Following my meeting with creator of Grey Goose, Francois Thubault, I sat down with Mr Raashid Hooks, another a man of measure. Their similiarites are plenty: a special attention to detail and desire to create the extraordinary using fine craft but mostly, the synchronicity when a gentleman’s personality matches his external presentation. I first met Mr Hooks and recall a sense of intimidation with his impeccable taste in menswear and imposing stature. It was in conversation that I truly grasped his sense of style, positivity and grounded nature. As an all-around creative he is an entrepreneur from New York whose talent lies in illustration, performance and tailoring.
I met up with Raashid at the Mondrian London to shoot at their Summer Terrace on South Bank. As the hotel features a fusion of American and British cuisine, I thought it the perfect setting for a New Yorker turned Londoner. We shot at the bespoke Grey Goose Boat, sitting with a riverside view of the Thames and tried two Grey Goose cocktails: La Poire and Le Grand Fizz. We talked about tailoring, his transatlantic life and how fatherhood changed his life.
Describe yourself in 5 words.
Stoical, earnest, imaginative, tactful, enterprising.
What’s your horoscope?
I’m a Virgo, well technically I’m a Leo/Virgo cusp. I don’t think it’s entirely accurate, while I can see a lot of the characteristics of both Leo and Virgo in myself, some of the more negative traits are a bit tough to swallow. You never want to see yourself as anal retentive or a blusterer! I suppose a lot of the fun in knowing zodiac signs is being able to tell people the reason why they’re so screwed up is because it was written in the stars. It takes a lot of the pressure off having to change bad habits.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I was born in Chicago and I grew up in New York. That’s where I became a man. Now I live in London and many people ask me how New York and London compare. I always tell them: they don’t. Outside of finance and real estate they are two very different towns. I think a lot of Londoners know or have heard of how dynamic a city New York is and, as proud Londoners, would like to hear that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be; but that’s simply not true, it is all of that and then some, but London is as well. Simply put, there can be no comparison between the two. It’s two cities in two completely different countries with different art scenes, music scenes and fashion scenes. I think there is a mutual respect because of our history and the fact that we are two of the most diverse cities on the planet, but the better town is a matter of personal preference.
Were you artistic as a child?
I was born an artist. A child’s imagination is so powerful that there is barely much separation between what is imagined and what is real. In my case, because my childhood was perilous, I was forced to focus on reality much sooner than most kids thus my imagination became a place of refuge when things became too overwhelming. Very early on I knew that I wanted to be an illustrator. I was the kid that always got into trouble because I was sketching super heroes in class when I should have been paying attention to my teachers. There were a few teachers that loved to ask me a question when they knew I wasn’t paying attention to make an example of me. I would laugh with the rest of my classmates because I knew it was ridiculous. I had natural talent, I became a very good artist and in high school my interest shifted from super heroes, villains and comics to fine arts. I thought I wanted a career in fine arts, then realised I wanted girls more and slowly drifted away from arts towards sport. I’m currently in the process of bringing some of my work to life in the form of a music video, more on that soon.
What point did you realise tailoring was your calling?
I don’t think I ever thought tailoring was something that was for me per-say. I knew it was something I had a great respect and appreciation for and it was something I thought I would be good at, but I knew I could fall on my face. My initial reservations about the work was that it is very time consuming and when I started I had a lot of other things going on. There is no way to mask bad tailoring. If you screw up its very clear and you can’t blame anyone else. These two things almost kept me from making it over the hump but I had a great mentor. He would always say “there is no such thing as a master tailor, the minute you believe you’re a master is the minute you stop learning and once you stop learning you’re dead in this business.” It’s something I’ll never forget. I remember I used to make these really awful blazers for my friends. I would do hip hop inspired graphics on the back, they were inspired by old NY B-Boy crews. Everyone loved them except the girl I was seeing at the time. She pulled no punches. She was a designer and to be honest if it weren’t for her being so harsh I probably would not have decided to learn the craft so I owe a lot to her.
How was your craft developed over the years?
My craft jumped light years ahead when I stopped looking to people in my line of work for information and started focusing on the lifestyles people lead. I’ve come to learn from watching people. I question why they make the decisions they do, whether it’s a particular fashion choice, the way they style their hair, the way they sip their coffee or how they read a newspaper. I listen to their vocal inflictions, I watch how they walk, I try to step out of myself and immerse myself in other peoples experiences. At the risk of sounding cliche, I believe life is about experience, not just your own. In being this way I stay endlessly inspired, my skills grew immensely because I pushed myself to create for people from different walks of life, not just dandies.
How did you get into the world of acting?
I started acting at a young age, I think I was 7. I didn’t really start taking it seriously until I was in High School. I realised I was good at it my junior year in school, I’d caught the bug. It’s something I love as much as illustration, music and tailoring. They all allow me to express myself creatively and give the world back some of what it has given me, I enjoy that.
What film has influenced you most?
The film that has stayed with me is Stand By Me. I saw it for the first time when I was a little boy and was blown away by it. There was something about it that really spoke, primarily because the boys in the film were like me and my friends at the time. Innocent kids with endless capabilities but very rough family lives. I really identified with the River Phoenix character. He was haunted, possibly by his own fate, but was strong and had great affection for his friends.
Do you have an actor you admire?
This is pretty easy for me. Denzel Washington is an actor I truly admire, both for his style and craft. He has managed his career perfectly and seems to be a good father. Enduring in Hollywood is tough but he has remained scandal free, elegant and eloquent. He has also opened a lot of doors for black actors and filmmakers, he’s proven to be very selfless for a super star. That’s noble.
You’re a father too, how have children changed your life?
When your kids arrive it’s just not about you anymore and while that can be difficult to accept initially, over time you start to reap the benefits of your efforts. You start to forget about the sleepless nights when your kids start having full conversations with you about what they want to wear that day. Each stage of my kids lives is a new challenge for me, you never stop learning how to be a dad. Having kids has put things into perspective, I’ve got a new sense of time, because in them, you can see time going by fast as they grow. They’ve made me want to be the best, not just at what I do, but the greatest human I can be.
How have you changed as a man?
I think the biggest change is how I see myself. I’m more patient with myself, more forgiving. I feel more at peace with the decisions I make because I know I’ll end up where I need to be. There is a new stillness, a quiet resolve about my future.
What are the biggest cultural differences between living in New York and London?
In my opinion it’s the whole pub culture thing. We don’t have that. The Sunday roast, bring the whole family to the pub thing doesn’t happen there. You can’t bring kids into a bar in NY, in fact I don’t know of anywhere in the States that allows that. There is also the fact that New York is a 24 hour city, of course I’m bias, but I was really surprised that as massive as London is, with all of these people, there was no 24 hour tube until the top of the year. Everything closes early here, which is fine, but that was pretty shocking to me initially.
Favourite bar in New York for a night cap?
A spot called Death and Company in the East Village. They have great cocktails there.
Favourite bar in London?
There are so many but probably Two Floors in Soho.
We’re shooting at Mondrian’s Grey Goose Riviera terrace, do you have a favourite cocktail?
My favourite is probably a Moscow mule. There is something about the ginger and lime that really brings out the flavour of a good vodka. Of course my preference is Grey Goose because it’s so smooth.
How do you find inner peace, particularly living in a big city?
I always try to take a little bit of time to myself. Reading is a form of meditation for me, you can often find me with my nose in a book. Going to the gym, riding my bike and writing always relaxes me when things get hectic.
Are there any people who you take inspiration from in your life?
I take inspiration from both my father and my wife. They are very hard working, genuine, kind, giving people. With them, what you see is what you get. When you work in an ego driven industry it’s nice to have people like them to remind you of what really matters.
What is on the horizon for you?
At the moment I’m working on simplifying and refocusing my brand. Next season will be more knitwear and trouser focused. The new knitwear designs are impressive, all of the hard work is paying off so I’m really excited to see how it is received.
Tell me your legacy. What would you like people to know you for in 100 years?
I’d really just like to be known for putting my all into the people I love. I hope to be known for being selfless with my creativity and producing art that truly moves people. Most importantly I’d like for my descendants to know that I put my family first and loved my children with all the passion one can muster.
What advice would you give your 18 year old self?
Be patient. Allow yourself time to grow because great things are coming your way soon. You’ll need to pace yourself to get the most out of it. Do not smoke that first cigarette when you’re 27, you actually won’t be able to stop whenever you want.
Leave us with some words of wisdom.
I’ll leave you with a quote on doing what you love by one of my favourite philosophers.
“When we finally got down to something, which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, you do that and forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing simply in order to go on living. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.”
Over the next few weeks I’ll be photographing other inspiring men who share the spirit and energy of Raashid within their own field. This is a paid collaboration with Grey Goose, see more from their via Instagram on @GreyGooseUK.