Catching Up With Mychael Knight
This past weekend I was chatting with my friend Mychael Knight and we got on the subject of the relationship between style and music. Mychael Knight needs no introduction but if you’re wondering what he knows about this topic, I should tell you that in addition to being a top finalist on season 3 of the Bravo series Project Runway, Mychael was a part of a music group (for which his name was Myke Stereo), he has spent hours in the studio with artists, and he has been a stylist for some of the biggest names in the music industry, including such artists as Ciara, Keri Hilson, Jagged Edge, 112 and several others. So, what happens when you get a music fanatic and a top notch designer and stylist talking? You get an absolutely wonderful conversation and I’m delighted to share part of it with you.
Mimi Soul: I really think this is a cool topic and I’m so glad we’re chatting about it. But, first I think I should ask, is there a difference between fashion and style? I’m assuming the two are not one and the same.
MK: Fashion is pretty much just the principle of clothing; just the seasonal change of different silhouettes and what one perceives. But, style is more like an inherent type of thing that you really are kinda born with. Everyone partakes in fashion but not everyone is stylish.
We were just talking yesterday about how Lady Gaga is like my new muse and she’s a musician. I think her whole style and what she does really inspires me to go somewhere else with my fashion. Definitely not as left field as she would go, but I like her bravery and those chances she takes. So, music is definitely a big influence on fashion. Really now, more than ever, musicians are all about wearing designer labels. There’s even a rapper named Gucci Mane. We can even go back to the 90’s; the heyday of Biggie and Bad Boy. They were always shoutin out Versace and Armani so they both kinda influence one another.
Mimi Soul: Do you think there’s pressure on new artists to create a certain look so that their fan appeal will increase a little?
MK: Yeah, it’s really important with artists because looks definitely sell records as well. Everyone who purchases or listens to artists’ music wants to relate to them. When I was working as a fashion stylist in the music industry, I said a lot of times that your talent is definitely what helps you become a star, but your image is what’s going to help you keep being a star.
For instance, Rihanna hasn’t released an album in maybe almost two years and because she’s such a fashionista, she can be in SoHo eating pizza and she still remains relevant. It’s really because of her sense of style and what she does. So, when her album comes out, people are already gonna be checking for it because again, she’s relevant; she’s around and it definitely helps boost sales.
Mimi Soul: Ok, so what kinds of things do you pay attention to when you’re styling musical artists?
MK: Well, with artists, the most important thing is that they always look like a star. So, I always try to make sure that they look like stars and that means everything looks polished. It’s all about having that certain je ne sais quoi.
I don’t believe in making an artist into somebody they’re not because it won’t be believable. And again, to use the example about Rihanna, I’ve always thought she was impeccably dressed but at first I didn’t believe it. I could tell that she was being dressed. But, due to circumstances that have happened in her life, or just the simple fact that she’s older and she has traveled and seen so much more, she has kinda created her own sense of style and I believe everything she wears now.
So, I think it’s really important that you make sure you maintain the integrity of the artist in their look. Lastly, it really is about making sure everything they wear is hot. It needs to be something current, flattering, something that someone would want to buy or recreate, and something that kinda creates a lasting image in the minds of all those who see it. So, I consider all of those elements when styling for a musician.
Mimi Soul: I like when I can see an artist in several different settings. I’ll see them on tv in a video and then on the red carpet at the Grammy’s and again on tv for an interview. And all 3 times they still look as though they have their own sense of style.
MK: Yeah, I say all the time with my artists that they have to realize that this is their job. Whatever people see in videos or album packages, they really always wanna see it. You have no room for error; it’s just a part of your job. So, I always stress to them, do not; even if you’re running out of the house to go shopping, don’t put on no Ugg boots and a big muumuu. That ain’t cute. You can still be comfortable yet stylish. When you’re a musician, you should always look like stardom when you’re out and about.
Mimi Soul: You never know who’s watching.
MK: Yeah, you never know who’s gonna see you.
Mimi Soul: I guess that’s probably one of the pressures of being an artist; to make sure your look is consistent.
MK: Yes, especially if you’re an artist who’s working a lot. You travel so much and you start getting inspired and influenced by so much that it actually becomes second nature. For instance, are you familiar with Danity Kane?
Mimi Soul: Yep, I like them.
MK: Dawn Richard’s whole style has changed just because of her environment and where she’s living in New York. She has gotten to see a lot more things. She’s originally from New Orleans so her style now is not what it was. So, music can influence other things and other things can influence music.
Mimi Soul: I started thinking about how certain styles are associated with certain genres of music. Do you think that’s necessary?
MK: No, it’s definitely not necessary because you have people like Lady Gaga. What she does is totally not pop at all but she’s a bonafide pop artist. She’s very fashion forward. You even have Kanye West who’s trying to change the whole game with hip hop with his college schoolboy look and the polos and sweaters tied around the neck. So, nowadays that’s no longer necessary.
Mimi Soul: I would agree and I actually kinda like it when people push the envelope a little bit.
MK: Yeah, it’s fun to be a little more adventurous and forward. I love it.
Mimi Soul: I just love this conversation because I like how all of this can fit together. Some would say that style doesn’t matter because you can’t see what an artist is wearing when you hear them on the radio. But, I’m thinking that style does matter because you’ll see artists out and about eventually.
MK: Yeah, because your style really completes a story of who you are as an artist. So, it’s important and it’s almost like a calling card. Before people even hear your music, you want them to be intrigued by you and what better way to do that than through what you’re wearing.
Mimi Soul: I’m sure there may be some readers who are aspiring artists. What’s step number one for artists who are at the start of their career and want to create their style?
MK: Deciding who you are as an artist is the first step. The second thing would be to not try and do it yourself if you don’t have to. I understand everyone may not have the finances for a stylist but we all have that one friend who’s stylish or who knows fashion. And, there are many fashion magazines that you can look through. You may see something in there that may be along the lines of where you are style wise that you might want to imitate. That’s basically it and the most important thing is just knowing who you are as an artist.
Mimi Soul: So what do you think is the future of the relationship between fashion and music?
MK: I think it’s gonna continue to grow. The only change will be that fashion and music are gonna become more in tune with one another. That relationship will last forever. It’s just one of those things; it’s gonna always happen.
And there you have it. We have much to look forward to as we watch how fashion and music evolve and influence each other. Thanks again Mychael for a great chat!