- Alexander Allen is a fashion stylist and costume designer who has now signed on to work as a stylist with Amazon’s new Prime Wardrobe service.
- Allen says that, over the course of his past 20 years in the industry, he’s dressed everyone from Shakira to Beyoncé, worked on Madonna’s tour, styled artist Takashi Murakami, and worked with designers including Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, and Dsquared2.
- Allen has also worked extensively in entertainment, with wardrobe and costume department credits on the movies “Ocean’s 8” and “Second Act,” the TV show “POSE” (starring Billy Porter), and Broadway’s “Iceman Cometh” (starring Denzel Washington).
- In an exclusive interview with Business Insider, Allen discusses his career and shares his insights into the ever-changing fashion industry.
- This is part of Business Insider’s “The Style Series” highlighting fashion entrepreneurs and businesses across the globe.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Fresh off working on wardrobe and costuming for Madonna’s tour, stylist Alexander Allen is now poised to work with Amazon Prime Wardrobe as a stylist, where he will assist the tech giant with its foray into the fashion retail sphere. But before he started working with the tech giant, Allen was a veteran stylist within the hip-hop industry and says he’s worked with everyone from Eve to Beyoncé to Shakira – and even Denzel Washington.
He’s also worked in film, television, and theater, with wardrobe, costuming, and styling credits on “Ocean’s 8,” Fox’s “Almost Family,” Ryan Murphy’s “POSE,” and “Network” with Tony Goldwyn. In an interview with Business Insider, Allen spoke about how he developed his career and how he feels about the way the industry has changed over the years.
“I grew up here in Brooklyn, New York.”
I’m a native New Yorker — and it’s not too many of us, it’s quite rare. I was always fascinated with entertainment, music, fashion. I just didn’t know in what capacity I would proceed with that. It wasn’t until I went to college — Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, where I studied telecommunications with a concentration in public relations — that’s where my love for entertainment increased even more.
“Upon graduation, I came back home and secured an internship at Marie Claire magazine in the fashion department.”
My boss at the time, she got a job over at Donna Karan and she brought me along with her. [There] I befriended a stylist, and our very first project was with P!NK, who was virtually unknown at the time. It was there that I realized, ‘Okay, I want to do styling,’ because it was entertainment, it was music, it was fashion [all combined]. It was me creating my own schedule. It was also great compensation. It was everything that I wanted, and I just proceeded from there.
“My career has been self-financed.”
I was the first entrepreneur in my family, so it’s always a huge undertaking doing anything new and not having anyone to ask questions. Luckily enough for me, I had a great (and still have a great) accountant, and he was the one who helped me formulate my business plan and the ways that I should go about handling my finances.
“The very first celebrity that I can remember styling is Ananda Lewis, a former MTV video jockey.”
I [styled Lewis for] Time Inc.’s Teen People magazine. [And] it was thrilling. I was like, ‘Whoa, look at me. I’m published in Time’s Teen People!’ — which was a big deal back in the day. It was the magazine where all of the up and coming celebrities were on that cover and on the inside. So it was like, ‘Wow, not only am I working with Ananda, who I was watching on a daily basis and who was part of my pop culture, but now I’m styling her.’ It was a win on so many levels … And it helped establish me as [a stylist].
“Back in the day, hip-hop wasn’t where it is now.”
We always knew hip hop was electric and was the voice of the streets and street style. [But] these major fashion brands and fashion houses, they weren’t so willing to work with us. Once [I found] a specific [fashion] house [to work with me], I made sure to always reach out to them for each project. That goes back to my PR skills and [knowing the importance of] strengthening relationships.
That was one of the things I was trying to tell Eve is ‘you know, you don’t see it because you’re the face and you’re the celebrity, but it’s not easy pulling Gucci for you.’ Back in the day, it wasn’t easy pulling certain designers for her.
“I honestly do not pay attention to trends.”
Because when you pay attention to trends — and I get it, it’s a whole business and everything — [but] the trends are coming from fashion editors. They’re coming from designers, they’re coming from everyone. So why would I listen to what they have to say? It’s no disrespect, but I like to keep my palate clean and fresh. And to do that, I limit what I see, what I hear, and I just keep it authentic to what I’m feeling. And that’s where I operate from.
“Back in the day, men’s style was more conservative.”
It was always the same silhouette, the same patterns … Now, it’s a whole ‘nother level where, because of fluidity in reference to sexual preference and gender, the silhouettes have changed even more. It’s good to see men taking risks and also designers taking risks — like with Alessandro Michele at Gucci, how he’s really revitalizing that house. I really love what he has done and what he’s doing.
“The major difference between LA style and New York style …”
In New York, we have sidewalk culture. [In LA], they don’t. They drive everywhere. So where you’ll see their style is in a mall, maybe you’ll see it at a festival, maybe you’ll see it at an awards show. But really New York is where you’re going to see people walking up and down during four different types of seasons.
“I am all for social media influencers.”
When I was starting out, before influencers, there were bloggers, and the bloggers were the ones interrupting fashion. You had bloggers who just created a blog who were sitting next to or right behind or in the vicinity of, like, these esteemed and revered fashion editors. So everyone was like, ‘wait, how did this happen?’ Now with influencers, I just see it and I’m not mad.
“I was always comfortable being behind the scenes and letting my clients lead.”
But with influencers and with social media, you have to be in front of your talent or be right next to it. I mean, that’s just the way of the world today. So that’s something that I had to readjust to.
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