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Award winning writer, activist, and educator Ed Garnes, founder of From Afros To Shelltoes & Sweet Tea Ethics, is featured on Episode 16 of Dr. Regina Bradley’s Outkasted Conversations?, a critically acclaimed dialogue series dedicated to thinking about the cultural and academic implications of the hip hop group Outkast.

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Change Clothes And Glow:Celeb Stylist Spry Dresses Body Soul

Submitted by on June 4, 2009 – 1:30 pmNo Comment |

Change Clothes And Glow:

Celeb Stylist Spry Dresses Mind /Body/ Soul

By Edward M. Garnes, Jr.

spry-alesha-renee

Spry styling client Alesha Renee (BET)

Behind every red carpet diva is an underappreciated stylist beaming, while languishing, in the background. Nothing about celebrity fashion savant Spry Lee Scott reeks of “industry” snootiness. Laughing heartedly and eating penny candy at his dotting sista’s welcoming abode, he has the everyday charm that would merit repeated Saturday afternoon kool-aid passes from grandma.  Scott’s tactical fashion boot camp distinctively melds Oprah-esque counseling sessions with “what not to wear while famous” instruction.  For dream merchant Scott, fashion can be a cathartic tool of personal liberation.  Whether advising budding high school understudies on the rigors of the industry, or trading lifestyle tips with clients including Angela Simmons, Neyo, Omarosa (The Apprentice), Alesha Renee (BET) Mandy Moore, Smokey Norful ,Julissa Bermudez and Bill Belamy, the guy who put T.I. in a suit invokes the kind of panache that jump starts, and sometimes reinvents, careers.  In this exclusive with From Afros To Shelltoes, the former Hilfiger runway model, Hype Hair Magazine fashion editor, and creative force of fashion web portal www.ohmyspry.com, talks fashion faux pas and underwear etiquette with Ed Garnes.

Note: All photos below feature styling by Spry

angela-simmonsED:  With the advent of so many makeover shows, folks believe a stylist is nothing more than a glorified shopper. What is your definition?

SPRY: I am glad you asked the question. My problem is people always saying I am a fashion designer.  I run into people and they say: “You still doing the design thing.” I am not a fashioner designer. I don’t draw. I can’t even use a sewing machine. I still ask my mom to sew on buttons. A stylist is responsible for the image of a celebrity from head to toe. Not only are we responsible for their image, but we are also responsible for staying ahead of everybody else.

A true stylist can go into stores, but a lot of times we shop in the show rooms. So, we are ahead of season. We are trendsetters. We have to be willing to step outside the box. I have to create looks for people. I can’t go into a store and buy something on a mannequin. I need to look at that mannequin and vision how I can change the whole look by using certain pieces.

ED:  Being multitalented can be an abundant blessing as well a distinct curse. Discuss your move from model to becoming an in demand fashion guru translating styles for celebrities.

SPRY: We have a joke in the modeling community within my network: “Shut up and be pretty.” And that is exactly what our job was. Even now when I work with models, who come in with opinions, I sometimes pull them to the side– in a nice way–and remind them clients want them to: “Shut up and be pretty.” Doing shows in the role of a model, I didn’t have an opportunity to give my opinions on things. There were many times when I would be sitting backstage and knew something did not look right on me…others when I knew a way of making pieces look better on me, as well as somebody else.  And I mean everything from styling to overall fashion show production.

Overall, I had just gotten bored with modeling. I love to grow. I love new things. I am always looking at what’s next. How can I become greater? I really didn’t feel there was a lot of room for me to grow in modeling. A friend of mine suggested styling. It was perfect. Styling allowed me to voice all of the opinions in my head and make them happen. I got my first styling job from the modeling agency I was signed with. After expressing interest, the agency owner, a former stylist himself, gave me a break because he trusted me from my professionalism as a model (I was always on time and well groomed).  He put me on my first job with no experience.  I had the job as an assistant but it quickly turned into me taking over the job.  So, I was the stylist for a major publication on my first job….no experience or portfolio.  When the photos from my work were later published, I looked and said wow!! I can do this. Styling is more natural for me.

kimberly-douglohmeyerED: Everyone has their own process on approaching clients. I don’t want you to divulge any secrets. But, your personal touch seems to be predicated on self help, counseling, and fashion education. Or, do you walk into a show room, spin twice, and magically become Spry?

SPRY: It works different depending on the projects. If the client is already in the media, I may google them to see their current style. Usually, I try to start off with a photo shoot (especially if I am not already working with the client) and pull a lot of different looks.  If we are trying to go for three looks, I may pull 20 looks. I have the client try on different things to get a feel for their body type. I dress the “personality” as well as the body.  For example, if I am working with a music artist, I like to go into studios, listen to their music, and see how they interact.  I take clients shopping. I ask them what they would pick out for themselves. I make sure I am doing justice to the individual. From there, I start adding my touch with the accessories …fashion forward trends.

ED: Just because you cop a funky piece at Macy’s– in some weird color– does not make you can expert. For me, successful style has to be contingent on a person’s personality. It’s really like being a psychologist.  What are some attributes indicative of your signature stamp?

SPRY: My personality sells me. I stay in tune with the client on a regular basis. Sometimes I do become that therapist or shoulder to cry on. I don’t just go and say this is hot. I dress the personality. Not only do I dress the personality, I also talk to my clients about teaching them to dress themselves. Stylists try to stray away from educating because they want their clients to be as dependant on them as possible. But with me, I did not get into this field just to make money. I did this because I like making people feel good. At the end of the day, when you look good you feel good. If I can educate you, even if that means that you may not call me for the next job, I am cool with that because I know anything else will be provided for me. My professionalism and experience really separates me from others in the business.  I have done it all from editorials to working New York’s Fashion Week. Many people don’t have my hands on experience.  Most importantly, I surround myself with intelligent people I can learn from everyday.

the-new-black3

ED: Name a celebrity who you really feel you brought the funk on.

SPRY: One of my favorite celebrities to work with was T.I.  I first started working with him back before you really saw him on the red carpet in suits.  We actually shot him when I was working with Hype Hair Magazine. At the time, Hype Hair had never shot a rapper.  I think we were drawn to him by his philanthropic side because he was doing so much for the community.  Not only did we want to feature him and his work, but we also wanted to feature him fashionably, in a different light. This is where I went to the suits.  T.I and I were arguing over different color palates he had not tried before; like purple. As opinionated as T.I. was, he was still really open. I think it helped that I let him know I knew what I was talking about.  So, I would like to think I played a role in people seeing T.I. as a fashion icon. But he is very intelligent and knew where he was going.

Another one would be my recent client Alesha Renee who I dress for a lot of her red carpet events.  If you look at the style before I had my hands on her, I think you see a difference. I figure out where she is, and where she wants to go. A problem many stylists make is that they automatically want to run to the higher ends like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Salvatore Ferragamo to pull stuff.  With me, it’s more about dressing the client at the level where they are and allowing room for growth. Because when I am not around, I need you to be able to dress yourself.  It’s funny, but with most of my clients, my fashion industry friends say they know when I have worked with them because the look is complete from beginning to end.  You know it’s the “Spry look” when the accessories are just right.

brooke-valentineED:  I have been dying to inquire about fashion faux pas. Here are some of mine:  1) Leggings aint for everybody.  Ladies, you can’t wear leggings with everything. I know this, and I am a dude.  2) Guys, just because you dust off any tweed sport coat in your grandfather’s closet does not make you hot.  3) Clothes that do not match exactly and the ” Bohemian look” is just not for everyone. Give me some fashion trends you just abhor.

SPRY:  I have to piggyback on you.  Definitely, start with the leggings. We have this myth of one size fits all. One size fits all is really not even one size fits most. One size might fit you but try it on first, look in the mirror, ask your friends, and then decide if it fits you” is what the label should say.

It’s really important not to take media fashion literally. Since we have unlimited access to media and websites around the world, people will take what they see on TV and try to translate it to their own wardrobe. I hate to see that.  For instance, years ago Lil Kim wore pasties to the MTV Awards with one breast out. Since then, we have seen so many variations of that from prom dresses to everyday club wear.  I have to tell people, Lil Kim is an entertainer. That works and looks good on TV, and is for the stage, not to go shopping for groceries. I don’t wanna see you walking down the street or jumping out of your two-door Hyndai in a pastie.

That is also the problem with this whole Bohemian look. You have to tailor a wardrobe to fit yourself. So, just because the Bohemian looks good on Kanye does not mean it s gonna look good on you.

One of my other faux pas is shoes that don’t fit…and this goes for guys and girls. If your toe nails are scraping the side walk in open toe shoes, the shoes are too small. Stop fronting and saying it’s the angle. They just don’t fit!  Guys, if you can see the imprint of every toe in a sneaker, they are too small.

Another one is print underwear underneath white clothes. Women do that more than men.  In the black community, especially, white draws with white clothes. Your draws need to be black or skin tone when wearing white. Why? The goal is to not show your draws. I could go on for days.

spry-stylingED:  In fashion, superficiality, physical beauty, and status reign supreme.  How do you navigate an industry whose core values seem diametrically opposed to your “everyday people” disposition?

SPRY:  I have struggled with it back and forth. It’s all in the way you treat people. I have seen people on top be some of the nastiest people.  Even when I go out to industry events you may see me in a corner chillin’ by myself because I don’t want to get caught up in the superficiality. I had to realize is it’s not about the industry; it’s about the individual. People get sucked in by the superficiality because they were not strong individuals going into the industry.  I thank God I am where I am…and that it’s taken me so long to move forward. I can’t front, if I was thrust into styling when I was 17 or 18, I would probably be lost in the industry, taken advantage of, or on drugs. But, I never put judgment on anybody because it could have been me.

The thing that really helps me–some people may feel it’s cliché–is having strongest circle and support system that anyone can ask for. You have people who say:” I don’t have friends I have associates.”  Well, I can say I have a lot of *friends who feel they can talk to me, and I can talk to them. I can talk to someone in my family right now and say: “I just worked with so and so.” They will still ask me to pick up some eggs on the way home.  Whether I am a fashion stylist, school teacher, sanitation worker, or bus driver my family and friends love me for me. What motivates me has nothing to do with this industry.  I have 7 god children and young people who look up to me.  Knowing my success motivates them, and others, is most important.

ED: So, in essence, you are really a dream merchant helping others put a down payment on their own dreams. Stylists often do not get their just due. You are now making the transition from behind the scenes to a more vocal and visual authority with your own brand www.ohmyspry.com.  Explain that development process.

SPRY:  One of the reasons is my experience talking during a lot of high school career days.  It is important for me to be visible. If I had someone come to my high school, when I was 15 or 16, and tell me I can get paid to dress people, I would have saved time.  I wouldn’t have been a school aide working at the board of education in NYC.  People don’t get credit for what they do. My going in front of the camera gives people the opportunity to see that they can pursue what they love, as opposed to getting stuck in a career just for the money. I think it is important for people to understand what happens behind the scenes and who makes it happen. Inspiring young people is my biggest thing.

ED: You have often stated the “industry” was not your sole purpose in life.  Speak to what you hope your legacy will be.

SPRY: I would want to know that I have inspired. I come from humble beginnings.  I grew up in Norfolk, VA in a small town name Berkley. In my community, there was a very poor population. In 4th grade, our house burned down to a crisp. We lost everything and were homeless. I remember having two pairs of shoes; my good shoes and my play shoes. Now, I have over 50 pairs of shoes. Just knowing where I came from –to now having options– is amazing.  I stay prayerful. When people look at their lives and feel that can’t be greater because of their current situation, I say no look at me.

ed-train Award winning writer, educator, counselor, and activist Edward M. Garnes, Jr. is the founder of From Afros to Shelltoes: Art, Action, and Conversation, a nationally acclaimed series of cultural productions confronting the social divide between elders and hip hop heads. The 2009 Atlanta Tribune Men Of Distinction holds a B.A. in English Writing from DePauw University and a M.A. in Counseling from Michigan State University . His seminal essay, ” Sweet Tea Ethics: Black Luv, Healthcare, and Cultural Mistrust,” currently appears in Not In My Family: AIDS in the African American Community, a 2007 NAACP Image Award nominated collection edited by Gil Robertson. (www.afrostoshelltoes.com).

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