What were some of your first styling gigs at the start of your career?
"I got in 20 years ago when the music industry wasn’t the competitive game it is now. It was a time when urban music wasn’t yet being played on MTV [or] VH1. I landed an internship at a record company and hooked up with director Hype Williams — at the time [he] was truly the video-director maverick that started long-form music videos. We approached it kind of like the theatre, [adding] a costume-designer aesthetic to the music genre. "Really, my career took off in the world of music videos. Working with Hype Williams was the greatest platform to showcase my costume design abilities and bringing high fashion to urban music. This is around the time when Todd Oldham was like the Marc Jacobs of that era. Thierry Mugler was huge. I knocked on the doors of Giorgio Armani and said, 'I need a suit for Jay-Z,' and they were like, 'Who?' I was the girl who brought high fashion to urban music. I was the girl who clothed Missy Elliott in a blow-up suit and did all that crazy Lady-Gaga kind of stuff you see now. I put Puffy in a shiny suit and I did all the things that were completely taboo at the time for that type of music. I think it was a game changer."
What motivated you to take a different route that other stylists weren't?
"I used to work at an investment banking firm, and I studied marketing in school, and I understood how important it was for the wardrobe to be part of the storytelling and part of the brand building. I always thought about it from a marketing perspective. It wasn’t just, 'Oh, let’s play dress up. Let's be the flyest kids on the block.' It was like, 'How are we going to get consumers to pay attention?'" "All my celebrity clients, from inception, have always worked from what their dreams and aspirations were, where they were from, what they could lend to this particular idea. Could they pull it off? Could they not pull it off aesthetically? You know, Jay-Z, he was always a boss. Could he pull off a suit? Absolutely. Did he know how to in the beginning? No. The idea, the concept of who this person is, always played into the characters that I built."
Do you remember a point in your career that was an “I made it” moment, when you realized that you were on your way?
"I don’t remember what year this was; it’s all kind of a blur, but I was nominated [for a VMA]. A producer at MTV told me that I had worked on the most music videos that were nominated in the history of MTV, out of any stylist. And, I was just like. 'Woah.' I think that was kind of like a real aha moment, in a sense."
What about your personal style? What do you gravitate toward for your everyday outfit?
"I’m pretty eccentric at times. I love a hat. I’ll get my hair done and throw a hat on. I’m the girl that would wear a kimono over a sweatshirt … to drive my kids to school. I like drama. I always feel like fashion should be like making a film and every wardrobe change is a new scene."
What’s the one item on your shopping-lust list right now?
"I want a croc tote bag. The Row is doing beautiful croc bags, and I love those girls. I think they’re really great."
Is there an item in your closet that we’d be shocked to find?
"Probably a pair of Converse sneakers. Sometimes, I’m feeling kind of retro tomboy."
Photo: Courtesy of June Ambrose
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