This site is all about celebrating the obsessive, the visionary and the dreamer. Of his decision to spend his life as a milliner, Rod says, “My real interest was fashion as an art, couture, things that are mentally stimulating… it’s not a work of art, but it’s precious.” It took a few forks in the road and two mentors to guide him towards his life’s passion. The first omen came in the form of a design professor at the University of Kansas who took one look at the vintage addict in black from Great Bend, a town of 15,000, and asked Rod candidly, “What are you doing here?” The second came from an East Village milliner named Lola, who encouraged Rod to start his own business when he became disgruntled with the commercial emphasis at Parsons in both NYC and Paris.
Listening to what makes his heart beat has paid off for Rod. Today, he is the happy master of his reclusive milliner’s kingdom in a palatial – by New York City standards – townhouse in Harlem with his cat Ferris, who wears a charm necklace around her neck, chews holes in his cashmere throws and misplaces his antique cufflinks. It is here among the serenity of his voluminous collection of art books that he consumes himself with inspiration for days at a time. When I was there, it was the musician Matthew Hemmerline, who sings and plays the violin and guitar, pruning in his garden, composting, juicing, and reading historical fiction. Rod absorbs current events which eventually manifest themselves within his conceptual designs, like the subversive crown he made for Barneys’ Prince William and Harry-themed windows and the touches of rough cut black tourmaline, sea glass and nautical rope that he used for Spring ’11 in reference to the BP oil spill.
“I like to be well dressed and well put together, but I don’t like to be flashy. I don’t want to stand out as a clown,” Rod says of his sentiment towards clothes. On him, a blazer with Moschino written all over it, bow tie and custom made black leather pants are debonair, as is the sharkskin jacket with chartreuse lining that came from his father, who was color blind and often created interesting clothing combinations as a result. Rod likes statement pieces that he can hold onto forever unless they are going to be in a museum, like Hermes and anything crocodile. He will admire a Thom Browne piece from afar, but won’t buy it because he feels that he won’t wear it a year later. The stunner for me is his ’20s-inspired Matsuda embroidered linen suit, equipped with removable sleeves that require garters and buttons so precious that they have to be removed before dry cleaning, which he wears with brown and white wing tips. Like his dad, who always had a pocket square in his blazer pockets, Rod is polished and has never made a shirt that doesn’t have French cuffs. Like his mom, he never leaves the house without a hat.