The spacious meeting hall is filled with the hustle and bustle of the curious, the sage, and the uninitiate, there on invitations from various cognescenti in the Chinese marketing and fashion world, to view a first of it’s kind offering by a new American designer, and Surfing cultural icon, Artist Robb Havassy. The show is the unveiling of the Artist’s Lifestyle and Art based apparel line: Havassy!
The seating which wraps around the reflective stage fills, the lights go to spot, the music pumps up, and this video begins to show on the facade at the back of the runway. And in synch, Robb Havassy unleashes his take on Art and Popular Culture as his models ply the reflective runway sea that bounces the concept of surfing into the waters of Chinese Culture via fashion.
Sitting back in my office in Ventura California, Robb’s short and often somewhat cryptic notes, and telling photographs of the event were preceded by a question regarding Facebook in China. I e mailed him back that it was IP banned there, but I would post a few images for him from here. In the exchange of e mails that ensued, I frequently found myself smiling a bit, as I realized that the fruit of Robb’s several months intense work in Southern California designing the fashion line, were being captured in this show and communicated back to me in real time.
The affect was that of having been able to witness something historic. Seemingly out of nowhere, this young artist had birthed a culture based Men’s and Women’s apparel line aimed at, not his peers, but a burgeoning new market, that of the young and emerging Chinese youth, who he felt were searching for a vehicle to identify with. So Robb brought them surfing and his ocean, surf, and popular culture based art.
The emotions were palpable. The line had gone from concept in California to the runway in China, in approximately three months. That meant a LOT of creative and constructive energy being focused on a myriad amount of aspects regarding international marketing, finance, and fulfillment, in addition to the nuts and bolts of creative interpretation of Art, and implementing it into a fashion sensibility that would be both authentic, and appeal to the sensibilities of the Chinese Psyche. Big project. And as is often said the show was an overnight success.
But what many do not realize about the Orange County based artist, is that he has a deep background in Fashion. Robb has been in shows as a lifestyle fashion model, for some of the most well known designers in the fashion industry, and worked with the elite menagerie which accompanies that world. His close friends run major Corporations in the Action Sports based industry as well. He gets it. That is a critical understanding to have, as one moves forward in this sort of project.
Then there is the vast depth in his Art pursuits. Robb is incredibly prolific, and his art is rich with the flavor and sensuality reserved for those who ply the global waters of surfing, nature, love and life. His work exudes all of that. So does he. It is all intensely magnetic.
I met Robb in the course of contributing to Surf Story Vol 1, which is an iconic book of surf culture that has proven to define to the world, just what authenticity is in surfing. Robb simply invited everyone he knew to contribute a story or two, and some art or photography, and published it all in a book which he laid out personally and then self published as a Limited Edition. The Surf Story Project had been a success. In fact, Volume 2 is on the way and is proving to be an even more vast expression of the passion that is Surf Culture.
My last phone conversation with Robb, prior to his leaving, was regarding some significant yet unimportant aspect of the new and emerging company which would bear his name. Creating companies, especially ones which are innovative, requires the pangs of birth. Those are unavoidable. Having been involved in a¬† plethora of corporation building myself, it is easy for me to read the waters of new company formation.
The last of our conversation is below.
“Robb, stop worrying this. You need to relax, and as you settle in to your seat for the flight, realize that your job is to be the foking rock star Artist and icon that you are. That is what the Chinese want. You.” And we rang off.
At the end of a runway show is the finale. In the last walk, the designer comes out with their models in a final presentation to the world. The impression is always designed to be icon building in effect. Robb had glibly and unobtrusively mentioned something he had thought about doing for awhile. I had almost forgotten it. Till I saw this photo he sent. The looks on the models faces, the audience and Robb say it all to me.
Robb Havassy, rolling out his world and life: in China. Triumph.
In much the same manner as a wave, “Havassy!”, has come ashore in the original land of enchantment and innovation: China. Full Circle. I am not surprised that it took an artist to figure it out.