Murphy Heyliger, 40
W 22nd St and Seventh Ave.
Mon Jun 7 2010
Photograph: Allison Michael Orenstein
What do you do? I'm a graphic designer.
I could tell by your outfit, actually. [Laughs] Oh God, I went to a cookout a couple weeks ago, and some girl said, "Let me guess, you're a graphic designer." I didn't think graphic designers had a look, but I guess they do.
What kind of graphic design do you do? I work for Imagelab at the Hanes company.
Do you get the thrill of seeing people wearing your designs all the time? Yes, yes. I've been doing it for so long that I used to run up to people and say, "Oh my God, oh my God! I did that!" It was exciting. But now...I'm jaded.
Is your name German? It is German. I'm from the West Indies, so God knows what happened down there. [Laughs] At one point, the Dutch settled there, but otherwise I don't really know the origin. I just know it means "the saint." Like, the holy one.
That's a lot to live up to. I know, and I fail each time.
Where did you grow up? You've got a lovely accent. I was born in St. Thomas, but I lived in St. Kitts until I was eight. So I kind of have a British Island sensibility. We came to New York in 1979; I grew up in Harlem.
Wow, tropical paradise to crack-era Harlem in one fell swoop. Oh, yes. I was loving it. I most remember the smell of suede, because my mother bought me my first suede jacket when we moved. Best smell ever. I loved the city instantly.
More from Murphy
"I used to have a store in Harlem called Harlemade. The brand is still around, but the store closed. It was my thing on the side."
"I have three sisters. Growing up the only boy, I kept to myself, did my own thing. That's probably why I'm a graphic designer."
"I came to Harlem just in time to witness the change in the '80s. Crack was definitely taking hold of the neighborhood. But it was a beautiful place to grow up; I never had a problem with it. The reputation was just from people on the outside. If you were in drugs or in a gang or whatever, then yeah...but otherwise it was very family-oriented and community-oriented. I never felt unsafe. Just like in the rest of New York, you just always had to be mindful of what you were doing."