Alexander Allen: Master Stylist
I work with established, new-coming designers, those who are established but donâ€™t get mainstream press. I work across the board. Letâ€™s take Eve, for example, sheâ€™s an A-list fashion icon right now because you canâ€™t predict what sheâ€™s gonna wear. Certain celebrities when it comes time for the red carpet, you know what they will wear. Oh sheâ€™ll be wearing Cavalli, oh, sheâ€™ll show up in Georgio Armani. I donâ€™t like to be predictable and I donâ€™t want my clients to be predictable as well. Some new and upcoming designers or established designers that arenâ€™t getting mainstream press that Iâ€™m concentrating on are Valenciana, Benjamin Cho, DSquared.
Celebrity stylist, Alexander Allen, represents Brooklyn from the runway to the red carpet and all stops in between. This fashion guru is the stylist for the sexy and sassy rapper and television actress, Eve; and has worked with femme fatales such as Beyonce, Sanaa Lathan, Shakira and Toni Braxton. Allen started his own fashion styling company, Transformers Inc., merging his innate style instincts and personalized approach to attract celebrities across the music and entertainment arenas. He worked his way up from magazine intern, public relations assistant to in-demand stylist and only continues to keep climbing in 2006. Alexander Allen sat down with The Black Star News to discuss his fashion forward outlook, his inspirations, and what every woman needs to be on the A-list this spring.
BSN: I see that you are a BK native.
AA: All day! (laughs)
BSN: Where in Brooklyn are you from?
AA: I grew up in East Flatbush, spent latter half of my adolescent years in East New York and now Iâ€™m a resident of Clinton Hill.
BSN: So how did you get involved in styling? How did you know that this was your passion?
AA: I got into fashion when I went to school in Baltimore, MD and then upon coming back I secured an internship at Marie Claire in the fashion department and did that for a term, the summer, and then I went to the other side of fashion, which was PR and I did PR for Donna Karan. It was cool, I loved the both of them but I realized that I didnâ€™t want pursue a career in either one of those areas. So after assisting a stylist, it wasnâ€™t until that experience when I knew that that was my calling. Not only was I creative fashion-wise, but it also involved entertainment, creating my own schedule, it was a bigger paycheck, more flexibility, time and schedule-wise, I was like this is it and I have no regrets!
BSN: Who is the favorite person you worked with? Is there anyone that youâ€™re dying to collaborate with?
AA: Of course! My favorite person so far would have to be Eve. Sheâ€™s the greatest, sheâ€™s a sweet girl and I have total creative freedom. When we work together itâ€™s just her and myself, thereâ€™s no 3rd man or middle people. Thereâ€™s no one else involved in her image expect her and itâ€™s the perfect stylist/client relationship. I would love to work with Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey and Beyonce. Janet and Mariah need meâ€¦not like ego wise, they just need an overall change. I love those girls and they are super-talented but its time for a new image and I feel like I can bring that into fruition and that their career to a higher level. And Beyonce, I love her, sheâ€™s hot! She gets it sometimes and sometimes she doesnâ€™t, so thereâ€™s a little inconsistency on her part but I would help her keep it consistent and again take her even higher. Because not is it only just about talent but you have to have that visual consistency as well; and Beyonce has it more so than the other two girls. But itâ€™s important to have it on a consistent basis as well.
BSN: Do you have lines/designers you love to work with? Any stores that you love to find things with?
AA: I love DSquared. I love, love, love, love DSquared. It was a pleasure of mine to help launch them in the United States so that was great. So I always look to them for assistance with my projects. Those are the only ones I can say, those boys Dean and Dan; those are the only ones that I can look to consistently. Each season it varies, right now Iâ€™m looking at what Karl Lagerfeld had done with Fendi. Iâ€™ve loved their last few collections. Also Iâ€™m interested in Balenciaga, theyâ€™ve done really well for the past 3 collections, Iâ€™ve really become a big fan of Nicholas Ghesquiere. Oh and another favorite of mine is Stella McCartney. She does really well, sheâ€™s great. I love her fashion aesthetic. To answer the rest of your questions, in New York, what are my favorite stores? I can tell you my favorite areas: the meatpacking district; the Stella McCartneys, Alexander McQueen, the Scoops; thatâ€™s a favorite area of mine to shop in. When in L.A., I like Robertson, you know from Robertson Blvd. They have great shops out there and of course, Rodeo Drive.
BSN: What cities do you think have the best style? Are there any places you draw inspiration from?
AA: Definitely New York. You canâ€™t sleep on New York, itâ€™s such a melting pot here. In the Lower East Side, Soho, Brooklyn, all of the boroughs. Inspiration is everywhere for me. I would definitely say New York. L.A., not really. Overseas, definitely, Paris, London, Germany. I also find inspiration from everywhere, itâ€™s not just cities or countries. I get it from fashion magazines, I look at designers and I see what they are putting down their runway. I get it from photo shoots, everyday people walking down the street, doâ€™s and donâ€™ts of celebrities on the red carpet. Inspiration comes in many forms and I welcome it all.
BSN: Getting on to Spring â€˜06 which is here. What are you working on? Whatâ€™s the must have item for the spring?
AA: Iâ€™m working on the February â€˜06 issue of Vibe Vixen featuring photo shoot of the Making of The Band 3 girls which should be coming out very soon. Iâ€™m looking forward to continuing my work with Trina, she has an album out, â€œThe Glamorest Life,â€? her 3rd single is coming out and a new video. Iâ€™m also working with Toni Braxton, they are re-releasing current effort, Libra. Iâ€™m also looking to work with Eve as she releases her 4th studio album in late spring/early summer. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m concentrating on for â€˜06 so far. One of the trends that Iâ€™m looking at is the oxford shirt; it is going to be really strong this season; been strong from Fall â€˜05 and will continue for Spring â€˜06. You can pair that with short shorts, denim, pencil denim jeans, knee length skirts. You can put it with a tailored shirt, thatâ€™s how it was shown in last yearâ€™s Fashion Week. Itâ€™s just the white shirt, itâ€™s gonna be the focal point that takes you from day to evening. Another trend Iâ€™m concentrating on is pencil jeans. Itâ€™s a new silhouette, well not a new silhouette, but itâ€™s the newest silhouette that will become more mainstream. Pencil jeans are definitely the standard overseas, and been in the United States here and there with the trend of the 80â€™s punk rock but now youâ€™ll see it on more of mainstream basis Stella McCartney, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Miss Sixty. Another trend that Iâ€™m focused on is black dresses. I usually stay away from black dresses, as they are as basic as the white shirt. Itâ€™s kinda safe and I like anything thatâ€™s not safe; I like to take risks. But the reason why Iâ€™m focusing on it is because they are being done in lighter materials like chiffon, lace, satin and its more airy, more feminine for Spring â€˜06. Itâ€™s a new take on it, so Iâ€™m all for it, and thatâ€™s indicative from the collections by Dior, Fendi and Balenciaga. The last trend is what Iâ€™ll be partaking in is the thick waist belts and Yves Saint Laurent has been doing them in the last 3 collections and Fendi did a new take on it with the patent leather buckles.
BSN: What do you prefer urban fashion or couture?
AA: I prefer mixing the two, thatâ€™s how I feel for me. I donâ€™t have a preference. I love urban fashion but donâ€™t want to be stuck in that genre. I also love couture but itâ€™s not very realistic. But you can marry the two, i.e., Lauryn Hill for her Fugees reunion at the BET Awards. That was big! She had the white oxford shirt, the high-waisted tailored slacks with the black shoes haute couture, with the black tie, it was just crazy! And the big gold hoop earrings. It was a marriage of the haute couture with the urban sensibility and thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m saying, the combination of the two is out of this world and her look was so innovative and fresh and you canâ€™t say she looked like anybody. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m talking aboutâ€”she did it really well.
BSN: A lot of people had a lot of negative things to say about that outfit.
AA: Of course thatâ€™s expected because she is breaking new ground, not everybody is gonna say that. Thereâ€™s gonna be a couple of cohorts emulating her in some form or fashion. Once you break new ground, thatâ€™s yours and youâ€™ll always be identified with it. Iâ€™m not mad at her at all, sheâ€™s definitely hot.
BSN: You gotta try something different, you know?
AA: Of course, you do. It becomes so redundant. Iâ€™m tired of seeing Roberto Cavalli, tired of seeing Versace. Not to take away from those talented designers but its just, come on, here are so many more designers out there and if stylists did their homework, you would see more variations on the red carpet.
BSN: Do you work a lot with independent designers? If so, any personal favorites?
AA: I work with established, new-coming designers, those who are established but donâ€™t get mainstream press. I work across the board. Letâ€™s take Eve, for example, sheâ€™s an A-list fashion icon right now because you canâ€™t predict what sheâ€™s gonna wear. Certain celebrities when it comes time for the red carpet, you know what they will wear. Oh sheâ€™ll be wearing Cavalli, oh, sheâ€™ll show up in Georgio Armani. I donâ€™t like to be predictable and I donâ€™t want my clients to be predictable as well. Some new and upcoming designers or established designers that arenâ€™t getting mainstream press that Iâ€™m concentrating on are Valenciana, Benjamin Cho, DSquared.
BSN: What do you think has been Hip-Hopâ€™s contribution to fashion or how do you merge the two? I know you work with Eve and Trina.
AA: I incorporate my clientâ€™s personality in their wardrobe and thatâ€™s what should be done. Because you have personal style, itâ€™s an outward expression of what youâ€™re feeling inwardly. Youâ€™re just expressing it through your clothes, accessories, hair and makeup etc. I try to take the essence of whom Iâ€™m dressing, in addition to what the project is, and in addition to my favorite designers and favorite trends of the season and try to marry it all together. I try to make sure at the end of the day that Iâ€™m not alienating my client from their audience because you donâ€™t want them to be so fashionable where their target audience doesnâ€™t understand it. Itâ€™s a combination of taking them to the next level fashion-wise and ensuring that the target audience can appreciate it and it doesnâ€™t go over their heads. It takes talent and takes time and takes a great eye to do that because you can go too far left and you can go too far right. But its matter of going right down the middle where its progressive enough for fashion leverage but is right on target for their audience and doesnâ€™t fly over their heads.
BSN: Ever have problems with clients not liking the end result? If so, how do you deal with that?
AA: Iâ€™ve experienced that a number of times, with one particular client that I wonâ€™t name. Iâ€™m currently not working with that person. It becomes frustrating and Iâ€™m learning to deal with it in a more diplomatic manner because initially it was frustrating. I take my job very seriously, I work very hard and I want that to come across and be appreciated that way. This person was more concerned with what their manager thought because they didnâ€™t have an innate sense of style and were more concerned with what people at home would think. I was like, â€˜You have your priorities wrong, they are not in order and because of that everything I try to do for you, you wonâ€™t appreciate. You just wonâ€™t get it.â€™ Right now what Iâ€™m trying to do is Iâ€™m trying not to take it personally, trying to figure out okay, this is the look Iâ€™ve created for you. The part that you do like, letâ€™s focus on and create the look around that. And once thatâ€™s been done, if youâ€™re feeling it, thatâ€™s an option. If not, letâ€™s scrap it and start over.
BSN: Anything exciting planned for Fashion Week?
AA: Well, what usually happens is that a client will let me know if they are coming in or Iâ€™ll run into someone who Iâ€™ve worked with or what to work with and we collabo. I take them to the fashion shows with me, that becomes a new client. Last Fashion Week thatâ€™s how Brandy and I re-connected. We worked together when I did PR for Donna Karan, I hooked her up with that ad campaign a while back. Weâ€™ve been speaking sporadically but it wasnâ€™t until we ran into each other when we starting talking and working together and going to the fashion shows. She was like, â€œAlex, I love what youâ€™re doing with me, we have to work together!â€? So Iâ€™ll be doing some work with her for her December 2006 release.
BSN: Now this is not really related to fashion, but what would you do if you werenâ€™t afraid?
AA: Wow, good question. Iâ€™m just continuing to move forward without deliberating. I will continue to move forward, no going back. Instead of taking time to waver, should I have done this or that; Iâ€™ll just keep looking forward.
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