At long last, following many months of doggedly tracking Ryan Lochte's every triumph, failure, and deep thought, we finally got to sit down with him in the flesh. After he was fitted for a suit at the Windsor Custom Pop-Up at Ainsworth Park last night ("His arms are the longest we've ever seen!" gushed their publicist), he emerged for a photo op and was accosted by a crowd of girls in cocktail dresses who screamed his name and thrust their camera phones in his direction. (Of course, we feigned dignity and waited until later to do the same.)
Ryan was eventually sequestered upstairs and given a plate of pasta, at which point we were summoned to his table and the following conversation took place. [Ed. note: I considered editing this down, but because Lochte appreciators deserve to know every word we shared, I have included our entire conversation.]
Diana Tsui (fellow Lochte fan and The Cut's beloved market editor): Can I get a picture?
Ryan Lochte: Naw, I don't do pictures ... I'm just joking!
Diana: Hahahaha! Okay, ready?
Ryan: Wait. [He turns to me and leans in.] Do I have anything on my teeth? [I panic. He is being entirely earnest.]
Me: No, you're good. Don't worry, I'd tell you.
[Diana takes the picture and leaves. He faces me, locks eyes, and leans forward. Our knees are thisclose to touching.]
Me: So, how are you doing? Is this all totally overwhelming for you?
Ryan: It's been a whirlwind since I've been back, I'll tell you that. I've been going nonstop. But you know, it's fun. I've been doing different things that I've never done before, so I really enjoy it. [He seems a lot more focused and relaxed than he appears on TV, and to my surprise, doesn't have any trouble finishing his sentences. He continues to make intense eye contact.]
Me: Since you've been training for so long, it's probably nice to let loose a little bit. ["Let loose"? WTF am I saying?]
Ryan: Yeah, it does feel good to let loose after all those hours I put in the pool. Definitely feels good.
Me: Have you seen anything at fashion week so far that's inspired you, fashion-wise?
Ryan: Definitely. I'm the E! correspondent, and today I talked to Anna Wintour and Dwyane Wade, and next week I'm going to watch the Ralph Lauren show. So definitely all three of those people, I'm going to take the thoughts they shared with me and put them towards my own line.
Me: What did you talk to Anna Wintour about?
Ryan: Oh, I just talked to her real briefly cuz she had to run. I didn't do anything with her for E!, but I know her from when I did the cover of Vogue. So it was good to see her again.
Me: Did she give you any tips for your line?
Ryan: She didn't really give me any tips today, but she kinda gave me some tips a while back. Just like, the way fashion's going, and how if you really want something you have to keep your mind set on it. You can't change for what everyone else wants, you have to keep what you want and go with it. And you have to be really passionate about it.
Me: What would you say your vision is?
Ryan: You know, definitely for my own line, I want a clean-cut look. Like a Ralph Lauren look, but with a little edge to it. Because I want my clothing line to resemble my personality. And my personality, I have that straight-arrow part, like with swimming, but I have another side to me, which is that I do like to go out and have fun, and relax, and do things other than swimming. So that's my edge side, and I want to collaborate both of those into design.
Me: Would you ever collaborate with another brand for your line, or do you want to just do it all yourself?
Ryan: I've done that before, collaborate with a brand, but I think what I want is to have my own. Right now I'm working with a design team and I'm hoping to have it up and running within the year.
Me: Will you do women's clothes or just men's?
Ryan: Right now I'm going to start with men's, and as I hopefully get bigger I'll push over to the women's side too.
Me: Is it going to be a high-end label or more affordable?
Ryan: It's going to be more affordable. Because you know, that's where the biggest market is. I'm going to do the more affordable now, and that way, if I want to, I can go even lower priced or into the high-end range.
Me: Will there be accessories? [He is wearing a sparkly necklace.]
Ryan: Oh yeah! Yeah, that's what I want to do. [He leans in and OH MY GOD OUR HANDS TOUCH FOR A SPLIT SECOND.] Men's apparel and accessories.
Me: Would you ever make grills?
Ryan: [Shakes his head.] Probably not.
Me: They're tricky to make, right? [I'm talking out of my ass.]
Ryan: Yeah, they are really tricky. But the whole grills thing is kind of like, my own thing. Just for fun. I mean, I might make something for fans, like for people to have fun with. But not real ones.
Me: I guess it would be hard to mass-produce that.
At this point, Lochte's publicist — a very tall, buxom blonde — told us we'd reached our time limit, and Diana swooped back in, waving a white bathing cap and a Sharpie. "Um, I know this is weird, but my boyfriend is a huge fan, and can you sign his bathing cap for him?" she asked (yes, she'd been rehearsing this request all day). Lochte kindly obliged, resting the cap on his knee and writing carefully, "To Chris, Best Wishes, Ryan Lochte," before turning back to his pasta.