June Ambrose on Being Hip Hop's Style Architect
The gem, the myth, the legend June Ambrose took time to talk about her career and enterprising attitude at this year's Black Fashion Designers Symposium— where an interview with Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs of Cushnie et Ochs quickly turned into commentary filled with inspiration and history lessons we didn't know we needed.
June Ambrose is praised as the first Black stylist to break away from the finance world to pursue a career at MCA Records styling artists like Missy Elliott, Sean "Diddy" Combs, and Jay-Z. She says that when she started styling she had one goal: get MTV to play Black music. She wanted to shift the perspectives of how others viewed people who had no money, so instead of making them look like the struggling narratives of their music, she put them in big shiny suits and platinum watches. Not only did she pioneer the aesthetics for visual representations of what it meant to be hood rich, but it inevitably had an appeal that mainstream platforms could not deny.
In the fashion industry, many designers lend samples to celebrities for productions (Sorry to ruin this for you, but your favorite influencers don't always own the clothing they post about online). Ambrose states that she was shut out of showrooms by many designers because they didn't want "thugs" in their clothing. Due to this realization, Ambrose became a costume designer in the sense that she was forced to create the vision behind what artists would look like. Instead of pulling clothing straight from the runway as most stylists do today, she had to think outside of the box. In fact, Missy Elliott's inflatable patent leather suit in the Supa Dupa Fly video involved Ambrose in the backdrop peddling a bicycle to keep it inflated.
Her mantra is Find the Money. If you do something well, or believe that you can enhance a brand's identity— it is important that you make yourself seen. Since the Adidas tracksuit became the official uniform for every Missy Elliott video during the Under Construction era, Ambrose successfully pitched an endorsement deal for the artist. She identified the greatest opportunity for the brand since RUN DMC dropped "My Adidas" in 1986 and led Missy Elliott right into a sneaker deal in 2005. If there are 3 career lessons to be learned from June Ambrose it's:
1). Never be afraid to change your career path
2). Set clear and concise goals
3). Identify your assets and use them to generate revenue