Michael Tintiuc has a look that is not easily forgotten. Between his trademark long, dark brown hair, doe-like eyes and soft, sensuous features, it isn't a surprise that this young man found himself working hard as the male model whose presence would demand worldwide attention on both the catwalk and in print.
When I first saw Michael in Steven Meisel's Vogue Italia spread, "Venus in Fur," I, like the rest of the planet, gawked guiltily (and not without a degree of lust) in awe of the pseudo-androgynous collection of apparently god-like, willowy boys, each one more luscious than the next -- a bouquet of sandy blondes and platinum headed male beauties -- and then, there was Michael, the dark one with the dark thought-filled eyes. To be able to hold one's own while posing naked next to the likes of one of the most photographed models in the world, Andrej Pejic, is an astounding feat, but I have to admit, I hardly noticed Pejic after I'd had an eyeful of Michael Tintiuc.
I wanted to know what was behind those baby browns, and so I made it my point to meet Michael and find out. I'd always been curious about people who were born with supernatural beauty and the reporter in me was especially intrigued by all I'd read. Seems Mr. Tintiuc is a very natural guy, fun-loving, digs his music, loves to skateboard -- a regular ol' Joe. But this fairly successful 24-year-old is a deep dude who balances a world of ambition. One only has to view his line, LIRFONS, to see how he's brought together his vision of funky-hippie rock-n-roll style with incredibly well made, well designed, high-end materials -- all he needs now is exposure.
Michael was generous enough to take time out of his busy day to allow me to interview him, which I am doing simply because I really believe in him. I believe in LIRFONS. I think the clothes are divine -- I want those Soul Clover shoes! But more than that, I want this very cool, very friendly guy to have a chance to share with a broad range of people his vision, what it is he does and why.
Dori Hartley: Are you still actively modeling?
Michael Tintiuc: For the last two years I was more devoted to my art projects and was modeling only via direct booking, but this season I plan on focusing back to modeling.
DH: How much of your time do you devote to designing?
MT: If a person has an adequate view on things, he should understand that in every pixel of the modern world there is a share of design. I can say, without any doubt, that even though I may not be designing anything in particular, I am surely thinking about it. To me design is less about the looks and more about placement, how a particular detail interacts and fits.
DH: Are you the main designer for LIRFONS?
MT: There is no main designer at LIRFONS, there is a main idea, on the realization of which each one is working, contributing as much as possible of his or her vision.
DH: What does the word LIRFONS mean?
MT: LIRFONS is an abbreviation that we came up with about 10 years ago, before the appearance of the label. We're not disclosing what it actually means, as everyone should have his secrets. The initial name was LIRFONS Butterfly, with time it was shortened to LIRFONS, but the symbol of a butterfly still remains in the logo, now in the form of a 6 edged pentacle, formed out of multiple butterflies. Butterfly - symbol of soul, immortality and rebirth. In a lot of cultures a butterfly is an embodiment of conversion, transformation and light. In China, this winged creature meant the immortality of soul, as well as spring and love. In ancient Greece the Goddess Psyche was depicted as a woman with wings, whose name meant "soul." In Christianity butterflies represented life and death, were sometimes drawn on baby Christ's hand, which symbolized rebirth and resurrection of the soul.
DH: Tell me a little about the LIRFONS sisters. What roles do they assume in the LIRFONS brand?
MT: The LIRFONS sisters are LIRFONS. They are involved in everything, from photography and sketching to complete collections. I was invited to LIRFONS as a designer much later after they emerged as a label. It was the LIRFONS sisters who shot my first book and convinced me to try myself as a model six years ago. That's where everything started.
DH: Do you sketch out your designs and present them to a clothes maker?
MT: Any item is accompanied by an initial sketch, which shows the silhouette and style, then a second drawing is made, often called the "map of the item," which helps the constructor to identify all the correct ratios, such as the width and height of various details. Each case is quite different, for example the look, color and texture of a fabric can create several ideas or even a series of items.
DH: Who do you feel is your target audience - who would wear LIRFONS clothing?
MT: Our clients are from all over the globe, most of the time passionate about music and the world of art. It was never in our plans to work on a mass production label, creating everyday, "affordable" clothing to the liking of each and everyone. This task is being perfectly handled by other well-known mass labels.
Our clients are those who appreciate quality, uniqueness and individual style. People who know the difference between a piece produced by thousands of people at a factory in an edition of tens of thousands items and a unique piece, whose creation was, from the start, imbued with an exact idea, music, soul. An item which from the beginning 'til the end was made by the author himself and is an essential part of his being.
You can say that LIRFONS clothing is made by artists for artists.
DH: Tell me about what inspires you most as a designer?
MT: History, music and every aspect of the world of art.
DH: What inspires you most as a human being?
MT: I never cease to be inspired by the American and European music and art scene of the '60s and the '70s. As well as the most vivid art figures of various epochs. I am inspired by those whose works left a mark in history and became a classic, by something that is relevant and eternal, no matter the made-up mainstream trends. Every century has its own true heroes, those who continue to inspire long after they're gone. Besides that I find inspiration in esoteric and psychological literature.
As an example I would list the following: Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Syd Barrett, Leonardo da Vinci, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Iggy Pop, Salvador Dali, Sigmund Freud, Carlos Castañeda, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick and others.
I don't think that there is a point in separating these people into categories, as they implemented their ideas primarily through creativity.
DH: You've mentioned skateboarding and acting as things you'd love to do professionally. Are you still interested in these things? Have you acted in anything that we might have seen?
MT: I've been skateboarding for more than 10 years now and I'm not even remotely thinking of stopping. I never wanted to skate professionally nor can I call it a hobby -- it's a lot more than that. It's a passion, a thing you can't just lose interest in if you're genuinely attracted to it. If choosing between a work out in a gym, surrounded by four walls, I would choose to skate under the sun and open sky any time of the day.
At the moment I have not played in any major films, as I've only recently started focusing and heavily developing my acting skills and who knows, may be soon you will see me doing my thing.
DH: What kind of (acting) roles do you see yourself playing?
MT: I believe that everything new that's happening in a person's life changes him and creates new facets of himself. That's why I tend not to think of what roles I see myself in, because my views may not be the same as the role the director may see me in. Let fate decide this one.
DH: As a model, your time is limited and for most models, the entirety of one's career depends on one's youth. Where do you see yourself in the future?
MT: Modeling is only a part of my life and my interests. If I would not have any other projects that I would work on in parallel to modeling, may be then this question would've been bothering me. Besides that, not everything depends on age, there are plenty of male models that continue working at the age of 40-50, advertising products for a more solid age. Everything is very individual. I think that my life will always be associated with the world of art. In what way? Time will tell.
DH: What are your favorite materials and colors to work with?
MT: I like fur, leather, silk, velvet and natural light summer fabrics. Color wise, I prefer deep dark tones and bright, colorful prints with psychedelic patterns.
DH: Have you ever taken a really bad tumble off your skateboard?
MT: Of course, there is no skateboarding without bails. Especially for me, I tend to skate 'til I bleed.
DH: Where do you live?
MT: Lately I've been spending more time back home -- Republic of Moldova, as I was focused on working in our creative studio. Working in the modeling and design scene involves frequent flights to various countries, that's why I like to call myself a man of the world, not binding myself to a particular point on the map.
DH: Where is LIRFONS main office located? Is that where you manufacture the clothing?
MT: We prefer not to call the place we work in an office. Before anything else it's a creative environment. Our studio is located in Eastern Europe, in the capital of Republic of Moldova -- Chisinau. All of the clothing is also created in Chisinau. The production of a garment is divided in several stages, the first few are taken care of at our very own studio, the rest are being finished in specialized facilities.
DH: What is the price range?
MT: The price depends on an item's complexity. The price range for separate limited edition items is from 100 to 1000 USD.
DH: Do you enjoy modeling?
MT: I'd say yes rather than no. But I was never overly excited about the idea of being a model, it all came together naturally.
DH: Do you have a preference -- modeling or designing?
MT: Life is fleeting, I think that a person must develop himself in multiple directions, which, of course, he is truly interested in. The most important thing is desire. It is as they say: "He who wants searches for an opportunity, he who doesn't -- looks for a cause." I can not take modeling from design, skateboarding or music. All of this is my life, meaning that I give my preference to every aspect of it.
DH: You are into web design as well, correct?
MT: Correct, we are also working on graphic design and web projects. We were able to gather a nice team which lets us develop various web projects not only on the territory of Republic of Moldova, but also abroad. All of the LIRFONS websites have also been done by ourselves.
DH: Where did you learn design? Street knowledge or school?
MT: Wouldn't like to unwittingly promote any educational institutions with my answer. Reality showed me that no education will give you any guaranteed success nor it will give you a recognition of your talents, provided that you have any. The world has changed. Education is not what it used to be 100 or even 50 years ago. Everything got simplified and reduced to an ordinary, often poor quality paid service.
I think that in the modern world, having an internet connection gives any person who consciously wants to learn something the ability to do so. It opens a door to endless tutorials, free information, practical insights and real life experience that others are so nice to share.
The problem is that so many middle-aged people are still living by old conceptions of education. Because of this they are just trying to get their children accepted at least to some kind of an education institution, naively believing that this education will help their children to decently realize themselves in the future. You have to understand that no one and nothing will ever teach you anything if in the first place you don't want it yourself.
In my mind, private education -- the kind where you are getting the information and it's the amount that's right for you -- is much more important than general education programs that were made for a statistically average person. That's why when I am asked, "What university did you go to?" by someone who apparently believes that a certain name and point on the map played a role in who I am and what I can do, my answer is always the same: None, as all of my knowledge is the product of self-education and self-development.
The sooner you will know what you truly want from life, the sooner you will get to the point of understanding where to go to and what exactly do you have to do in order to achieve your goal. And the money you'd spend on tuition would be yours to fund your personal projects, dreams and ideas, while the internet will help you tell the world about them.
The world will find you on its own, because it's not important where you are -- who you are is what really matters.
MICHAEL TINTIUC ILLUSTRATED BY DORI HARTLEY
Official website: http://www.michaeltintiuc.com
LIRFONS Store: http://store.lirfons.com
Michael's LIRFONS Blog: http://diary.lirfons.com
Michael's Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/tintiucmichael