When I initially started blogging, I saw it as a vehicle to share my work, love of PORK bacon and all things red velvet. However, over the past year, I’ve witnessed the power of social media and giving my readers insight to my creative journey. When people believe in your work and see your passion, opportunities arise. So, when the director of the Washington, D.C., Mayor’s Office on African Affairs contacted me to create a fashion presentation for the 2nd Annual D.C. Africa Festival, I wasn’t surprised the referral came from one of my Twitter friends, @Lavender_Chic.
The festival’s goal is to educate people on issues pertinent to the African community, disseminate vital outreach materials and emphasize social entrepreneurship as a betterment tool for the African Diaspora. Additionally, the festival promotes the community’s positive legacy by highlighting Africa’s talent, resources and capability to compete in the global marketplace.
Increasingly, industry professionals have made efforts to merge authentic African techniques with high fashion. For the past few seasons, the tribal trend has been “en vogue” with inspirations from Africa leading the way. Designers such as Diane von Furstenburg, Ralph Lauren and Dries van Norten have all incorporated African fabrics or techniques into their lines.
As a Nigerian (Igbo Man*pounds fist to chest*) living in the DMV, I saw this as a vehicle to visually educate the community on the versatility of African and African-inspired fashion. Don’t worry; I made sure to leave the bamboo shoots and loin cloths at home. LOL iKID. iKID. The presentation was a voyage from traditional to contemporary and combined eastern and western culture. I pulled from Parfait Designs, Côté Minou and Zagodi Fashion with jewelry from Art Aya, Nanichi and LolaRo. Each of these designers helped me convey a fashion story through each look. Based on the feedback from the show, I know a few people will be adding a little bit of Africa to their wardrobes. #missionaccomplished
It is always a pleasure working with emerging recording artists. Not only are they purpose-driven and humble, but hungry. Often, that hunger and passion resonates throughout their sound and personality. The same can be said and much, much more about Nigerian/Sierra Leonean/Lebanese singer-songwriter, Di’Ja.
Last August, Di’Ja, born Hadiza Blell, reached out to me about styling and creative directing her next photo shoot. After listening to her hit single, Rock Steady, and reading her bio, I was excited to get to work with my first Nigerian-born starlet. *waves green & white flag* Di’Ja’s cultural background radiates through her unique sound as her music effortlessly merges pop, R&B and a hint of reggae. Like most Nigerians, Di’Ja is also degreed UP! She earned dual bachelor’s degrees with majors in psychology and biology, before pursuing what she knew to be her destiny: entertainment.
Her energy is infectious. If you ever have the opportunity to meet Di’Ja, you’ll know what I mean; people gravitate toward her as if they already know she’s a superstar. Once Di’Ja and I had our initial consultation, I knew I had to bring my ‘A’ game. The looks had to match her diversity in sound and culture without losing her as an artist. Di’Ja’s unique personality simply had to emanate through every look. I immediately enlisted the help of some amazing designers to bring my vision to life:
Dominique Auxilly: Look (1 &3), coral dress, and look (7), pewter dress.
Parfait Designs by Esosa: Look (4), unity skirt.
Delilah Johnson: Look (5), babydoll dress.
Artistic Aya: Look (5), paper earrings & bracelet and printed purse.
After pulling from designers, I went shopping to complete each look, and found great pieces from Betsey Johnson, Urban Outfitters, H&M, Steve Madden and ALDO. The mix of custom designs and off-the-rack pieces were the perfect fusion for the shoot.
As a fashion stylist, it is not only important to listen with your ears, but also with your eyes. Clients speak to you in many different forms and it’s your job to pick up on the minute details. Where possible, I infuse elements of my clients’ personal style. It provides them a fresh perspective on how to wear pieces in their current wardrobe. Using some of Di’Ja’s jewelry and shoes for this shoot ultimately helped her own each look.
The story below is what happens when an amazing team works with an even more amazing artist.
- Like Di’Ja’s Facebook Fan Page - http://www.facebook.com/pages/DiJa/184440925984
- Listen to her music on MySpace - http://www.myspace.com/musicdija
- Follow Di’Ja on Twitter - @aphroDIJA
- Download Di’Ja’s new single, Private Room on iTunes – http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/private-show-single/id435835147
“Well, well, well … fancy seeing you. I was beginning to think a creative professional no longer lived here.” This is what I imagined my blog would say if it could talk. Many moons ago, I asked you to join me on my creative journey. However, it’s difficult to be a passenger when I’m not walking, when access has been denied, or when I’m holding my talent hostage.
While in NYC a few weeks ago, enjoying fish, grits and my signature bacon, the topic of my blog came up. *bbm can’t watch face* As I devoured the last bit of @ellegee47′s grits and body rolled with @jovizi the conversation got real. *cues opening from MTV’s series, Diary* “You think you know … but you have no idea.”
My issue was two-fold. For months, I’d been working on some amazing projects with great teams. (Judging by the October date of my last post, you wouldn’t know.) I felt growth with every shoot and saw the depth and range of my portfolio increasing. As a fashion stylist, I was elated! Then I thought, “I’m going to wait until after this next shoot before I update my site and blog. No, no, wait … after I get THESE images back from THIS shoot, I’m going to post.” By the time I got a handle on everything, it was May. All I could do was shake my head. I had become paralyzed by perfection. #Shoutout to Tia Smith.
Secondly, the more I hustled to build a stronger portfolio, the more I compared my work to other fashion stylists who’d been in the industry for YEARS. I started to think my portfolio was not on par with those I admired. It had reached the point where I actually could not stand looking at my work. It was a vicious cycle.
After completely revamping my website (coming soon), I had to take step back and have a few conversations with my family from the Creative Hostel. They helped me put my artistry in perspective. You can never measure your success by that of others. Everyone has a different journey and ordered steps; you just have to be prepared to walk. Suddenly in the background, I heard a voice. Is that you Kirk Franklin?!?! Is the storm over now??? You sure, because I’m putting away my trench coat, umbrella and galoshes. I’m finally ready to release my talent from bondage.
In an earlier post, I discussed the goal of getting my work published and the pitfalls of chasing tear sheets. Well, a lot has happened since that post. My work has been featured in a several publications, with more on the way. *bbm party face* I want to share my very first tear sheet from the December issue of T&M Magazine. Shot by Joao Carlos in a penthouse on Miami’s South Beach, Perdida De Amor (Lost Love) delves into the soul of a woman whose husband has gone astray. I hope you enjoy viewing the images as much as I did styling them.
Special thanks to @lmoney21, @L10_MIA, @ellegee47, @HewbieMac, @carmtasticc, @Dino_Teme, @jovizi, @EUmphery & @ELLEvation.
Since the weather is changing, I felt this post only appropriate. It’s time to introduce you to some Fall Fashion!
You don’t need to be a former model to be a great creative director. However, stepping in front of the lens allows one to gain perspective on what the photographer is looking for from their subject, and what the person being captured needs to do for an awesome shot. Having this understanding, last Fall, I decided to put together a lifestyle photoshoot with Bentley, model from the Mattison Agency, and her precocious daughter, Savannah.
Bentley’s portfolio consisted of many high-fashion editorials and a few campaigns. I wanted to add some lifestyle shots to her book, so I enlisted the help of Elton Anderson, noted fashion photographer (I always wanted to say that), Nicole Alexis, make-up artist, and my cousin Kelechi Kalu, fellow stylist, to bring this project together. To keep the story consistent, Kelechi and I decided all three of us would wear bowties in our group shots. I was also able to pull a dress in the last look from Delilah Johnson, fashion designer from Miami.
Initially, the lifestyle shoot posed some difficulties for Bentley. One of the hardest things for a fashion model to do is be natural and not pose. A key difference between lifestyle and high-fashion shoots is the emotion the image evokes. One is more natural while the other is about fierce posing. After a couple of clicks and some light direction, Bentley found her rhythm. Soon it was time for me to step in front of the camera. Elton began to direct Kelechi and I on set, and I must say, it’s not as easy as it looks. Nicole, Alexis and Bentley chuckled as we tried to get into the groove of things. If you know Kelechi, he loves the camera. As for myself, I enjoy taking pictures with my point-n-shoot, but I give you one of two looks: an endearing smile *adjusts halo,* or the patented misty eye. YEEAAAHHH BABY! *Austin Powers voice*
My experience in front of the lens taught me so much, from shot composition and directing groups, to movement and even “natural” posing. Looking back at my body of work, I’ve seen the growth in my directing and my clients definitely benefited from my brief stint into “modeling.” I won’t be stepping in front of the camera anytime soon, so no need to hide your kids (#noeddielong) or hide your wives. This stylist has already been shot.
As I cooked breakfast for myself this morning, I decided to check my bank account. *thinks* If I could just add one more zero behind that one, I’d have ten whole dollars. iKID, iKID. But in all honesty, since starting my journey as a full-time fashion stylist and creative director, I’ve had to make numerous sacrifices for my craft. It’s rare I’ll go into a store and shop for myself anymore. The days of purchasing a $250 pair of jeans are over.com/whatwereyouthinkinganyway, and I can no longer financially justify my love of Ferragamos. *deep sigh*
Instead, all my money goes to sustaining my business, which of course includes PORK Bacon and Red Velvet. #NOM! As a stylist, you always need working capital for shoots, especially when styling agency-signed models. It’s the never-ending, buy-and-return process. Purchase merchandise for the shoot, pray to Sweet Baby Jesus, who lies ever-so peacefully in his manger that the model does not damage anything, then steam, re-tag, fold and return the merchandise to the respective stores. *bbm whew face* Talk about risky business!
If you continue to buy and return in the same stores, your face becomes familiar to the staff. Some stores have the right to refuse returns, so you have to be strategic. I look at returns as if I’m going to war. My battleship WILL NOT be sunk. I often purchase at one store’s location and return to another. If that’s not an option, I change the shift of when I return the clothes. I know of some stylists that have been stuck with hundreds of dollars in merchandise because the store refused the return. What’s an up-and-coming stylist to do?!?!
Well, some stores will allow a stylist to pull (borrow) clothing and accessories and pay a 20-30% restocking fee of the total. *bbm talk to the hand face* Did I mention that I’m an up-and-coming stylist??? LOL I need ALL of my dollars returned to me. Another option is pulling from designers and showrooms. Depending on your relationship, the pull could be free, come with a rental fee, or result in signing your life away for $30,000 worth of merchandise on a loan agreement. Not to mention, if the designer is located in a different city or country, the shipping fees you will incur. Essentially, you have to spend money to make money. You don’t want all your looks to be off the rack as you progress in your career.
To sum it all up, being a fashion stylist is not always glamorous, but it’s rewarding if you’re willing to put the work into building your brand. One cannot have tunnel vision when pursuing their creative passion; you have to look at the bigger picture. Most importantly you have to do it because you’re passionate. Sometimes that’s all you have…
Check out my video interview with WA2 for his Young, Fly & Broke series. I go into a little more detail about my life as a stylist. If you would like the recipe for my brown sugar cured bacon, shoot me an email. Enjoy!