STAR STYLIST ADE SAMUEL TELLS STORIES WITH CLOTHES
by Raquel Laneri
It doesn’t take much for Michael B. Jordan to look red-carpet ready. But instead of shoving the handsome Creed actor in a tux and calling it a day, stylist Ade Samuel, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’10, adds something extra to their sartorial collaborations—like a floral-print harness.
“I’m very big on texture,” Samuel says about that unconventional accessory, which Jordan sported atop a double-breasted suit at 2019’s Screen Actors Guild Awards.
“I want to open up the minds of Hollywood when it comes to menswear, because traditionally it’s always been tuxedos, suits, and basic colors,” she adds.
Samuel, named one of “The 25 Most Powerful Stylists in Hollywood” by The Hollywood Reporter in 2019, fell in love with styling as an intern and then a fashion assistant at W and Teen Vogue.
“I was attracted to the idea of creating stories with clothes.”
But it was editor and stylist Shiona Turini who gave her the confidence to pursue that career path, taking the young Samuel under her wing at both W and Teen Vogue.
“She was an inspiration, because she was one of the few black editors at Conde Nast,” says Samuel.
After Samuel left her hometown of New York City to pursue styling in Los Angeles, Turini called her up with an offer she couldn’t refuse: assisting her on Beyoncé’s groundbreaking 2016 “Formation” video. Samuel helped Turini dress the pop star for all her solo scenes—the ones without backup dancers.
“It was Beyoncé’s big comeback, so it was a really complex job,” says Samuel of the myriad costumes and looks in the video. “I worked my butt off.”
That same year, Samuel branched out from magazine shoots to red-carpet styling, which proved its own challenge. Her first client was Yara Shahidi, who was making waves in the TV show Black-ish. But despite Shahidi’s beautiful looks and adventurous sense of fashion, Samuel had trouble getting her designer dresses for events.
“The place where fashion was—it wasn’t as diverse and inclusive as it is now,” Samuel says. “[Brands] weren’t so open to seeing a lot of African-American actors and actresses in their couture pieces or gowns for the red carpet. So there was a lot of apprehensiveness in loaning to them.”
Samuel found her way around that by reaching out to new designers—like Kiro Hirata of the Japanese label Kapital, LaQuan Smith, and Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond. Many of these artists, like Smith and Jean-Raymond, happened to be black, too.
The experience made Samuel realize that she needed to play a role in diversifying fashion. “For me, it wasn’t about wanting to be in the room,” she says. “It was about creating a seat for myself at the table.”
Now, when Samuel asks storied houses for ballgowns for the soignée Black Panther star Letitia Wright or suits for rapper Big Sean, she rarely hears “no.”