When the economy collapsed in 2008, a 50-something Richard Haines lost his job as a fashion designer. "I was broke," he says. "I'd had this other life. I was married to a woman, and we had this very posh apartment on Fifth Avenue. Then I got a divorce, and lost a lot of money, so I couldn't afford Manhattan anymore."
Haines, now openly gay, moved to a studio in Brooklyn's bohemian Bushwick neighborhood, then less trendy. "The first weekend I thought, Where am I?" he recalls. "Then I walked outside, and there were the most beautiful kids. So I ran back to my place and got my sketchbook." He started a blog, What I Saw Today, which caught the eye of Miuccia Prada, who, in 2012, asked Haines to create illustrations that would spawn a line of T-shirts and a collectible book. Their collaboration turned Haines into one of today's most sought-after illustrators. But for him, the renderings aren't just about fashion. "I want to capture people," he says. "When I'm drawing at a show, sometimes the most interesting thing is on the runway, but sometimes it's in the audience."
The artist's New York solo exhibit, A Room of One's Own, opens at Daniel Cooney Fine Art on September 10. It will feature his fashion work, but also beautiful male nudes. "I wanted this year to be my art year, because it's really what I love doing more than anything," Haines says. "So it's a happy ending."