Jason Bolden is just what the fashion industry needs. Do you remember Alicia Keys hosting the Grammys, Yara Shahidi in her ray of sunshine Carolina Herrera dress at the Golden Globes, or Cynthia Erivo in her angelic custom Versace gown for the Oscars? Yep, Bolden is responsible for all of those moments. We could be here for the next month running down the list of red carpet magic he has created—Janet Mock, Serena Williams, and Trevor Noah come to mind—but he extended his reqach to viewers at home with his hit Netflix show, Styling Hollywood, which follows his joint styling business, JSN Studio, with his husband and interior designer Adair Curtis. But to Bolden, he understands that using his platform is not just about the clothes, but standing up for what is right.
As we’ve seen the deaths of Ahmaud Arbury, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd spark the call for change and shed light to the complacency and racism seen across America, the fashion industry is reacting. From the creation of the Black Fashion and Beauty Council intended to support Black creatives, which Bolden is a board member of, to the 15 Percent Pledge, many are on a mission to hold fashion accountable.
Bolden virtually sat down with Tommy Atkins of Hearst Black Culture to discuss his views on activism within the industry, the power of speaking up, and being ready for justice and equality. Read on for more highlights from their discussion, including that Celine incident, below.
On his career
Prior to styling Hollywood’s top celebs, Bolden grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and was on the path to become a doctor. Ultimately, his love with the fantasy behind fashion was greater than any medical book he could have read. While living in New York City, he launched a store in SoHo and dressed his best friend Gabrielle Union for Art Basel in 2011 in a vintage Lanvin dress. The rest is history.
The long road to change is not going to happen overnight. Bolden stated: “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Until you decide to personally shift, internally shift, your walk is different, your talk is different. […] How you decide to create opportunities and give opportunities so things can change— until that [work is done] it’s just a pretty [and] fun fashionable post.”
On calling out Celine
When French luxury brand Celine posted on Instagram in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, Bolden was triggered. He felt compelled to call them out in the comment section: “wait really? U guys don’t dress any black celebs unless they have a white stylist.” With the help of Diet Prada, the exchange went viral. He points out during his conversation with Atkins that “just saying something so no one will pull your coattail is not helpful to the movement.”
On the LGBTQIA+ community
Bolden cites the killings of Dominque “Rem’mie” Fails and Riah Milton, and how intrinsically linked BLM is with the LGBTQIA+ community. He notes that the two deaths are “two too many.” All Black Lives Matter.
On how the fashion industry can change
Bolden believes the fashion industry’s problem for its lack of inclusivity towards Black people needs to be fixed from the top-down. “What does justice look like on the executive levels because those are where the decisions are made,” he said. “Those are where the missing links of people of color are not.”
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