a difference between having a dabbled interest and having a passion. Dabbled in interest is someone who just buys the Vogue September issue or says, "I saw this on some fashion TV show," because (they) watched a Youtube clip of it.
But these people do not ask the question of "What am I looking at? Where is it made?" These people who think they know fashion are not taking it in another step.
It goes back to what I have said, it takes patience. You have to ask yourself, "why do I like this? Why am I drawn to it?" And seriously, honestly answer that question. And like many, they will not do the work. They only go off of the regurgitated bits of information that has hit the media and think that they understand fashion, but they do not have a clue. That is not what fashion is about. It is an element of it, but a lot of it is hijacked.
Fashion is the most creative outlet of a human being. Period. The only thing that sets us apart from animals is beauty, for the sake of its beauty. We pursue (fashion) because we are drawn to it, because it gives us joy. Bottom line, surround yourself with others who also have a passion for your work.
Clothing is also your armor. It keeps people away, but it also invites people that think they way you do in. A person who is going to compliment you and genuinely compliment you knows what it is that you have on and why you have it on. They could care less about a label, but they are looking at the criteria of it, that it looks really good, (and) you feel very comfortable in this "skin." It also keeps those people that tilt their heads sideways to keep to themselves. They will not approach you, and that is why I like it.
I know I have so much to say about what I would say to all fashion students seeking advice. I will end with this. Instead of saying to yourself, "Oh! I am going to do fashion," ask yourself why and for what reason is every piece that you create. Do not think of what is trendy and what is in at this point in time, but think of what you think is visually appealing. When you go against the norm and look back on something you created, it will look timeless.
H: How can you counteract the negativity that comes with the fashion world?
A: The thing that will make you stand out is being nice. Really that is it. You will make mistakes, but embrace them, because after all It's just fabric. Really. It’s just thread.
Photos from top to bottom: Richard Anderson poses at the Hosier Salon in Carmel. Anderson has one of the largest collections of Jean Paul Gaultie in America; From left, C. W. Mundy, a Ball State alumnus, poses with Anderson next to Mundy's portrait of Anderson; The portrait Mundy painted of Richard Anderson. PHOTOS BY GABRIELLA HARBRIDGE.