For New York's blase fashion crowd, the appearance of a new model at Fashion Week is hardly cause for excitement.
But when he comes with a slew of gold medals around his neck, even the stately stick insects of Bryant Park start to take note. Meet Ryan Lochte (pronounced Lock-tee), champion U.S. swimmer, recently-signed model with the Ford agency and, he tells StyleList, aspiring fashion designer.
"I probably have 120 pairs of shoes," the 6'2" 24-year-old tells me. "Sometimes I'll buy a new pair every week. I have more shoes than anyone else I know."
If it weren't for his good friend Michael Phelps, it would probably be Lochte on all those cereal boxes. He came home from Beijing with gold, and embodies everyone's ideal of what an all-American athlete should look like. But now that he's with Ford, I asked, what about that trademark halo of messy hair? Is he going to show up for a fashion shoot, only for the client to discover his swim coach has made him clip it all off?
"I guess it's just up to your individual self, having your head shaved or not," he says with a laugh. In a sport where achievement is counted in the hundredths of a second, it seems odd that he should be so casual about that mop of mane. But he says: "I personally wear a swimming cap, so it doesn't really matter whether I have hair or not."
Lochte cites Ralph Lauren (and maybe a dash of P. Diddy) as his inspiration for what he hopes might become a career as a fashion designer. "Eventually when I'm done with swimming, I want to have my own clothing line," he says. "Very artistic, and I have a bunch of creative ideas--I want to tie in rock star, with hip-hop and business all together."
Judging by the whiplash he caused at Fashion Week, the young entrepreneur seems to embody several of those qualities himself.