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Interview: Richard Wheeler Launches HOUS

Andrew Silberstein

Richard Wheeler's HOUS Clothing Brand

If you’ve ever made it to East 58th Street on a Thursday night to catch one of your favorite DJs perform at Lavo NYC, you’re probably already familiar with Richard Wheeler, the calm and collected doorman that calls all the shots. Every week, mobs of club-goers crowd around Lavo’s entrance in hopes of gaining admission, but often all that Richard seems to notice is the poor fashion sense displayed by those he has to turn away.

We sat down with Richard at Lavo on an off night to discuss his brand new venture, aptly titled HOUS. Hous is Richard’s brainchild, meshing dance music culture with authentically designed t-shirts and hats. Many of your favorite DJs have already donned Hous apparel, from Sander van Doorn to Steve Aoki, Calvin Harris to Robbie Rivera. And this is just the beginning:

Tell us the story behind Hous.

It came about because I would be standing at Lavo at the door every week and there would always be a ton of people trying to get in. I’d notice people wearing Ed Hardy and Afflicton, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to let them in. But I realized that we’re all here because we love the same DJs and the same music. It’s pretty much a shame. And that’s when it suddenly dawned on me: I should create a line for house music—EDM. That’s how Hous was born.

When did you get started with Hous?

About six months ago.

What’s been the process since then? Is it mainly you working on it? Do you have dedicated designers?

Well, I have a team. I have support: people that do production, shipping, everything I need. My main and absolute focus is the design, the inspiration, and you could say the marketing too. I’m constantly making sure it’s going in the right direction.

So it’s been roughly half a year since you started working on Hous. Has the concept changed or evolved since you first started or are you sticking with the same vision?

I mean it’s such a focused idea. I am the only one right now today that is focused and dedicated to EDM. And I’m providing the only line essentially. I’m giving the fans something they can wear that is dedicated to that. Direction-wise, it’s super focused.

What was the first shirt you designed?

The first one was the logo. And that was rough. I locked myself in a room for three weeks to work on that because I wanted that street art feeling. So I locked myself in this room with a marker pen and about a thousand pieces of paper and kept sketching out every idea that came into my head. Obviously, I had to simulate house music as well, but I wanted a character—a face—something that’s fun and will burn in your mind. I reckon it took nearly a thousand sketches, maybe 700 of them. But once I got it, I knew I had it.

You’re a big house fan yourself. What was the first artist or sub-genre you ever really fell in love with?

This is going back. I guess they called it Happy House. Cuz I started with what was called hardcore, but not the hardcore you’re thinking. It was rave…rave in the 80s. I was an absolute raver. What can I do? I was 14, and it carried on until I was 18,19. If you look back in history, it was an actual movement. You have skinheads, you have rock, punk, and you have rave. I sort of lived through that. And as you get a little bit older…you know, like I remember being 18/19, my brother took me to my first house club, and you sort of progress into house.

What club was that?

Well it’s the classic, the obvious…the Ministry Of Sound in England. I had great times. And that’s sort of when I really fell in love with it.

And you’re still loving it?

Yeah. It’s something that changes and progresses so much, that it would take a lot for me to fall out of it. I think it’s something that can essentially be for everyone. I mean electronic music is for people that like to celebrate, like to go out, like to party. So as long as I can do that, then this will be the music of my choice.

Who’s on your iPod now?

Well, (laughs) that’s unfair. Because I always have a lot of the ones from the early 90s. I’m currently going through a retro stage like the old Carl Cox and Groove Rider a little bit. I’m sure in a month it will change.

Any contemporary house you’re into right now? Or are you strictly into the older stuff?

Yeah, Laidback Luke is my favorite just because I was in Miami and he did a set that was completely dubstep, and I guess I really enjoy dubstep and I loved that set. What was funny was that I don’t think anyone else in the club was getting it. Maybe because it was very beat-based, but I was loving it. It was one of the best sets I’ve ever heard.

Who’s the target consumer for house?

That’s a good question, but an easy one. Anyone that likes electronic music, and anyone that goes out. If you like it, this is your go-to brand. That’s what I want. And I want it to be for the people that love it: the fans, the people that go out. I’m sure I will target DJs to wear and support it, but my ultimate focus is the fans. On the web site, which we just launched, we’re allowing fans to upload photos of themselves at their favorite events and during their favorite moments. I want to build a community for the fans. The line is called Hous, but off the record I call it Our Hous, meaning it’s for everybody.

As the doorman at Lavo, what’s your take on dance music exploding in the U.S. right now? It’s interesting that you’re listening to the older music, because a lot of old-school house heads seem to hate on the new generation of house listeners, calling the music too poppy or crossover. But at the same time, this progression allowed it to reach a wider audience. What’s your take on that?

Well, I agree. House music has fractured into many different classifications. But it always progresses. And if you want to call it more mainstream or crossing over with pop, if that’s brought it more to the attention of the American people then I’m all for it. I hear the pop-house music today, and some of it I like, while some of it I don’t. But when a pop artist crosses over with the right track and the right beat, I’m all for it.

What are your future plans for the brand? Where do you see it in the near future and the far future?

Well actually I’m working on a lot of co-branded events both here and in Europe. I would like to build a following on the web site and in general for the brand. I’d like to increase the range. Today it’s t-shirts and hats, but in the end I would like it to be more.

Do you have any advice for up-and-coming designers looking to get in the apparel industry?

Yeah, I do. I certainly do. It’s not easy. Well starting up any business is not easy. You need to have the right stomach for it—a strong stomach. You need to really believe in what you’re doing and your vision. There will be times when you lose all your hope, lose all your money. There will be times when you have to really dig deep and believe in yourself. The way I put it is, if you want to have or do something really good, the chances are there are millions of people that want it too. So it’s never going to be easy.

For more information on Hous and to purchase pieces from the debut collection, visit www.Hous247.com.

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