We Are New York: In Conversation with Craig Robinson
We are New York is an interview series created to connect and exchange ideas with local vanguards, in turn serving as a source of information, inspiration, and furthermore, an archive of a critical moment in time.
NAME: Craig Robinson
OCCUPATION: Bespoke tailor, menswear designer
Craig Robinson has called New York home for the past 25 years, during which time he’s more than made his mark on the city. For the uninitiated, Craig is among the fine few we have to thank for cultivating a certain caliber of style among New York men. With his eye for clean lines and precise cuts together with a staunch dedication to quality, it is not surprising that the master tailor has created custom suits for some of the biggest names in film—Morgan Freeman and Willem Dafoe, among them—and had his work exhibited at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. He has also outfitted rock heavyweights including the splendidly dapper members of Interpol—arguably the best-dressed band to emerge from the early-2000s rock revival.
Most recently, Craig has devoted his know-how to making masks for those in need while also taking the time to listen to records, watch films with his family, and revisit the breakfast recipes of his youth. Here, he shares with GrandLife a glimpse of life during the COVID-19 crises.
What creative projects or special initiatives have you immersed yourself in in the midst of the current public health crisis? What inspired the project and what did you set out to achieve?
Craig Robinson: Since we manufacture all our garments in-house, I started making masks to donate to Masks for Medicine. After a couple of weeks, I was happy with a good fit and style and started producing them for sale on our website and added a curbside delivery. Not only have we had some sales but also inquiries about how to make masks from all over the country and Europe. Sharing this information has been enjoyable for me personally knowing that as New Yorkers, we are not alone in this pandemic. Using the available technology such as FaceTime and Zoom has helped communicate the production of the small garment. It’s been nice to speak with people I may have not had the chance to speak with if this crisis didn’t happen. We have had the opportunity to donate unused goods to other mask makers that are at home and using their time wisely to help others. It’s all been quite positive in that respect.
What albums or songs are on heavy rotation right now?
Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Cholo Jams, The Intruders, Billy Stewart, The Chantels. I’ve been doing a lot of work around the house. This was music I grew up with and we were always working, so I guess it makes sense as a New Mexican that misses his family after being here in New York for 25 years.
Any films or shows you’ve watched recently that left an impression?
Trolls the new movie. Kids’ movies seem to be what we are watching a lot of because we have kids. But there are some good lessons in these movies that adults should live by, and often we do. It’s the differences between us that matters and what makes us so great. It’s a music film, and music is everything to me.
Which neighborhood spots or local haunts do you miss most right now?
The season is changing to spring, and my favorite spot to catch a drink at the bar as the light changes from day to night is Hotel Delmano. I enjoy the flowers and the color scheme, a Brooklyn fave. Radegast [Hall and Biergarten] for a beer after work with the gang or a Negroni Sbagliato. Grab a quick sausage and fries at the walk-up grill, and enjoy the evening music with live bluegrass while taking in the room.
Where have you been going to get your art fix now that many galleries, museums, and theaters have taken exhibitions and shows into the digital sphere?
Honestly, with all the coffee table books I’ve been given and collected over the years, I’m finally getting a chance now to walk through them. Mostly enjoying the ones I don’t have to read, haha.
Do you have any new rituals that you’ve found to be grounding or inspiring? If so, what are they?
I’m not sure if its a ritual or not but I have been able to enjoy breakfast at home every day. Before the crisis, breakfast was coffee and a banana on the run. The only time I’d be able to enjoy breakfast was on Sunday or on vacation. I’ve been trying new things as well as making breakfasts my mother and family made when I was a child. Takes me back.
Can you name a couple of places you’ve been supporting through takeout or delivery or share a recipe you’ve been cooking?
We are normally out for pizza with my family, so we have been missing some of our pizza spots. I have been hand-tossing various pizza recipes, hand-crushing tomatoes, and using a lot of the fresh herbs I’ve grown in the garden. Brooklyn Pies, artisanal crust, Sicilian, you name it. It’s been fun for the whole family to enjoy. I have two five-year-old boys who enjoy the sound of Luie Prima and wear their chef uniforms; good way to spend a couple of hours. The best crust I believe we made is the Bobby Flay easy crust recipe.
Who or what have you recently discovered and started following?
Honestly, I feel like I’m following less now than ever. I’ve had so much to do and get accomplished during this time that I haven’t had much time to follow anything new.
If you could have one night out in NYC, where would you go and with who?
Oh wow, what a question. I would love to go to the [Loeb] Boathouse for an early dinner and enjoy the open window and watch the sunset behind the lake and the city skyline. Even though I’ve been cooped up with the family, I think I’d like to still go with my wife and children so I can see the excitement on all their faces and to all talk about how we are free to see and breathe the air. Can’t wait for that day.
Share a mantra, quote, or phrase that you’re living by right now?
Living in discomfort should not lack enthusiasm.
WORDS Edwina Hagon
PHOTOGRAPHY Craig Robinson