New York Times best selling author, Robert Hicks, calls Franklin home. And if you haven’t heard, about the Robert Hicks Seriously Seersucker Party on the campus of O’More College of Design campus, tickets are going fast and you can learn more about it here. We had the opportunity to visit his home (dubbed “Labor in Vain”) and talk more about seersucker – the party with a purpose – and his new book coming out in September.
Can you share with us the history of seersucker, the fabric itself?
Seersucker came from India, it’s a process where they gather the threads. They invented this material and called it cream and sugar. The smooth portion of the fabric, which is the color portion of the fabric, is called cream. The rough area, which is typically white, is referred to as sugar. Joseph Haspel brought the fabric to New Orleans in 1909 and designed a suit out of the seersucker fabric. Haspel then walked out to the beach and into the water wearing his seersucker suit and was completely dry by dinner time. Seersucker became the “it suit” when Princeton students starting wearing the suit on campus. It really became a fashion statement. I recall wearing seersucker suits even when I was a young boy.
You wear one piece of seersucker from March to September, when did you start this tradition?
I started wearing it a lot about a decade ago, but I might go a day without it. Then last year, when we announced the Seriously Seersucker party, I thought what if I wear it everyday. It also gave me a good reason to go out and buy more seersucker. I have a whole closet of seersucker, everything from suits, jackets, shirts, shorts and pants. I like the worn out look that seersucker gets in its old age.
How did the idea of a seersucker party come about?
I was having dinner last year (2015) on National Seersucker Day, which takes place in June, with my good friend, Nelson Eddy. As we were having dinner, Nelson says to me, “You should have a party next year on National Seersucker Day,” to which I laughed and I came home and I put it on Facebook. By the next day, there were over hundred people who responded. The most popular comment was “why are not doing it this year?” Another friend, Doug Regen, contacted me and asked if I would consider hosting a seersucker party at O’More College. With the help of several talented people, we were able to put a party together in about six weeks. I’ve worked on so many parties, the group who worked on the Seriously Seersucker event were amazing. I have to say after the party, I didn’t hear one complaint but was told by friends that Seriously Seersucker was the “best party of the decade.”
This year will be different. Instead of hosting the Patron Party just before the party, this year I will be hosting it at my home a few days before Seriously Seersucker. Daniel Lindley, Owner/Chef of 5th & Taylor, who is also a good friend of mine, will be providing the food for the Patron’s event.
We noticed the name on your mailbox says “Labor in Vain,” how did you arrive at that name?
I live in an eighteenth century log cabin which I moved into back in 1978. The name was supposed to be a healthy reminder to not obsess about all things. When I was putting back together this 1795 log cabin house, I was obsessed with everything and I thought this is not the way I should live. So I decided to name it “Labor in Vain” so I wouldn’t be so obsessed. However, it didn’t work but I thought it would. Honestly, I just want to continue to remember what is important in life.
Tell us about your new book coming out in September- The Orphan Mother?
It took me four and half years to write my new book. I strive to write books that might be around generations from now. In the end of my first book – The Widow of the South – there was an enslaved woman, Mariah Reddick and I found her to be the most interesting person in the story, so I eventually came back to her.
A huge amount of her personality is a black woman that I grew up with. The book begins with the murder of her son. She, like any mother of any age or color, wants to have some form of justice and wants to know that her son’s life mattered. The truth is I don’t write history books, but what I hope I write about is all of the voiceless people who want to be heard.
Don’t miss the Seriously Seersucker event taking place at O’More College of Design on Saturday, August 27, at 6pm. By attending this event, you are providing a scholarship program for students at O’More College of Design. Purchase your tickets online.
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