With a doctoral degree in law and an MBA in Business Administration, Miss Syeidah McBride is certainly not your traditional wardrobe stylist. BAHM Magazine chats with Syeidah to find out a little more about her love affair with fashion.
Q – Syeidah, how long have you been a wardrobe stylist & creative director?
A – It’s been approximately 2 years since I’ve been an editorial wardrobe stylist and creative director. However, I can date styling friends and family informally all the way back to when I was in high school.
Q – How did you get your start in the industry?
A – I literally dove in head first. I didn’t go to a prestigious New York fashion school like F.I.T., I actually went to school for everything but fashion. I have a Bachelors degree from SUNY Albany, I have a MBA (Masters in Business Administration) from Union Graduate College, and I have a JD (Juris Doctorate) from Albany Law School.
I’m not your traditional wardrobe stylist. Unlike many others who went to school for fashion, started by assisting a top wardrobe stylist, or interned and worked their way up at a top fashion house, I did not. I started my career by styling friends and family for special events and everyday wear. I use to help everyone get dressed no matter what the occasion. My own personal style was always unique. I would try a lot of bold colors and try different textures and prints, which would in turn grab everyone’s attention and warrant compliments from complete strangers with just a stroll down New York streets. So actually, I’ve always had an eye for detail and creating looks from head to toe; I just had not yet tapped into it officially.
From 2014 – 2016 I began taking my passion for fashion more serious and began branding myself professionally as a wardrobe stylist. In 2016 an opportunity fell in my lap from a photographer I had connected with in 2014. He reached out for me to do the wardrobe styling for a photo shoot he was putting together. I styled the shoot and acted as the creative director and to my pleasant surprise it got published in a fashion magazine. I’ve been grinding, networking, and creating ever since. As of today I have 20 editorial publications, with landing the cover of 5 them. I also serve as a wardrobe consultant for a Florida PBS television program.
Q – Who are some people that have inspired you throughout your career?
A – Some artists who have inspired me throughout my career are Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and Janelle Monae. As artist I love their unique, funky, edgy, “break all the rules” style that they possess and they make it look so effortless. Some fellow wardrobe stylist whose work has inspired me are: Micaela Erlanger, Zerina Akers, Marni Senofonte, Luxury Law, and June Ambrose. I love how they all push the envelope with their clients and keep it fun and interesting (it’s hard to predict what the next direction with their clients will be). A family member who has always inspired me throughout my entire life is my aunt. She always had a flair for fashion. When I was a toddler she loved to buy outfits for me. She taught me about fabrics, matching prints and patterns, and always paying attention to details.
Q – What is life like for a stylist when she is preparing the wardrobe for a photo shoot?
A – Life is nothing short of HECTIC when preparing wardrobe for a photo shoot…LoL!!! Life is all over the place because there are usually a million and one things to get done before you get to the set on the day of shooting. There is not enough time to go into every single detail, but I will try and scratch the surface with a few highlights. Once I get finalized details the first step for me is to find out which of my assistants will be available to help the day of the shoot. Next, I begin looking over the mood boards sent by either the photographer or the magazine. The second step is deciding which possible designers or show rooms will help bring the mood board to life. Sometimes I know off the top of my head which of my designers or showrooms will work and sometimes I have to research and reach out to new designers and discuss collaborating on the project. For me personally, I work with both PR showrooms (that house a lot of different designers) and I also work with a lot of independent designers directly. So that means I have to set up appointments with showrooms all over New York City and I also have to coordinate pick up schedules with my independent designers. The third step is looking through the show rooms for pieces that catch my eye, but also fit the mood board. I take pictures of what I see and want to pull. When it comes to the independent designers I’m looking through their look books, Instagram’s, and/or their showrooms to see what pieces will work for the project. The fourth step is “inventory.” I make sure I have an accurate count of the clothing that I picked up from the showrooms and also the independent designers for each project. I do this by laying everything out and taking pictures separated by designers or showrooms. The fifth step is getting together accessories (bags, shoes, jewelry, hats). Once every outfit that I pulled is laid out, I now find the best options for accessories that I believe will complement each outfit and pack them up for the shoot as well. The sixth step is packing all of the things for the shoot the night before. The seventh step is to come to the set prepared, but always be ready to improvise. Even with all the planning and preparing in the world, nothing ever goes just as planned in fashion.
Q – What is the difference between styling for TV and styling for a look book?
A – When styling for TV, a wardrobe stylist needs to know what type of program she/he is styling for. You need to be familiar with how the set is decorated and you need to know the personal style and measurements of the on-air talent. All of these things help the wardrobe stylist get the look and feel of the clothing needed for the project before they go and buy the clothing. When styling for a look book you are thinking more commercial. Look books are very clean and usually shot with a white backdrop. The styling isn’t “over the top,” like in an editorial. The styling is very plain and simple. A look book’s main purpose for a designer is to market the clothing for potential clients, so you want the styling on the models as realistic and attractive as possible. The styling gives viewers ideas on how to style outfits or to show them what the latest fashions are.
Q- What moves you and inspires you to create the unique looks in your creations?
A – I am inspired by everything around me. When you’re a “creative” you subconsciously take in your scenery and surroundings and it organically transpires into your work, without you even realizing it. For example, I can be walking in the park and the color of the fall leaves on the trees gives me an idea of a color scheme for my next project. Or, I drive past a market in Africa and the aesthetic of all the items at the vendor tables completely changes my direction for my shoot. I can take a walk on the trendy streets of New York City and get inspired by people of different shapes, sizes, and ethnicities with so many different looks. I’m inspired by a lot of things so if I was to make a short list it would be: my ancestors, nature, designer collections, trends, street style, different fashion era’s, red carpet looks, and mood boards. The very things that inspire me are what transcend my work and my vision of creating unique looks.
Q – How do you know what is going to be in style in the future seasons?
A – The easiest way to know what is going to be in style for future seasons is to watch the runway shows of New York, London, Milan and Paris Fashion Week (in that order). Those four locations are considered the fashion capitals of the world. They are considered the biggest fashion events and they show the newest collections in runway shows to the public, buyers, and the media twice a year. Traditionally fashion weeks were held several months in advance of the season which allows the public a chance to preview fashion designs for the following season. By watching these shows it lets me know what styles, colors, and textures are to be expected in the upcoming season.
Q – What are the key pieces that are musts for all your styling projects?
A – Starting with shoes the key pieces that are must haves for all my projects are: black and nude pumps, and metallic (gold, silver, bronze, etc.) closed or open toe heels. My must haves for jewelry are a large variety of styles in gold and silver. For example, I always have at least one pair of gold and one pair of silver hoop earrings. I also must have a set of gold bangles and a set of silver bangles. For my necklaces I usually have a gold and silver chocker but, also a somewhat elegant necklace in both silver and gold as well. Bold rings are always my go to, especially with simple outfits to give that extra pop of detail.
Q – Where do you get the ideas for the editorials that you pull for?
A – Once I am booked for an editorial project, the photographer or magazine sends me the mood/vision board and also sends a description of the wardrobe they had in mind. I then begin my process of looking over each image very closely and taking in all of the details of the clothing on the vision board. That is where I begin my creative process of what I think would work for the shoot and what would bring the concept to life. Next, I go to the showrooms and take an organic approach with picking clothing. I literally walk around the room from the first hanger to the last hanger and see what garments catch my eye, almost like I let the clothing speak to me!!! I then do a second walk through and select the clothing that grabbed my attention and also pick up any clothing that I was on the fence about. Subsequently, I begin narrowing down all the pieces I selected to what I feel are the strongest and will tell the best editorial story. I do the same thing digitally when looking through a designers look book. Hence, I get the ideas for the editorials from my different inspirations and the clothing I see for each project. But I get the expectations and the framework from the mood board and I incorporate my own personal sense of style.
Q – We see you travel a lot to style for your clients. Tell us a little about your latest work.
A – The last project I traveled for was an editorial shoot in Puerto Rico, which was based around one of the designers I work with (Modmara). We shot all over Puerto Rico; we shot in Old San Juan and in Loiza. Shooting on location is always fun, but also very fast paced. On location is fun because, it’s a new culture and scenery and it also takes your portfolio to the next level with dynamic shots. On location is fast paced for a wardrobe stylist because, you don’t always have the luxury of laying everything out and hanging things up on hangers as you would in a studio. You have to come to the set with your bags packed with each and every look from head to toe; you don’t really have the luxury of time to figure things out on the spot. Your margin for error is chopped down to nothing. As a wardrobe stylist you prep for “location shoots” thoroughly and completely so that things can go as smoothly as possible.
Q – You have styled some amazing clients. Tell us a little about that.
A – I recently styled a woman who is a Breast Cancer survivor for a project the photographer called “The Warrior Project.” That was a meaningful and emotional experience for two reasons. First, it was for a great cause, Breast Cancer Awareness. Second, the subject of the project was the first muse that I styled who wasn’t a professional model. It was wonderful to work with someone not in the industry and connect with them organically.
About a month ago I styled an editorial for an actor who is starring on a hit TV show. The mind blowing thing about him, he was not just an actor and a model but also a dancer. You could only imagine how fun the set was, once the music started pumping through the speakers. He was a natural and knew just how to pose.
Most of the time I work with professional models and their energy is unmatched. It’s so amazing to see a model arrive like “Plain Jane” and then get transformed from head to toe into Cinderella. With every wardrobe change, the models have a way of bringing each piece to life; it’s quite a sight to see. And the icing on the cake is seeing the same models that you have styled, walking on the Victoria Secret Runway; their face being featured in a Mac Cosmetics campaign; them landing an international campaign, or television program. Then you get to scream in excitement, “I worked with them”
Q – Do you have a favorite designer?
A – I have several designers that I love. I like to call my favorite designers my “Go To Team.” That means once I’m booked for a shoot, I automatically contact at least one of them because nine out of ten times I will be pulling a few pieces from them. Some of my “Go To” designers are: Dope Sophis, Clavon Leonard, Paco Rogiene NYC, Nusam Label, House Toussaint, Gamakache Black, Modmara, Evelyn Lambert, Fashion Sixty4, Anjiques, Zenten Creation, Naloveked, and Marcia B Maxwell [MBM Swim]. All of these designers are extremely talented in their own right. I have a lot of love for each one of them because, these are the designers I started my career with and as I grow as a Wardrobe Stylist and Creative Director they continue to grow and evolve as a brand.
Q – How do you see your work changing the world as it is today?
A – I see my work changing the world as it is today by creating iconic images that will forever go down and be remembered in the fashion books. As a wardrobe stylist you are considered a “creative,” but most importantly you’re an artist. Every time I put together an outfit I want the person on the other end of the picture to look at it and feel something. I want the image to be so dynamic, that you stare at it an extra ten seconds longer because it’s so captivating. My art should always make you feel something, whether it’s the color of the clothing, or the texture of the pieces, or the smallest detail that jumps off the page and grabs your attention.
My work also empowers the models who wear the clothing; it gives them a sense of beauty and allows them to be whoever they want to be in the moment. Clothing has the power to give people confidence and see themselves in a completely different light. So if I can boost more confidence in models, bring excitement, and a huge smile on a shoot day, then I’ve done my job. Having these moments on set with different models helps them see their inner beauty and in return they walk out the door into the world with bright positive energy helping to change the negativity in the world.
Q – How do you feel about the green design practice? How important is it to maintain “slow fashion,” when high-quality practices in an industry is always demanding more?
A – I feel that green design practice is imperative to the environment. It’s important to benefit socially and economically from fashion but, it should be done while protecting the environment. Fashion is so trendy, innovative, and fast moving, that is why so many people love it!! But in the same excitement, consumers have to do a better job at deliberately choosing quality and buying eco-friendly materials. As a wardrobe stylist I also try to do my part by pulling from “green designers,” and supporting their eco friendly brands.
Q – Who is the woman who is excited about your styling? What message does she share with the world when she wears the wardrobe you have styled?
A – The woman that is excited about my styling is: modern, a risk taker, bold, sophisticated, classy, edgy, fun, versatile, chic, electrifying, phenomenal, and elegant…to name a few. The message that she shares when wearing the wardrobe I’ve styled is “confidence.” As a woman, I know just how much a new outfit, that I love, can change my energy for the entire day. From the moment I get up and get dressed, I feel like a whole new person. So I aspire to bring that same feeling to every woman I dress with each wardrobe change. I get thrilled when I see models walk by the clothing rack excited to wear certain pieces. And my heart melts every time a model steps on set to begin shooting and brings the pieces to life. You can tell when a model loves what he or she is wearing; they just sell it well!!!
Q – What advice (do’s & don’ts) would you give to a new stylist wanting to break into the industry?
A – The advice I would give to a new stylist trying to break into the industry is: you’re going to have to make a lot of financial investments to build your inventory and bring your shoots to life before you have a solid network of designers (prepare yourself financially for that). Don’t shy away from collaborating on projects (I’ve met some of the most valuable people in my network on set of projects I didn’t get paid for). Make it your business to connect with local creative’s’ (photographers, makeup artist, hair stylist) in your area. Go to fashion shows (this is an easy way to connect with a lot of up and coming designers), go on websites of the big modeling agencies and just scroll through models comp cards (this will give you an idea of what agencies like and look for as far as styling), and lastly always give proper credit to your assistants and to everyone you’ve worked with on a project. You should be honest, professional and your integrity impeccable and above reproach. You should be respectful of all you work with. Your reputation and how you conduct business is extremely important. Your reputation will precede you.
Q – Besides working on set what other directions will fashion take you? For example, do you envision teaching or conducting workshops?
A – I actually taught fashion in an elementary school for two years, that was a lot of fun. I learned a lot from the children and learned a lot about fashion by researching for my lesson plans. Starting in 2019, I will be conducting workshops for aspiring stylist and also models. In the near future I see myself as an adjunct college professor teaching a curriculum that highlights the business side of the fashion industry. The inside scoop on the life of a fashion stylist.