Written By: D’Shonda Brown
The #ShopBlack Interview Series is a new installation that shines light upon budding and booming Black-owned businesses ran by millennials and Gen-Z’ers who are heavily influenced by hip-hop culture. Introducing Clarence White, groundbreaking celebrity stylist and visionary behind “Hire More,” more than a piece of material endorsed by Saweetie and Yvette Noel-Schure to bring more of our people to the light. Read below the in-depth interview between D’Shonda Brown and Clarence as they talk about style, fashion, cultural appropriation, having a seat at the table and uplifting our brethren.
Hey, Clarence! Thank you so much for taking the time out to speak to me for this interview! Who is CL White, and how did you get your start in styling?
Hi D’Shonda! Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you and bring awareness to my design and cultural appropriation. I’m a young black man from the Wilmington, Delaware/Philadelphia area and I grew up loving fashion. I actually got my start in fashion from a Twitter DM. I know that sounds crazy. I did some research on who was styling the 2nd season of Love and Hip Hop. At the time MK (Miata Kamara) was styling Mona Scott-Young and Yandy Smith and I sent her a Twitter DM inquiring if I could assist her and she responded the same day. That weekend we went to dinner to meet and chat and the following week I was on set for the show and the rest is history.
Now, out of my entire #SHOPBLACK Interview Series, you are the first stylist that I’ve interviewed! What do you feel is the importance of a stylist in the entertainment industry and how essential is conveying one’s personal touch of sass and flavor when dressing a client?
I feel the importance of a stylist in the Entertainment industry is to elevate the talents personal style and take their look to the next level. It’s important to think very over the top, stand out pieces that grab people’s attention like “Wow where can I get that piece from?” I always compare my technique to makeup in the sense that when women wear makeup its to enhance their natural beauty. So, when a celebrity hires a stylist it’s to enhance their personal style, take it to the next level and to make them feel comfortable. If they feel good and confident in what they have on it will show in their poster and attitude.
Your shirt “HIRE MORE” was seen on Yvette Noel-Schure and Bryon Javar on Saweetie’s social media. That shirt packs a powerful message because I, myself, am a Black publicist and Black writer and Black creative. How important was it to you to get this message across to other Blacks behind the scenes in the industry?
The message wasn’t only important to speak to other black creatives but to all POC and especially our white counterparts. We as POC find ourselves at times either BTS and/or on set with so many creative ideas that we openly express but continuously get shut down to only later find our exact ideas displayed in the exact way we presented it by someone else. Other people will use our work in mood boards, runway shows, videos, photoshoots, etc and I’m just sick of it. So I was inspired to create these shirts and to make a statement to simply “Hire Us” and stop stealing our ideas. Periodt (in my JT voice).
You’ve worked with top celebrities from Teyana Taylor, Cardi B, Chloe x Halle, Naomi Campbell and Beyoncé. How has the entertainment industry – specifically hip-hop – had a major influence on your journey in fashion, styling and creative direction?
The Industry, especially the Hip-Hop industry has had a HUGE impact on my journey, from being creative and coming up with that wow factor. I grew up in the era of watching legends such as Misa Hylton, June Ambrose, Derek Lee, Dapper Dan, Sadia Morrison, Fatima B, Eric Archibald, Wouri Vice just to name a few black creatives who have inspired my career deeply to put everything I have into my work and to let it speak for itself. Back when they were out here making a way for me, showrooms were not loaning to the Hip Hop industry as willing as they are now. So, they had to create custom pieces just to grab the fashion houses and designers attention. ‘Til this day I get some of my inspiration from those who paved the way for me and so many others from the ’90s and early 2000s when styling wasn’t a trend.
How do you remain humble throughout your extensive experience and when did you realize that your career was really taking off?
Honestly, I like to surround myself with friends and family who have been there with me from the start and never gave up on me or my dreams. I like to support other stylists like myself who I came up with in the game and I keep a positive mindset. And wow, the moment I realized that my career was really taking off? Hmm, you know what? I want to say actually being a wardrobe assistant and market editor for Zerina Akers during the Formation World Tour and working with Beyonce was when I noticed not only was I now in the door but I have a seat at the table.
You’ve worked with huge names in fashion such as Parkwood Entertainment, RocNation, Essence Magazine, W Magazine, and Elle Magazine. What’s next for you and your brand, and where can we expect to see your career in the next 5-10 years?
Wow, whats next for CL White? Well right now I’m in talks about a big project coming up at the top of next year that I’m really excited about but can’t talk too much about just yet. I have some pretty cool things in the works between now and then that you will see soon. As far as the next 5-10 years I would like to continue to be a thriving and successful stylist/creative director making a way for the young stylist and creatives coming behind me.
CL White can be found on Instagram, @StyleMonsterr and, you can also learn more about him and shop the shirt now available for purchase online at cl-white.com/shop.