I’m ashamed to say that I have been neglecting my weekly “Who’s that Girl (in menswear)” interview duties of late, as other projects such as London Fashion Week and a relocation to Scandinavia have taken precedence. However, “Who’s that Girl (in menswear)” is back, and its back with a big boy bang.
Relaunching the section is Ayishat Akanbi a girl in menswear figurehead if ever there was one. Stylist to the likes of Labrinth and JLS, this little lady is responsible for styling some of the best dressed men out there. She is also a regular contributor to menswear hub Individualism and rocks a menswear ensemble to rival some of the best dressed dudes out there. She champions the tomboy trend and is never afraid to challenge what it is to be feminine, in this interview she talks us through her love for boys clothing and her personal journey into styling.
How would you describe your personal style and to what extent is this reflected in the way you style others? My personal style is literally a mix of everything that has inspired me from being a child right the way up until now. It’s quite an eclectic style but a menswear aesthetic is the heart of all of my looks.
Growing up I was exposed to quite a wide variety of popular culture in terms of music, books and films. Describing my look as “Spike Lee meets Saville Row” probably sums it up the best.
I don’t know how and why but there is an element of my own personal style in everything I style. I like so many modes and styles of clothing its hard to not style someone in a look I sometimes do.
You have styled the likes of JLS, Labrinth and Cher Lloyd, how do you find the balance between being true to your clients style versus projecting your creative vision for them? Upon styling all of my clients, there is always an initial meeting where I can establish their goals and what they generally want to communicate to the world.
I never ever forget this when styling each client; whilst developing a style that I feel suits them I have to make sure I’m constantly communicating my clients message across about who they are and more importantly who they want to be. If I just throw on a client any old thing that I think is cool they wont wear it properly, it will look forced. The ideas have to come from what I know of their personalities.
I had dreams of becoming a stylist through my love of clothing and more accurately the psychology behind fashion and style- how you can transform ones perception based on the change of a shirt. This fascinated me.
I was lucky enough to meet Labrinth before he was signed; at the time I enjoyed styling my friends and experimenting with my own wardrobe. I offered Lab my services when I knew he was thinking of pursuing an artist career and I put together my very first styling pitch.
Labrinth and his manager loved my ideas and we’ve been working together ever since. It’s through my work with Labrinth that other record labels and the industry got to know of me, from this work started pouring in and Ayishat Akanbi LTD was born.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced whilst climbing the styling career ladder? My biggest challenge has always been confidence and self-belief, everything happened for me quite quickly, maybe quicker than I was mentally prepared for. Fear is the biggest killer of any dreams, I just had to suck it up it was now or never so I took the “ fake it till you make it” approach
Do you have a favourite stylist who you admire? I don’t know if I have particular favourite stylists, I try my best to not look at what other people are doing too much.
I have a lot of respect for Celebrity stylist Caroline Watson who styles One Direction, she regularly gives me advice when I bump into her, she’s a veteran in this game too, she’s done everyone from Robbie Williams to Usher.
My ultimate style icon right now is Nick Wooster, every time I see a look he wears I want to give a standing ovation.
Do you read blogs and source inspiration from them? If so, which ones should we be keeping our eyes out for? I absolutely love:
Streetetiquette.com- one of the first fashion blogs I ever came across, these guys really inspired me on all kinds of levels, I really love their perspective on style.
Jjjjound.com- beautiful random pictures
Beautifulpicturesofhealthyfood.tumlr.com- It’s as literal as the name, but the colours are so vivid and inspiring.
You recently joined menswear community Individualism, can you tell us about what you are up to there? Individualism brings around 15 young creative from photographers, graphic designers and stylists living in London to one platform where we can all express our love for menswear. The editor Aaron Christian encourages us to show our freelance work off too. More than anything it’s a team of good natured, ambitious people who are prepared to work their butts off to get to their dreams. Everybody in the team inspires me.
What are the origins of your love of menswear and tomboy dressing? I literally cannot remember it being any different for me, I have a vague memory of my mum trying to put me in a dress for my 5th birthday. Even then I knew that a dress just wasn’t me.
I’m not going out of my way to be a tomboy and as I get older my style is becoming more feminine than it ever has been. As well as fashion and style I’m really interested in Sociology. Dressing like a ‘girl’ is someone else’s idea of what it means to be a woman- I don’t want someone else’s idea to define who I am, I just want to feel comfortable and express who I am freely.
Who should us girls we be keeping our eyes out for in menswear? Do you have a favourite menswear designer/brand? I absolutely love Thom Browne, Mark McNairy, Comme Des Garcons, Junya Watanabe & Ralph Lauren will always be my all time favourite, he made the tomboy look extremely sexy.
If you weren’t a celebrity stylist what would you be doing? I’ve always wanted to be a DJ, music has always been my first love, I couldn’t think of anything better than having a party and playing my favourite songs all night!
What’s next for Ayishat? Haha I’ve never really planned anything so to speak, I go with my heart and lets hope my heart leads to more exciting clients and a possible clothing line one day.
Fashion aside I would love to run work shops for young people where we can do a range of creative things and I can advice about what to expect from the industry and how to approach getting into the industry to start.