The 2018 Style Makers: Meet the Creatives Raising the Bar – M & S
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The 2018 Style Makers: Meet the Creatives Raising the Bar

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It’s easy to chalk up stylists as the so-called “magicians” behind a beautiful photograph, memorable red carpet look, or Instagram outfit that makes you double-tap. But magic would suggest secret shortcuts or supernatural powers, ones that can manage to get the perfect outfit from the most interesting designer at precisely the right moment in time to spark a thoughtful conversation when worn by a specific woman. Magic can’t do all that. But the four creatives below can.

While Jason Bolden, Rachael Wang, Zerina Akers, and Mimi Cuttrell have similar job titles, not every styling career is the same. Each has their forte: advocating for underrepresented talents as a consultant, creating a style profile for Hollywood’s coolest young talents, crafting intrepid off-duty ensembles that cater to today’s obsession with all things street style, or piecing together the thoughtful details of an epic Beyoncé music video drop.

Ahead, we’re taking a look at not only how this power quartet got to where they are but also how they’re using their own platforms to leave a mark on fashion and entertainment.

Jason Bolden was supposed to be a physician, he tells us. Needless to say, his path took a turn: first to working retail and owning a vintage store in Manhattan and ultimately to Hollywood. Today he’s the man behind the red carpet looks of Yara Shahidi, Taraji P. Henson, Ava DuVernay, Mindy Kaling, and more. But the position he’s in today might not have been possible if it weren’t for a simple friendly favor for a very well-known friend.

On getting his foot in the door:

“I used to own a vintage store in New York, and one of my best friends, Gabrielle Union, needed something to wear to Art Basel in Miami. It wasn’t officially a job. It was just us being friends. She wore this vintage Lanvin dress, and it ended up being this big crazy thing on Vogue. That was my introduction. All of the sudden, the phone calls started to roll in.”

On dressing “culture shifters”:

“All of my girls are culture shifters, and it’s very interesting and exciting to dress women who have such great opinions. We talk about fashion, and we also talk about politics. All day long, we’re sending each other texts of things that are happening, like who just walked the couture show, or ‘Did you just see this political statement that someone just made?’

“The only difference among them is age. Someone like Taraji and Ava knows what they like and what they’re comfortable with, versus someone like Yara who knows her point of view but she’s 18 and building a fashion portfolio.”

On why Instagram is the tool of the trade:

“It gives me a voice that I probably would have never had. People want to hear what I have to say and see what my girls are saying. It’s also giving the inside story on things that are happening. I did something for Ocean’s 8 with Mindy Kaling, and her zipper broke at the premiere in New York. It’s just on social media like, ‘No big deal, guys. I’m just sewing myself into a dress!’ It shows the reality and the realness of this glamorous situation. It’s pumped up the red carpet as well. You get to see before, during, and after. It makes the red carpet live a little bit longer.”

Three under-the-radar brands he’s currently loving:

“Matteo: He’s a jeweler and is a freaking genius.

“Harbison: I’m really waiting for Charles Harbison to launch a new collection.

“Alis: Because my clients love to kind of be a bit boyish and relaxed, I love the brand. It’s like a skateboarder line—really cool, relaxed, and has a Lower East Side vibe.”

Style is subjective. Success is…

“How often did we laugh today? The look is fantastic, but how often did we laugh through this whole entire thing? If we’ve done that, I come home and say, ‘It’s been a pretty good day.’”

His style signature:

“I like romance. I’m always stuck in that whole Alfred Hitchcock and James Baldwin of it all.”

Rachael Wang took a leap. A big one. As the former fashion director of Allure and a 12-year industry vet, she tells us that her whole career led up to a major now-or-never moment. She left her office job and launched Rachael Wang Studio, a consulting agency through which she is focusing on the aspect of fashion she’s “always been dreaming of doing.” This includes working alongside brands like Bergdorf Goodman and Nike and styling for publications such as Wonderland and L’Officiel. Wang’s jump not only landed her on her feet, but it’s also allowed her to expand creatively and approach fashion in her own way. She marches to the beat of her own drum. Speaking of…

Her earliest fashion memory:

“My first day of daycare, I was very particular about picking out my outfit, and I chose to wear boys’ dark denim jeans cuffed up at the bottom, Converse Chuck Taylors, a Mickey Mouse boys’ sweatshirt, and one of those clear visors that have the rainbow piping on it with a Care Bears lunch box.”

Style is subjective. Success is…

“It has to be beautiful. I have to look at it and feel that the people in the image are confident and showing the best version of themselves. After that, success is really being able to have the opportunity to lift up people who otherwise may not have had opportunities. I put a lot more energy now toward building crews with hair, makeup, photographers, models that I want to give opportunities to. This includes featuring more models of color and women. When I can do that, I feel like that was a really successful shoot.”

Three under-the-radar brands she’s currently loving:

“Mara Hoffman: She’s not that under-the-radar, but she’s recently been refocusing her designs and prioritizing ready-to-wear and responsible manufacturing, fair trade, and using recycled, organic, sustainable materials when possible.

“Brother Vellies: If you don’t know the shoe brand, you’re missing out on life. It’s a brand that is not sacrificing design or quality but prioritizing employing artisans in Africa, using sustainable materials and fair trade, and being really mindful of their manufacturing process.

“Svnr: My friend Christina Tung uses shells and stones that she finds when she travels and makes these beautiful earrings, all named after different cities.”

On coming to terms with fashion’s ugly side:

“I feel conflicted daily about working in an industry that has such little regard for natural resources, the environment, and the people who bring millions of products to life. I’ve been trying to feature brands that prioritize responsible and sustainable manufacturing as much as possible, because we can’t keep going the way we’ve been going, ignoring that our resources are finite and refusing to pay workers fair wages in exchange for their labor. I want to be proud of the industry I work in and for it to eventually evolve to heal the planet rather than hurt it, to empower people rather than oppress them.”

On how stylists find their footing in 2018 and beyond:

“The industry notoriously is in a funny place right now. Magazines are changing, the way that brands present is changing, people aren’t shopping in the way they used to, and so there’s not as much money in the traditional format of advertising campaigns. To be honest, I have no idea what it’s going to look like in the future.

“One of the things about running my own business that’s been fabulous is that I’m much [nimbler] than a big corporation. The future is uncertain for the fashion industry: I am a survivor, a hustler, and I can turn on a dime.”

Her style signature:

“Something subversive, humorous, or weird just to show that fashion is meant to be fun and that it shouldn’t be taken so seriously.”

What do “Apeshit,” “Formation,” and the internet’s most artfully executed pregnant-with-twins announcement have in common? Besides the obvious, it’s Zerina Akers. Getting her start in fashion as an intern at W and then breaking out into a freelance styling career, Akers has become one of the go-to collaborators for arguably the biggest cultural icon of our time, Beyoncé. The stylist has also built a body of work that doesn’t quite fit any one set of parameters. Having worked with other notable clients including Chloe x Halle and Niecy Nash, Akers has a career portfolio that’s exciting to follow mostly because it doesn’t fit squarely into any category: editorial, street style, visual albums, etc. In fact, she’s branched out in myriad ways since the beginning.

Her earliest fashion memory:

“My grandmother taught me how to sew when I was in high school. Soon after, I designed and deconstructed vintage garments and presented them in a fashion show at my school. It was the first time I worked on something so big, and it was so well received.”

On why Instagram is the tool of the trade:

“I started in the industry when it seemed fairly intangible and social media was merely a tool to connect with old friends. Now, we can all utilize it to tell our own narrative. I like to use Instagram to celebrate work that I’ve done and be a face of color for young black aspiring professionals to look to.”

Three under-the-radar brands she’s currently loving:

“Y/Project: Glenn Martens is such a huge talent. His commitment to reinventing basics continues to astound me.

“Fe Noel: I’ve been watching this designer for quite some time, and I’m in love with her collection this season.

“Bouguessa: While maintaining respect for her Muslim culture, Faiza Bouguessa’s designs are a strong and impactful addition to any woman’s closet!”

On how stylists find their footing in 2018 and beyond:

“You can look at the glass as half empty or overflowing abundantly. The industry is a bit oversaturated, but you have the opportunity to position yourself to wear multiple hats in the industry. There are so many spaces to create in: celebrity, editorial, commercial, film, etc. I don’t want to limit myself.”

On her style signature:

“Experimenting with color. This flows through my personal style, how I approach work projects, and even how I decorate where I live!"

Chances are you’ve already purchased something inspired by Mimi Cuttrell’s work. That is to say if you’ve ever wanted to wear a trend you saw Gigi or Bella Hadid, Ariana Grande, or Priyanka Chopra wearing in a paparazzi photo, that’s likely thanks to Cuttrell. After earning her chops assisting celebrity stylists, the Santa Barbara native broke off on her own and eventually teamed up with Gigi through mutual connections. While her work does cross over into red carpet for her A-list clients, it’s really off-duty (but let’s face it, still kind of on-duty) street style that’s made Cuttrell’s work hard to ignore and impossible to resist saving to your Instagram collection pages. Which isn’t so far off from how she got started…

Her earliest fashion memory:

“When I was younger, I used to rip out my favorite fashion ads and editorials and make collages out of them. Little did I know this hobby would translate into a career!”

On why Instagram is the tool of the trade:

“I like to post all my work on Instagram so my followers can see what I’ve been doing. As daunting as it can be sometimes, I definitely think it’s a necessary tool. I discover a lot of brands this way and connect with a lot of people I normally wouldn’t be able to connect with.”

Style is subjective. Success is…

“I measure success by the happiness of my clients. It's most important that they feel best in what they’re wearing.”

Three under-the-radar brands she’s currently loving:

“Holzweiler: They’re from Norway, and I love supporting designers from all over the world.

“Pop & Suki: They have fun little bags that I look forward to putting on my clients.

“Pearle Knits: They’re well-made knit tops that work with any pair of jeans.”

On how stylists find their footing in 2018 and beyond:

“In comparison to when I first started working a few years back, there are now many more opportunities for clients to work with stylists. Styling as a career will continue to become more in demand! There is so much work to be done, and I hope young people who want to work in fashion will consider styling as a career.”

Her style signature:

“It depends on my client, but I’d say one thing that is consistent across my clients is that they love fun colors. Even though I love dark colors and neutrals, there will always be a fun accent involved. I like their looks to pop!”



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