This story is part of Image issue 8, “Deserted,” a supercharged experience of becoming and spiritual renewal. Enjoy the trip! (Wink, wink.) See the full package here.
In this season of stylist Ade Samuel’s life, she’s appreciating the abundance that comes with hard work, trusting her gut and embracing her gifts. The Bronx native’s expansive fashion journey has included posts at Teen Vogue, styling Nicole Richie and Christina Aguilera, launching a shoe line, and now, truly in her element — firmly planted in her element — working as a celebrity stylist in Los Angeles the past eight years.
Similar to a music producer’s relationship to sound, Samuel is constantly visualizing a medley of patterns, textures, bold colors and the innovative ways a garment can aid in storytelling. “I can open a book or someone can show me a picture or play a song, and from that I can visualize an entire concept of what the fashion would look like,” Samuel says.
When discussing her trusted eye and the satisfaction of authentic creative output — be it reintroducing a client beyond the bounds of public perception on a red carpet or creatively directing the short film “A Love Letter to Nigeria” — Samuel mentions the deep appreciation she feels to walk a path paved by Black women stylists, like Patti Wilson and Misa Hylton, who came before her.
In the years ahead, when a lens is turned back to the influential stylists who shook up the 2010s and 2020s, know that this era’s fashion history includes Samuel. Here, she shares the go-to items in her closet, how she’d serve a look in the desert and why vibrant colors hold a special place in her heart.
What are two items in your closet you’re consistently reaching for?
I love my 3.Paradis oversized blazer. The line is by this emerging designer, Emeric Tchatchoua. He’s so fire, and I wear that all the time. Either that blazer or my Pyer Moss oversized blazer, and then I love wearing oversized cardigans. Those are the two things that I’m finding myself gravitating toward and just adding as a top layer to everything, because the weather has been not as cold.
What’s a key part of your process when you’re getting dressed?
The main element for me when getting dressed is having a great playlist. I can’t do anything — I could barely even be on set — without a good playlist. Music really helps me determine what I’m going to wear, the flow of the day and my body. I love Tems. Her EP is everything right now. That’s what I’m listening to a lot of. Mannywellz’s album “Mirage” is also super good, and I like Joeboy.
You’re having an amazing evening in Los Angeles doing something that brings you joy. Where are you and what are you wearing?
I’m probably at a restaurant, because I love to go out to restaurants in Los Angeles, probably at Soho Malibu, Little Beach House. And I’m probably wearing an oversized suit with a pump or an oversized suit — like one of the colorful, bold Hanifa power suits — with the shoe from Prada, more than likely a creeper for comfort since it’s on the beach, and my Balenciaga sunglasses.
Vibrant colors are a strong theme in your work and personal style. What’s your connection to color?
I love color. My mom and everyone around me reminded me that when I was younger, even though I loved fashion, people would say, “What’s your favorite color?” and I always would say, “I love every one of them.”
I see the beauty in the array of colors. Each one can bring a different mood and effect onto your day. It’s all so emotion-based when you look at the color theory or the chakras or anything dealing with the depth of the color story. Then you add in the culture of being African and being exposed to the ability of seeing different colors in different aspects, whether it was in film or whether it was at an African party or a traditional wedding. You really saw the range of skin tones, and the complexions, and that definitely helped me push the envelope.
When I came into fashion, especially coming from New York and moving to L.A. and seeing some of the trends, people love to stay neutral. It’s like this idea that everyone should be in this unison — white and nudes and blacks — and I really felt like when I came into the styling space, I was like, “Yeah, you could wear that black dress, but what if you wear this printed dress? Why don’t you wear this printed dress with an oversized black blazer over it? You still give that L.A., California girl look but in a way that opens your mind up to different concepts.”
When’s the exact moment you realized the power of a good outfit?
When I was a teenager. I would say during my internship days. When I was really discovering what part of fashion I liked, the importance of dressing up really clicked for me. My favorite story is when I got to be the main fashion assistant to Fern Mallis, the creator of New York Fashion Week, because of the outfit I wore.
The first day of my internship, just as expected when it comes to me, I came to the trailer where all the interns were in this amazing tribal caftan that was just so beautiful, that I had gotten from a vintage store in Italy. I had a turban on my head, and this was sometime in the 2000s, so turbans were in, and all these caftans and stuff like that. I was wearing this outfit, and I remember the project manager who was placing interns was like, “Oh, who are you here with?” I was like, “Oh, I’m an intern,” and she’s like, “With this outfit, you cannot be an intern, so I’m going to give you this position.” I ended up having this role that really gave me an all-access position at New York Fashion Week, during the time it was in the tents in Times Square around 42nd Street — Bryant Park.
That was the moment where I was like, “Oh, wow,” so from then on, every job opportunity that I had, every internship, I always made an effort to make sure that I looked like I dressed up and I actually cared about what I was wearing. Because the reality of that situation was, if I wanted to come in and work in fashion, I needed to show them that I understood fashion in some capacity. Even for me as someone who hires and works with assistants, I always look at what they wear to determine their knowledge on fashion. Are they super tailored and retail? Are they wearing the current trends? Are they more of like the hypebeast? It really helps to determine the flow of a person when you see their outfit.
This issue has a desert theme. You’re on an evening date in Joshua Tree or Palm Springs. What are you wearing?
I’m in Palm Springs wearing something loose that has flow and movement to it! I love when I feel free in the desert. It’s likely a two-piece from Dries Van Noten paired with my Prada bucket hat and slides or one of my Prada boxy button-down blouses with a soft linen trouser pant to maintain the ease.
When it comes to dressing for hot weather, what are your go-to items or style rules?
My go-to items for hot weather are light, breathable fabrics that are easy to wear and also quick to take off. After a long day in a hot climate, you never want your clothes to feel icky and/or stuck to your body because of the heat. My style rule is to keep things flowy, loose and light when dressing for that climate. If it takes more than 10 minutes to put on, it’s probably too many layers.
What are some of your favorite ways to practice self-care?
I love this question! My favorite ways to practice self-care is to take myself on dates to celebrate my accomplishment after I complete a project or gig. I’ll get a massage, go to a nice restaurant or the occasional, retail therapy. I strongly believe in that! When I need to recharge, travel is my go-to form of de-stressing. I love being able to travel to a warm location or just sit on the beach and reconnect with nature and my mind.
Location: Thompson Hollywood in Los Angeles
Hair: Desiree Moore
Makeup: Rebekah Aladdin