Fashion Stylist James Sanders and I almost had the opportunity to meet in person to talk about his upcoming Styled By James Tour, but our schedules conflicted. I admire stylists and fashion tastemakers because they can really transform someone’s confidence and look. I’m sure James is marvelous in person, I can tell based off of the energy he gives from his pictures. I have to admit I wasn’t too familiar with James Sanders’ work before I did the interview, but I’m happy I was introduced because he has an impressive list of celebrities and artists whom he’s worked with. From Natalie Hall to Guillermo Diaz (Huck from Scandal), he has properly blessed them with oh-so-stylish threads. James will be coming to South Moon Under in Baltimore (Harbor East) on January 17th. So if you’re looking for style tips, shopping advice, or how to be the next big stylist, definitely come check him out.
In the meantime, here are some questions I asked James I hope you guys will enjoy.
So you actually have your degree in journalism and I read somewhere that youve been styling for about 10 years now, how did you get into the crazy but fun world of styling?
Wow you’ve definitely done your research. I’m impressed. But I also have a master of arts in English as well. I started as a journalist, covering everything from Hip Hop to politics. I guess fashion is what stuck. I loved the idea of art that you live in, because that’s essentially what we do with our clothes. In researching the industry and really studying to see what it takes to succeed, the thing that most stood out is that you have to be able to do a little bit of everything. My personal philosophy is to succeed, excel, and master several things to be a true Jack of All Trades. It’s not enough for me to only be good at a lot of things, I have to be the best, or at least be on my way to becoming the best. So when looking at fashion, I knew that I had to learn styling, public relations, marketing and all of the facets that worked together to make the industry what it is. I love styling and creating a story with art, which as I said, to me, is clothing. Stylists are the tastemakers and architects of fashion because they put everything together to create epic adventures, or even quiet storms.
That’s part of why I want to do the Styled by James Tour, because it gives me the opportunity to share my passion for styling and my unique story of how I got into the industry with the people of Baltimore. Your city is my first stop and I am so excited to be visiting. Baltimore has a great swagger and diverse style that makes it truly unique and exciting.
What I love about your work is the versatility and balance between modern and retro. You seem to pull inspiration from the 60s/70s – tell me what eras or style icons help to create your visions?
Thanks so much for the compliment. As a stylist, it’s always cool when people respond well to the work that you do. My aesthetic is more on the 40s and 50s spectrum with hints of 70s high voltage glam thrown in here and there, but to me, my favorite era is the 50s. I can respect a time where men and women dressed up to go outside and get the paper. That whole demure and effortless part of fashion isn’t around as much anymore other than in movies and vintage photos – and that’s a shame. I wasn’t around, obviously, during that time (the 50s), but my grandmother told me stories and I hung on her every word because it all seemed so fun and exciting. My style icons from the 50s, are Sammy Davis Jr. and Eartha Kitt, and from the 70s, I am obsessed with Yves Saint Laurent. And I can’t forget the 40s, I loved Rita Hayworth and Lucille Ball when she did films.
Do you have any traditions or methods or anything you usually do to help prep for your editorial work or when working with your clients?
Whenever I get a new celebrity client, the first thing that I do is research on how they’ve dressed in the past. I want to assess their strengths and their weaknesses. From there, I put together a style file of my own ideas and concepts around how I think he/she should dress. When doing so, I’m generally listening to Spotify and I’ve created playlists around fashion.
When prepping for an editorial, I’m normally putting together the looks beforehand. I almost always work with a fit model because clothes always look better on a real person. I like to go to set already prepared. I find that it cuts a lot of the stress that happens on set. If the garments are already prepackaged, pre styled, and prepped, that helps a great deal.
I do have a little bit of a ritual the night before a shoot, or meeting with a client – I love to watch a fashion movie. Generally, it’s Gone with the Wind, or Gilda, sometimes it’s The Devil Wears Prada, but it could also be Mahogany, or Sparkle (the original 1970s version), or maybe my favorite Cleopatra Jones.
Who’s your all time favorite style muse? Man and woman.
Believe it or not, I hate the word muse. The biggest reason is because to me, no one should inspire you more than you! But with that being said, I do have two people whose personal style has never let me down, and for that, sartorially, I have a lot of respect for them. The first is Sarah Jessica Parker. I feel like she understands fashion and has impeccable style. She’s your style icon’s style icon. Of the men, I have to give it to Muhammad Ali. If you look at old photos of him outside of the ring, his personal style was amazing. And honestly, I also am obsessed with Marc Jacobs. Not only is he a fashion visionary, his personal style is the perfect mix of high end quirkiness.
What do you enjoy most…writing or styling?
This answer is probably predictable, but I enjoy them both equally for different reasons. As a stylist, I get to tell a story through fashion, as a writer, I get to tell a story through my words. Both give me the room to be creative, while staying true to my own personal aesthetic.
I get asked that question a lot and I hope to address it during the Styled by James Tour, where I’ll be giving audiences a little bit of who I am in every facet of fashion.
So how do you choose your clientele or how do they choose you?
So as of late, my clientele have been finding me. I think when people start to get used to your perspective, they’ll want you because they’re going for a specific kind of look. That’s generally how I’ve been found. I also do a lot of marketing and social media to promote myself and my brand. To me, that’s the most important and best way to find clients and to have them find you. You have to be proactive because nowadays, everybody’s a stylist – but very few have the receipts and the legitimate fashion credits to demand top billing.
Who was your favorite celebrity to work with?
My favorite celebrity to work with is actually Natalie Hall. Somehow, in the shows she’s been in, she almost always plays the bad girl and bully, but in reality, she’s quite the opposite. She’s brilliant, driven, and so down to earth. And those attributes stand out to me, because I’ve worked with so many that weren’t and aren’t the same. She’s so funny and optimistic and that’s the best kind of contagious nature I love to be around. She’s also one who understands fashion. She trusts me and I appreciate that most of all.
So I hear you’re coming out with a handbag line in the fall/winter or soon. What inspired you to want to go into design? And why handbags?
Randolph New York is one of my passion projects. I’ve been known to carry bags, the bigger the better. Bags are everything! And my collection is growing, which I’m beyond obsessed with. I’m engineering Randolph New York bags to be the perfect mix of luxury on the outside and practicality on the inside. In other words, they are beautiful on the outside and built to last on the inside
I don’t actually have cable right now, but I’m definitely hip to the housewives. I see you’re a fan of the Real Housewives franchises. Can I ask which one is your fav?
I actually religiously watch Beverly Hills, Orange County, and New Jersey but my absolute favorite is Atlanta. My favorite of all of the Housewives in Sheree and I’m thrilled that she’s made a triumphant return as the real Queen of Atlanta.
What are your favorite trends right now?
Right now, I’m digging fur. Now, fur is one of those trends that never really go out of style, but I still love it just the same. I dig the fact that fashion is still obsessed with the 70s, because, well, I am too! I love that the industry is finding new and interesting ways to tell a good 70s story. See that’s what people have to realize, the successful brands, stylists, photographers, etc, know how to tell a good story. It’s the narrative and perspective that people buy into.
What advice do you have for an aspiring stylist?
My biggest advice is to come and meet me on Sunday January 17th from 11 to 2 p.m. because I’m going to be sharing all of the tea about fashion, the industry, and the interesting way that I broke into the industry
The Styled by James Tour is a unique platform for me, and it’s something that I’ve never done before. I like the idea of having an audience to share all of my fashion quirks and obsessions. It’s going to be great, I’m also doing a live styling of a man and woman from the audience using the fabulous merchandise from South Moon Under. It’s going to be amazing!
Well there you have it my fashionistas/os. James will be speaking at South Moon Under in 2 weeks. Tickets are on sale now for $30 here. To learn more about James and his background, check out his site here.