Can Grindr be fashion?
Rob is a young creative whose work in fashion touches everything from modeling to designing. In 2018 he published a book titled “Come Back to Bed”. The book focused on his recovery from sexual assault. In 2020, healed, he graduated, but without being able to have a proper runway, he showcased his collection on Grindr.
7:30 wintertime in Paris was 19:30 summertime for Rob in New Zealand as we sat down to talk about his inspirations, therapy, and Grindr.

So we’ve known each other online for quite some time, when I started following your work, you were 20. You were already creative, but your work was more focused around your image. When did you realize you wanted to diversify your work?

In 2018 was when I just started university, I was trying to find out who I was (through makeup, hair…). At first, I liked photography but I was pushed into modeling. And when I saw the casting directors not casting people as diverse as they could have, I got into casting. This path came naturally.

You’re a model, a designer, you do casting, you do photos, you’re a freshly graduate student, how do you manage to do all this?

A lot of my friends would tell you that I am very organized. I like to have everything lined up and ready to go. This year, I learned to chill and focus on ONE project at a time which is complicated for a freelancer. I’m sure you are doing this interview while already thinking about your next project.

Exactly, it’s super hard to manage everything as a young freelance creative.

Especially now.

You shot and cast the “make a date” campaign, which starred real-life couples but unlike the Balenciaga Fall 19 campaign, this series showed more day to day interactions and setups. Do you think normal has a place in fashion?

Now, absolutely. I think with Covid normal people and normal scenarios are a lot more acceptable. Recently I loved the paparazzi lookbook that Saks Potts released. I love a mix of both, to have a weird setup with a normal model, to twist reality.

I think we are coming back to a stripped-down aesthetic.

Exactly, I love the work of Winter Vandenbrink, He shoots people walking down the street, or playing basketball, in a normal setup.

You live in New Zealand since age 12, how is the fashion scene there?

It’s young. There are some household brands that have been here for ages but some newcomers are starting to get big on an international scale. I think, now, people have a new fascination with New Zealand, we are a lot of times seen as the exotic, clean and developed country far away from the world.

You showed your graduate collection on Grindr instead of having a runway, what inspired you to do that?

I was scrolling through Grindr one night, and I found this guy who had this Helmut Lang singlet and as we were talking I realized, what an awesome way to show clothes. Grindr is basically a gay online shopping app. It makes a lot of sense for me to directly show people like myself the products. On tinder, it’s different because you have to swipe, it wouldn’t look like a look book but on Grindr, if everyone is in the same area, all the pictures are gonna be next to each other.

How was the reaction on the app?

Half of the people thought we were catfish. And half of them thought it was a genius way to showcase a collection. It showed how the app could be used in an innovative way.

In this collection, the clothes are tight, black and they show a lot of skin. They remind me of 2004 Helmut Lang FW men collection, is that a direct reference?

Yes. In uni, we are told to have references and I chose Helmut Lang, Dion Lee, and Ludovic de Saint Sernin. It is not a rip-off. It is inspired by. There is no way to escape comparison in fashion. The Rick Owens Membrane collection also inspired me.

Yes. What struck me is the utility side of them that none of the people -you referenced as inspiration- incorporated in their tank tops.

One of the biggest issues I have with tank tops is that they all roll up my waist. So, I made them into wrestling singlets. I wanted to do a full-length catsuit but had no time with Covid shutting down university. So I ended up doing wrestling singlets.

A few months back you texted me and said “I might come live in Paris”. Was this, for you, the normal path to follow when working in fashion?

I think here in New Zealand, it is difficult to make a living out of working as a freelance designer. I feel like I either have to go to New York, Paris, or London.
I want Paris very badly.

Do you still intend on coming here?

Yes. In 2022. You will have to help me find a place.

Of course. Now that you’re out of uni, what are your plans?

I will continue freelance casting and shooting.

A few years back you published a book called “Come Back to Bed”. Can you tell me more about it?

In 2017 I was drugged and assaulted at a party. I went to the hospital and I couldn’t really process it.

The first guy I slept with after that, I took a photo of him. Next guy, I took another photo. And for a whole year, I had taken photos of every single partner I had. And then my therapist told me it was a way to regain my trust by documenting. Memory and evidence was what I lacked at the time of the aggression.

I then compiled the photos with some notes about the guys I had taken prior into a PDF InDesign thing. That ended up being a book.

Do you think creating, designing, and art, in general, can be therapeutic?

100% yes. I think creating something, like art, that is so close to yourself is a way to get it out of your system. It doesn’t necessarily have to be shared at the end. It’s a personal healing process. I really wanted to say with this book that there is a way to come out of it. It is rare to hear recovery stories that are successful.

Last question, what is your definition of love?

It’s excitement. Someone that excites you when you see them.