Visionary and passionate Asanti’ is a stylist extraordinaire in our nation’s fashion capital. With a rich and diverse background in the fashion industry, his styling parallels a similar journey – compelling and at the forefront. Check his story out below.
Say hello to Asanti’:
Where are you from? Where have you been?
I’m originally from San Diego, lived in Italy in my younger years, and lived in several states in the US. I had a habit of touching down in places for a short stint, then packing up and leaving. I guess the military brat thing never leaves you. Ironically, I have been in New York now for almost 15 years.
What’s your favorite place in the world?
Anywhere with ocean view. There are many places I’ve been enamored with, but I find solace being near the waves and sand.
What’s on your “bucket list” of ideas to create?
I’ve been working and re-working an idea for some time now. It goes through stages of the creative process and variations in theme. It is an ambitious project that will incorporate still life photography and video that I’d like to think has some real context. I am mesmerized by “fashion people” that are so label oriented, and in a sense I was a victim of that too. In the most overt sense, logo-mania, or overly branded products, may come to mind. The Fashion Law’s recent article on fashion victimization illustrates this point. I have been contrasting that with research on Egyptian mummification and the idea that you would be completely hollowed out on the inside, but adorned in all this ornamentation. The Tomb and burial chamber of King Tut would be the most popular example. That’s really all I can say about it now, but I’ve given it the working title “Selling our Souls.”
What is your signature styling trademark?
My styling trademark is about juxtaposition and contrast, whether it be shown with colors, silhouettes, or textures. For example, I’m huge on styling pieces in burgundy or purple and saffron. If I’m working on textures, the photography can really enhance something soft and supple like silk, contrasted with a hard stiff fabric. When I think about it more, I’d also like for my work to be able to tell a story, and I don’t mean in a narrative sense. It reminds me of something the late Art Director, Alexey Brodovitch, would do when he was at Bazaar. He’d arrange the photographs prior to layout, so they would be like frames in a film. Even though I don’t have that same approach, what I do has some sort of flow that hopefully compliments the photography. Additionally, I’m really intrigued by architectural lines.
How would you sum up your visual style?
I’m a fan of anything military. I love to collect pieces from different regions of the world: US, Polish, Swedish, German, Russian, Japanese. Also, in the last few years, I’ve really kind of fell into monochromaticity. I really like to blend slightly similar hues for a complete look.
Tell us about when you found out your work was being published for the first time.
Being published as a young stylist was quite humbling and I was ecstatic at the time. Even then, I looked at my career path through the lens of those who had come before me and enabled me to do what I would do in the future.
Tell us about your career. How did you prepare for it?
I started in apparel manufacturing, working for a designer named James Thomas. James was starting his own label after working for the Calvin Klein Collection. Additionally, I worked for him on a ready-to-wear private label and was Assistant Production Manager for London Fog Group. Those formative years were integral to what I do now. Simultaneously, I worked for a New York based Fashion Show production company that specializes in fashion show backstage support and dressing the models. I wanted to learn the business of styling. I kind of had a blueprint in mind, although I wasn’t able to articulate it. Besides that, I read and researched constantly. At this point, my business has expanded quite a bit. Rather than focusing solely on styling, I’ve also provided some production for fashion shows and photo shoots, and I do model casting as well. Additionally, I do consulting and from time to time, overseeing projects, and I still dip into some apparel manufacturing.
How do you stay current on trends?
I like to look at what is happening on the street, and I like having dialogue with industry friends. NYC has such a great visual diversity and it really is segmented by neighborhood, borough, or what have you. Although there is a lot of overlap, what you will see in one neighborhood will vary slightly by what’s being interpreted in another neighborhood, based off of individuals lifestyles and necessities. It’s very interesting to see these stylistic nuances. I am also an avid reader, and I follow a lot of publications, such as the Financial Times, The Business of Fashion, The Fashion Law, Women’s Wear Daily, and anything Vanessa Friedman – The New York Times Fashion Critic writes. Additionally, I read lot of historical books and newspaper archives. Lately, I’ve been reading The New York Times historical archives from the 50s to 70s. I’m intrigued by the language used to describe the trends and changes in fashion and fashion photography from those times. It’s fascinating how much what we perceive as new is being recycled and re-contextualized. One of the best books I’ve ever read on fashion is Anne Hollander’s Seeing Through Clothes. I’ve really thought differently about clothes and fashion ever since. Another impactful book is Michael Brake’s Comparative Youth Culture. Reading helps me to interpret things differently, visually.
Do you have any projects you’d like to show off?
What challenges do you face in your career?
There have been many changes in the short span of time I’ve been a part of this industry. I’d say proper time management is a constant challenge because you can get pulled in so many different directions through various endeavors. At the same time, that’s what keeps things extremely interesting. You have to figure out how to maintain a balance between passionate projects and committing to those that are viable from solely a business standpoint.
Where do you hope to see your styling career in the next five years?
I’m doing a variety of projects right now that have expanded my repertoire. I’ve been involved in some more academic endeavors, such as collaborating with Parsons School of Fashion and the International Center of Photography. In the past, I’ve spoken at LIM College and at Visions High School. I’m definitely interested in philanthropy and fashion education. Also, I’m very intrigued by museum curation and display. Now I am refining an extension of styling into a new business, “Fashion Physics – It’s Not Rocket Science,” which is a consulting and closet editing service accessible to women from all walks of life. My service provides empowerment and confidence to women with the incorporation their favorite color, and strategic layering options, and simply put, a well thought out wardrobe.
What’s the most memorable project you’ve participated in?
One of the most memorable projects was a photo shoot that I was involved in early in my career. The model didn’t show up for whatever reason and we could not get in touch with her agent. We had the clothing samples, the photo studio, and the whole team assembled, and after waiting a few hours we had decided to wrap. The hairstylist mentioned that he had a friend that wanted to be a model and she might be available. So this aspiring model, Jeanine, shows up with no portfolio and a few polaroids. The photographer didn’t think she was particularly intriguing, photographically. If I recollect, he mentioned that her cheek and jawbone structure were not well defined. Then I mentioned we had some accessories and with the other clothing samples that we could “cheat” with so he could focus on something he found captivating. We started to do a few shots and it took a while, but the photographer thought there was possibly something intriguing in the photos. We ended doing the shoot for HighRise Magazine. If you look at these photographs, you’ll notice that the model’s entire face unobscured does not appear. Some time later, I heard that Jeanine booked a beauty campaign in the UK off this shoot. Also, the photographer mentioned that this was his best beauty shoot ever. When I think back about all the mitigating circumstances surrounding that shoot, I think that is pretty remarkable.
Client: HighRise Magazine. Model: Jeanine Mona. Photographer: Bruce Soyez-Bernard. Makeup: Deborah Altizio. Hair: Stefano. Retouching: Violaine Bernard.
Which current fashion trend do you wish was gone forever?
I’m totally over the extreme cuffed pant. Am I the only one that thinks it has gone overboard? At the same time, I understand the nature of trends. Back in 2006 to 2008 when I first noticed the trend gaining traction, I think it was totally absorbed by the most fashion forward individuals who re-interpreted it in various ways. Years later, it’s very interesting to see the trend still taking variations by a multitude of people. No one should have the monopoly on trends, and that in essence is the nature of fashion. Everyone makes it their own.
What’s your greatest failure, and how did you overcome it?
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.” I think this quote by Winston Churchill sums up my mentality here.
For anyone that wants to get in touch with Asanti’, here’s some contact information:
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Asanti’! It is greatly appreciated!
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