inspire

"FASHION MADE ME DO IT": NEVER LET SEASONAL TRENDS STOP YOU FROM PUTTING YOUR OWN SPIN ON A LOOK

WRITTEN BY SHARRA GREENE | PHOTOS BY MONICA KRYSTEL ROSE

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Growing up, one of my guilty pleasures was (and still is) watching reality tv shows with my mom and sis. And as crazy as it may seem, my favorite part about it isn’t even the drama and crazy storylines that most of us watch reality tv for in the first place. I mean, obviously that’s what initially sparked my interest. But after a while, I realized my favorite part really is looking at all of the looks the people on the shows wear, and having side convos with my fam about what we liked and what we didn’t like, who we thought always dressed well (and who we thought needed MUCH help), along with how we would’ve worn or not worn certain things differently.

Difference in perspective is what makes fashion culture so interesting. What I think is fly is not necessarily what someone else may think is, and vice versa. And to be honest, without us all having different tastes, fashion would be really boring and uninteresting. Personal style is what makes all the difference. That’s why I always encourage my fam, friends, and even my clients to always stay true to themselves, despite what may or may not be currently “in fashion”. It’s cool to incorporate trendy pieces but it’s so much more important to wear pieces that speak to who you are because you never know how your unique take on something could inspire someone else, which is inherently what keeps the culture moving forward and what keeps us all on our toes.

I wore this look while I ran around NYC during fashion week, catching shows. After a show, I stopped in Chipotle to eat and charge my phone. As I was scrolling away, a lady came rushing in and came up to my table, telling me how much she looved my outfit and asking me where I got my jacket and boots (shop the look above). She mentioned how she would’ve worn the jacket with a matching gold skirt instead. As I explained to her how I always like to add an unexpected element into my fits, it sparked a dope convo and we ended up talking for an hour about how we as women use personal style to express ourselves and how our style usually evolves as we enter different chapters in our lives.

It made me think about how something as expressive and fun for us should never just be limited to what’s “on trend” and what’s not. With everything from top designers to social media and fast fashion factories selling us an image day after day, it’s easy to get caught up in what’s poppin’ and what’s played, losing our sense of individuality. But as exciting as it is to study trends as they come and go, at the end of the day, I gotta be me… you gotta be you. Never let a temporary wave keep you from serving a look that’s authentically YOU. Our different points of view when it comes to style are so necessary.

Sharra,

“The definition of walking art.”

MAKING A MARK IN FASHION DESPITE THE "YOU CAN'T SIT WITH US" MENTALITY THAT PLAGUES THE INDUSTRY

WRITTEN BY SHARRA GREENE

Pioneer and Curator of Ebony Fashion Fair, Eunice Walker Johnson sitting front row during a fashion presentation.

Pioneer and Curator of Ebony Fashion Fair, Eunice Walker Johnson sitting front row during a fashion presentation.

As expressive and beautiful the phenomenon that is fashion can be, there’s also such a strong sense of secrecy and exclusivity concerning the industry. Anyone who wants in has experienced this in one way or another. From authorities in fashion refusing to hire people of a certain look, race, religion, or social class, down to giving no front row seats at shows for those who aren’t deemed “good enough” over trivial matters, even down to how secretive individuals can be when it comes to sharing their “recipe for success” , the “crabs in a barrel” attitude that often exudes from many of those who are apart of the industry is virtually impossible to miss; and if you let it, it can leave you feeling discouraged, disheartened, and underrepresented. Thankfully, we’re living in a time where those who came before us have walked so we could run, and it’s becoming easier to still show up and kill it in this industry, in your own right.

Whether you’re an aspiring tastemaker, blogger, designer, model, or even if you’re just a lover of fashion culture, I’ve found on my journey just how important it is to unapologetically offer your 2 cents, despite voices in the industry constantly trying to control what is perceived as acceptable and appealing and what is not. You never know how your perspective will positively influence and inspire others along their own journey. Here are a few ways to keep making your presence known…

IF YOU CAN’T JOIN THEM, CREATE YOUR OWN

This has been the approach that some of fashion’s most iconic trailblazers and legends in the making have taken, and are still taking. When we abandon our need to be accepted by everyone we feel is important, that’s often when our true calling makes itself known. As a young black woman who’s building a career in fashion, it’s no secret that throughout history, there have been many doors closed for people who look like me. However, I’m so blessed to be pursuing fashion in a time where those who came before me have knocked down some doors and tossed me the key, in a sense.

Ebony Fashion Fair Curator Eunice Walker took initiative to highlight blacks in fashion during a time when the mainstream tastemakers in the industry were ignoring us. After having a dream of writing for Vogue deferred, Editor in Chief of Fashion Bomb Daily, Claire Sulmers (if you read here often, you already know she’s my fav!) utilized her growing online presence to create “her own Vogue” in so many words, creating and maintaining a unique space for multicultural fashion to be celebrated. “First you ask, then you take.”, she says.

Eunice Walker Johnson’s Ebony Fashion Fair exhibit, highlighting black up and coming designers of her time.

Eunice Walker Johnson’s Ebony Fashion Fair exhibit, highlighting black up and coming designers of her time.

From Instagram born, profitable fashion brands to influencers who found their tribe, went viral, and never looked back… we live in an era where when we can’t join someone’s movement, we can create our own and be just as, if not even more successful, and a lot of industry vets are upset about it. But there’s honestly no going back… due to the way we receive our information (internet, social media, etc.") There’s an array of ways to consistently contribute your perspective in any industry, especially fashion.

Seeing a lack of representation in fashion that moves you to want to act on it? Instead of wasting time begging and waiting for certain opportunities, be the change and create your own. It can start with establishing your own movement, whether it be via an online presence, creating in-person groups and organizations, etc. Through experience, I’m learning that it gains momentum when you continue to create your content, share your style, share your opinions, and continue to show up and speak up despite whoever’s trying to silence you. You’d be surprised how people identify with your voice when you use it.

SPEAK UP, NEVER BE AFRAID TO PLUG YOURSELF

Me introducing myself to legendary stylist Misa Hylton at the  Convos with Claire networking event  in December 2018.

Me introducing myself to legendary stylist Misa Hylton at the Convos with Claire networking event in December 2018.

With fashion being such a competitive industry, it’s important to know how to plug yourself. This is probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned thus far when it comes to my business. When I first started styling back in 2014, I was not as confident as I am now, which probably caused me to fumble a few bags in the process. It didn’t help that I’m naturally introverted, believe it or not. But over time, I’ve learned when to break out of my shell and handle business because if I don’t speak for my brand, no one else will.

When you walk into a room hoping to make your mark, Ive learned that it’s important to remember that people don’t read minds. They’re not aware of the gifts you possess, and until you speak up and let them know, you risk missing out on building meaningful connections with others and further establishing your brand. If you’re looking to get better at representing yourself, practicing your elevator pitch and testing it out at networking events or when you meet new people, can help you level up when it comes to leaving a lasting impression.

SUPPORT A MOVEMENT BEFORE IT’S “MOVING”

Everyday, I see SO MANY dope brands and creatives in fashion who offer a fresh point of view and quality work getting knocked off, ripped off, and overlooked. I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying “nobody is messing with your movement until it’s moving” but it can be challenging to gain momentum when people don’t support you just because you haven’t “made it” yet in their eyes, whatever that means. That’s why I’ve recently been making a point to support my fellow small business owners, minority owned businesses, and an array of other groups in fashion who constantly seem to get put on the back burner.

When you choose to support a label, or brand before it has completely taken off and gone mainstream, not only do you establish yourself as a trendsetter and not a follower, but you also gain leverage by supporting at the beginning stages because it often leads to strong partnerships and relationships with the owners of these companies that many others missed out on because they simply jumped on the bandwagon later on down the road. Consider taking on ambassadorships or even simply purchasing from more of the brands that are slept on, it can help you make your mark in the long run, in more ways than one.

Hope you got something from this post! New fashion week coming to the blog very soon! Stay tuned!

Sharra,

“The definition of walking art.”

5 LESSONS I'VE LEARNED AS A STYLIST: ON THE LATEST EPISODE OF STYLE WITH SHARRA: THE PODCAST SERIES

#behind thescenes: See more from this shoot   here

#behind thescenes: See more from this shoot here

     When I started pursuing a styling career at age 18, I knew I had A LOT to learn. In the beginning, I had insecurities, limited resources, and a whole bunch of questions. Though I still have a long way to go before I achieve all that I want, I'm honestly just so grateful for all that I've learned on this journey so far. Looking back, I realize how much what I've learned can help all of my fellow young bosses who are pursuing a career in fashion, or any creative career for that matter. So if you're an aspiring stylist or creative, this episode is definitely for you! 

      In this episode of Style With Sharra, I'm going a little beneath the surface, reflecting on my styling journey while sharing some of the many lessons that I've learned as a creative and as a businesswoman. Tune in to get to know more about my humble beginnings, skills that I believe set a great stylist apart from the rest, and challenges that I still face to this day! Take a listen and comment your thoughts of questions!

Take a listen and let me know your thoughts or questions in the comment!

Sharra,

"The definition of walking art."

MY INTERVIEW WITH OKERA BANKS: A SCIENTIST OF CREATIVITY, IMAGINATION, AND STYLE

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      If you don't already know, Okera Banks is a well established celebrity and editorial stylist, designer, and all around fashion expert who has taken her love for all things fashion and style and turned it into a career filled with inspiration, a strong network, and an even stronger skillsket. Her work has been featured in major publications like Cosmopolitan Magazine, E! Online, and countless others. Her style and designs can be seen on the likes of Mary J. Blige, Niecy Nash, Tiffany Haddish, Anthony Anderson, Zendaya, and Mel B. just to name a few.

     Upon binge listening to her Style Lounge Podcast where she has insightful conversations with fashion icons and celebs who share her love of style, I had to bring her wit and wisdom to The Walking Art Blog. See our interview below to learn more about Okera as a brand, what she believes sets fashion newcomers apart, and more. 

First thing’s first, what made you want to get started as a stylist / designer in the first place?

 What made me want to become a designer/stylist is the love for art and everything fashion. I wanted to be a model but because I was height challenged, I decided to learn everything there was to know about fashion and style. Design, Costume Designing and Styling is what spoke to me while gaining the knowledge.

 

Some of your first stops on your fashion journey included an internship at Mirabella Magazine as well as working as an assistant fashion editor, what’s a major key that these experiences taught you early on in your career that you still use today?

 The one major key that my experiences taught me early on in my career and I still use today is my mantra... Stay Ready Be Ready! That means simply stay ready and be ready to present, perform, deliver with ONLY the best energy, options, ideas, suggestions and solutions.

 

Styled by Okera Banks.

Styled by Okera Banks.

With so many people in today’s age aspiring to be an “it” stylist to celebs and major publications, true respect for the craft can sometimes be hard to come by. What do you feel like sets an aspiring stylist apart from the rest and what do you feel is needed to truly gain respect and desired success in the field?

 What I feel that sets an aspiring stylist apart is one's personal calling card, which is their personal niche' and style. That comes with knowing your signature touch of style. What I think is necessary to gain respect and success in any field especially in this field is being consisent, taking creative risks, hard work, going the extra mile to gain information, constantly evolving and reinventing yourself and others.

 

Let’s talk about OTG Essentials, the cohesive collection of interchangeable pieces that you created “for men and women that can be worn multiple ways throughout the day into the evening’s most festive occasions.” What inspired you to start the collection?

What inspired me to start my OTG Essentials collection was out of my own necessity. I have always had a very fast paced, on the go lifestyle.  But there was a very unique season in my life where along with balancing costume designing multiple televisions shows, with one of the multiple shows having me travel once a week, styling my clients and taking on the duties of becoming a caregiver to my mother, my comfort became equally priority to me being fly as I worked and traveled while remaining always ready while on the go. So, I created and designed a collection of easy travel, bold, sexy, interchangeable garments that convert from one look to another look throughout my day for different occasions so I could stay ready, be ready.

 

So, the Style Lounge is one of my new fave podcasts. You truly have a gift for curating insightful content through your conversations with fashion insiders. My favorite interview was with designing icon Karl Kani. You two discussed staying true to your brand and your dream even during the low points and off seasons. What actions and mindsets do you practice in order to continue putting in work and staying focused during the hardest of times?

The Karl Kani interview was a special interview because I grew up influenced and being apart of hip hop culture and street fashion. One of my biggest practice in staying focused during the most challenging time(s) is working out and laughter.  These are by far my top 2 medicines during those times.

Styled by Okera Banks.

Styled by Okera Banks.

 

Lastly, I want to ask you a style question that you always ask your guests! What does Okera wear to the grocery store, date night, and when you’re handling business?

Ha Ha Ha .... Good One!  What does Okera wear to the grocery store, date night and when I am handling business.  Well, I am not a person who plans a grocery store day, maybe a farmers market day but not a grocery store day. So, often times Grocery Store Okera is apart of my everyday look. I incorporate my grocery shopping at the end of my work day or coming from a workout session, which means I am often in jeans and a blazer, a dress, a jumper, a layered ensemble look with a cute shoe or in workout gear, baseball cap and sneakers.  Date Night Okera: depending on the date, I am either in a fitted sassy dress, jumper or skinny jeans and a fashion top and pumps. Handling Business Okera will often will do a casual business dress with or without a light weight blazer with pumps or an ankle boot and a good bag.

Okera, thank you so much for taking some time out of your busy day to inspire here on the blog! It was a pleasure. If you liked this interview, feel free to comment and keep up with Okera via her website, Instagram, and Style Lounge Podcast. Don't forget to shop OTG Essentials

Sharra,

"The definition of walking art."