JUNE AMBROSE: FASHION FORECASTERMay 17, 2007 at 1:24 am | Posted in Interviews | Leave a comment
Written by Jorteh Senah
Weathermen/women base their forecast on the sound science of meteorology. Yet, there is still a fair share of ambiguity involved in predicting Mother Nature’s next move. Think about the vagueness of the terms used in the average nightly news weather report: fair conditions, unknown precipitation etc.
So how has June Ambrose forecasted the hottest, or better yet, coldest styles to storm hip hop – a force more erratic than Mother Nature on her period – over the last decade? That’s because June Ambrose is the Mother Nature of fashion. She molds the styles that eventually become trends. Thought trends like Evisu jeans just popped out of hip hop-heaven? Like Mother Nature, who partakes in more than the weather, Ms Ambrose has her fabric-feeling hands in more than just styling. Her job encompasses finance, costume design and marketing, to name a few. Read on and see what this innovator forecasts for the future and what she’s predicted in the past.
TheSource.com: Many people refer to you as a stylist, but what you do is more than just styling. What title best describes your profession?
June Ambrose: I’ve often been referred to as a style architect, because there is so much more involved than just dressing someone up. You’re catering to their alter ego, but it’s truly helping them to evolve and find themselves from the inside out. I think that kind of magic, when working with me, actually happens. Sometimes it happens immediately, and sometimes it happens over a course of definitive time. If you look at the clients that I’ve been working with for years, you can see their evolution. I’ve been styling for fifteen years now, and I can truly say that I’ve seen our genre of music evolve. I think I was one of the big architects, along with great music video directors like Hype Williams, that helped sculpt and cultivate the Hip Hop genre.
TheSource.com: Speaking about Hype Williams, the reason I asked you to define what you do is because of some of the work you’ve done with Hype. When I think of the typical stylist I don’t see them creating the inflated bag that Missy Elliot wore in her “The Rain” video, or the infamous shiny suits that you did for B.I.G’s “Mo Money Mo Problems” video. Where does that come from?
June Ambrose: That’s really more of a costume designer’s technique. That’s the kind of approach that I took towards those particular projects. It was just a time where music videos and the treatments warranted something that was cinematic and alternative, and I think those alternative choices really helped them to be recognized as a marketplace at the time. I was inspired by so many different things, whether it was Japanese animation or Carnival on Eastern Parkway. I’m from the West Indies, so when I go home to Antigua and I see Carnival and the pieces, it inspires me to do things like the costumes I did for Busta Rhyme’s “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” video. Even though it was a definite take on Coming to America, in building the costumes I had to be creative and look for inspiration from many different avenues.
TheSource.com: You styled Hype William’s directorial debut, Belly, but since then you haven’t worked on any other films. Why is that?
June Ambrose: Yeah, Belly was my only film. After Belly it was tough, because we were coming from a world where we were doing really expensive music videos, and we were definitely being compensated very well. Then having to do a film where you work on it every day for three moths, it felt like a job that would never end. Even though I’m really proud of the work that I did on that film, considering the money restraints we had and all the politics behind the project itself. I’m still proud to have been associated with it, and I look back at what we were forecasting at the time, and I think both Hype and I can walk away saying that we nailed it. At the time DMX was an unknown and Hype launched his career. He took the chance of using a brand new artist for the film, who did a really excellent job when you look at it. To me it’s a Hip Hop classic. I was responsible for bringing Evisu to the states, if you look at that film and the time period of it. I found Evisu in London, and it wasn’t even attached to the urban culture yet. I did a lot of shopping for the film, because I was forecasting what it would look like in 2001. So when you look back at the body of work, I think we completed what we set out to do visually. If I was to do another film it would have to be the right film. I wouldn’t want it to be that kind of film, only because I don’t want to be typecast as a hip hop costume designer. I think I have much more to offer, and I don’t like the box that Hollywood puts costume designers in. So for me, artistically it would have to be a film that allows me to do a different kind of work, then I would ultimately do it; because I have been asked to do other films.
TheSource.com: Going back to the “Mo Money Mo Problems” video that you styled. Puffy received a lot of backlash for wearing those shiny suits, do you regret that decision?
June Ambrose: No, I have no regrets. I think the timing was perfect; I think that those clients were recognized for thinking outside the box, and I think when you look back on the body of work, again, it’s a great artistic performance. It’s a story line, it’s not reality; it’s not ‘I’m wearing this everyday to do an interview.’ It was performance wardrobe like The Temptations and The Furious Five would wear. Those guys used to wear fringes and all kinds of wild stuff, look at Bootsy Collins. So what’s so different about us? It was the time for us to do costumes and recreate that kind of energy on stage and in film. Again, I think the timing was right, and I have no regrets what so ever. I think the artist that criticized it don’t necessarily understand the artistry of it, and I think they missed the point. We put a bald cap on Missy Elliot’s head, painted her face black, and put rhinestones over her eyebrows for “She’s A Bitch.” We got huge backlash for that, people were saying we had gone too far and it’s not rock and roll, but that’s what art is about. When artist start to find themselves again and take those kind of chances, maybe we won’t be so bored with our genre of music, that when creatively you look at it, it’s dyeing. There’s nothing exciting, everything looks so safe. Artistically for me, I’m not paid to be safe. I’m paid to forecast and think outside the box and make responsible decisions for my celebrity clients that will impact the marketplace. You’re allowed to reinvent yourself or stop yourself in a marketplace that’s really willing to absorb anything new. Why do you think all these advertising companies are coming to fashion forecasters to endorse products, not just celebrity artist but now the stylist who put it all together.
TheSource.com: From what I understood, you don’t just dress someone in what you think is hot. More so, you try to match their attire with their personality, and that being said, I could totally see Diddy digging those shiny suits.
June Ambrose: Well, in the beginning he wasn’t for it at all, and I said trust me it’s going to be hot. Hype is going to shoot it amazing, it’s all for cinematic value. I was like it’s going to explode on camera. The reason why he agreed to it is because, again, it’s really about interpretation and how he interprets it and how he pulled it off. He pulled it off very charismatically. He was tough, he didn’t look soft in it; he was macho and rock and roll. He was everything that the stage commands, and I think that kind of persona is going to be able to pull of great fashion and great ideas. I always say to my celebrity clients, ‘If it doesn’t work for you let’s not waste time, because ultimately I’m not dressing a store window. I’m dressing your character, your alter ego, and your artistic character.’ We’re working on building that character for the masses. I personally don’t care what you look like when you go home, but when you’re on stage and you’re working, to me, the sidewalk is your stage, and life is your stage. When you’re a celebrity all eyes are on you. It’s about the consistency and building the image. Like with Jay-Z, he went from being a Hip Hop artist that was recognized for his ability to be an amazing mc, but now he’s also being recognized for being a style icon, and not just on a main stream level, he was GQ’s “Man of the Year.” These things generate a different kind of customer. That being said, when I’m putting work together I have to think like a marketing director, because I’m building images for celebrities.
TheSource.com: Now you weren’t always a stylist, you were doing investment banking initially.
June Ambrose: Yeah, well I knew I didn’t want to be there. I had an entrepreneurial spirit, and that environment wasn’t going to allow me to go after that. Having that spirit, I knew I had to leave that environment in order to pursue my passion. My passion was a creative passion, and it just so turned out that fashion styling was my first creative outlet. It was a good choice, and I have no regrets from doing that. It was the best decision of my life
TheSource.com: Also, I’m sure your background in finance helped your career as a stylist.
June Ambrose: It really did, I’m really glad that I had that experience. Being in that job really helped me to establish myself financially, in terms of having a safety net that I could afford to not need money for a while. It also really helped me out when I formed my company, in terms of getting investors to set me up. TheSource.com: What are some of your favorite urban clothing lines?
June Ambrose: I like Rocawear, Akademiks… Echo Red is a nice bridge for a customer who wants to be a little bit on the Sean John side. Also, Sean John’s women line is looking really good.
TheSource.com: The newest trend in urban attire is what may people are calling skurban – a mesh between urban and skater clothing. What do you think is the next trend in urban style?
June Ambrose: I think the urban consumer is going to become more conscious of where they spend their money. They’re going to want pieces that they can wear in mid season, and the size of clothing is going to come down a size. It’s not going to be as sloppy. You’re not going to wear a sports jacket like a jogging suit. For this summer I see a lot of color, accessories and metallics for both males and females. You wouldn’t even think a Hip Hop guy would wear metallic sneakers, but there are a lot of sneaker companies like Nike and Addidas that are doing silver and gold sneakers. They’re integrating that with reds, yellow, oranges and greens. For women you might have a simple jogging suite but you may add a metallic pair of shoes to give it that edgy, cyber-glam look to it.