Before Jason Rembert began styling powerhouses like Issa Rae, John Boyega, Lizzo, Marsai Martin, Michael B. Jordan, Rita Ora, and Erykah Badu, he was discovering how fashion fit into each phase of his life. In between South Jamaica and Far Rockaway, Queens, Rembert grew up with a single mom and was the middle child of five kids. In high school, he was known for how he dressed, and he always felt that a love of fashion was a strand in his DNA. In college, however, Jason felt like an outlier. “Everybody had on sweat suits and UGG boots,” he tells Teen Vogue, adding that he craved being among people who saw the value in fashion. This led Rembert to twice apply for internships at Vibe magazine — a publication where he saw himself represented — but was passed up both times. He was disappointed, but what came next is what steered Rembert’s career as an unforgettable stylist.
After securing an Elle magazine internship (which he found on ed2010.com), Rembert became truly familiar with the fashion world. “I learned designers, who creative directors were, how to formulate a request, and how to check in and out clothing,” he explains. “It was a great internship. I was there for about nine months, and it became more exciting than actually going to school.” Following his time at Elle, Rembert worked in the fashion closet at W magazine, and interned for celebrity stylist Wouri Vice. This period in his life reminded him of how excited he felt reading Vibe, a sign that celebrity styling was his calling. Now Rembert is known for being a stylist and designer who maintains a fine balance: guiding his clients to take risks while they remain comfortable and true to themselves.
In honor of Teen Vogue’s Issa Rae cover story, we spoke with Rembert about styling specifics for Issa, and Marsai Martin, while also learning more about how he takes chances with his other clients — and gets his clients to take chances with him.
Teen Vogue: You’ve styled so many powerful women, like Issa Rae, Marsai Martin, Solange, Rita Ora, and Erykah Badu. How do you create a look and find the right designers for a woman who has a larger-than-life energy?
Jason Rembert: Communication is the number one thing I try to have with each client: understanding where they want to go, what excites them, what they don't like, what they do like. From there, that's where I can push them to get to an elevation of what they feel comfortable with. So if the client is comfortable in polo shirts, I can push them to a comfortability where that Polo polo shirt becomes a Chanel polo shirt, or that Polo polo shirt becomes a [polo shirt from a] designer who lives in Mississippi, who you've never heard of, but who has the most avant-garde polo shirt you've ever seen in your life. I’m always trying to push my clients, from a stylist's point of view, to a higher elevation of themselves.
TV: Our readers especially love Issa Rae — how did you start working with her?
JR: Issa, I'm such a fan of. I'm such a fan of Insecure. At the time, my friend Joanna was doing Issa's makeup, and Joanna and I were working together on Zayn Malik. She recommended me for the job. I was literally watching the Insecure season premiere — I think it was season two … I have a premiere party [at my house for every Insecure season] — when Issa's publicist hit me up and asked if I wanted to style her. I thought it was fate.
TV: What's the thought process like for Issa's overall style? Is there a specific vibe you go for or specific designers you like to pull from?
JR: With Issa's clothing rack, it's always going to be inclusive. When I say inclusive, [I mean that] the rack is always going to have black designers on it. I think Issa's an advocate for us, which is an amazing feeling — to have someone who is so successful and so strong, powerful, beautiful, and intelligent still want to [support her own].
As far as other designers, [it has to be] people whose message she can stand behind and who's organic to her methods. I never try to force any designer on Issa. If she asks me a question, I'm always honest and transparent. I think we have a great balance with that.
TV: You're already such a successful stylist, but you recently came out with your own collection, Aliétte. Did you notice something missing in the fashion world, or was there something specific that inspired you to create your own line?
JR: I wish I [could] say that I'm inventing something new or filling a gap…. I feel like I have an understanding of women from working with women, being around women, listening to what makes them happy, what doesn't make them happy. With my clothing, I just try to make women feel how they feel every time they put on their favorite piece. Everyone has a favorite look in their closet. When they put it on, they feel beautiful. They may feel powerful. They may feel sexy. They may feel unstoppable. So with my clothing, I try to make pieces that women can gravitate towards; [pieces] that make them feel that same way when they put on their favorite piece in their closet.
Clothing, to me, that [can] always make women feel like that is a Donna Karan dress or an Alaïa dress. No matter what the size is, it just makes you feel beautiful and like everything is in the right place. That's what I hope for with my clothing.
TV: I know Vibe magazine was an inspiration to you growing up, but what inspires you today?
JR: More than anything, what inspires me is black youth. When I [take the] trains and I see these young black kids and how they wear their clothes, and how they’re able to be creative and resourceful with as little as most of them probably have, it's inspirational. I remember being a kid who was able to be so creative with his looks, but [I had] zero dollars in my pocket.... So when I see these young kids on the trains, in the streets of New York, and on Instagram, I'm just like, "Wow." No offense to my clients, but they're flyer than some of my clients. They're flyer than me. I'm inspired by black youth who I see in any city — New York City, mostly — but throughout the world as well.
TV: I feel like a lot of stylists tend to play it fairly safe when styling men, but your looks for stars like Michael B. Jordan, Zayn Malik, and John Boyega are anything but straightforward. How do you approach styling for these clients?
JR: Honestly, I have fun. I really do. When you work with clients who are also willing to have fun and be adventurous and comfortable in who they are ... I have great clients who are willing to take those risks. Most of the time, when we actually take a risk, it doesn't even feel like a risk because we're in such a great place of knowing each other. We collaborate so often. What I try to do more than anything with my clients is collaborate. So by the time you get to a place where the world may feel like it's a risk, it's a comfort zone for us.... Once you connect with a client and you both like it, it doesn't even matter what the world thinks.
TV: Your client Marsai Martin is only 15 years old, but already she's made such a name for herself. How do you go about dressing a young woman who is a teenager, but has a more "grown-up" career, and whose style will likely evolve as she matures and finds herself?
JR: Even though Marsai is a boss and a force to be reckoned with, she's still a 15-year-old young woman. I'm very conscious of that because I have a daughter and I want to make sure that my daughter, when she's 15, is happy with the work that I've done with Marsai as well. I'm always conscious of what she represents and how to represent it. I've always tried to pair her with designers who may be a little bit more whimsical. [She wore] a Marc Jacobs look, and we paired it with iridescent tights, so it makes it a little bit more fun.
Instead of pairing it with a Giuseppe or Louboutin, which would have been a bit more grown, we paired it with Sam Edelman, who [has a younger vibe]. So even though the Marc Jacobs dress was so aspirational and adventurous and out there, other young girls can be like, "I actually have the shoes Marsai has in my closet." Because nobody — maybe some parents are — but I'm not buying my daughter a $1,000 pair of shoes when she is 15 years old. So I feel like her wearing a dress worth thousands of dollars and then putting on $200 shoes makes it a bit more attainable.
I hope [young girls also] emulate the dress. Because a Marc Jacobs dress is really expensive, I'm not buying my child a Marc Jacobs dress. But I feel like young girls can obtain it by making it on their own or finding other young designers to replicate it. I see a lot of young girls who tag me in their Instagram photos who are replicating Marsai's looks. It's really cool.
TV: What was it like coming up with Lizzo’s look for Time magazine’s “Entertainer of the Year” cover?
JR: I love Lizzo. We get to collaborate often, which is amazing. She is such a beautiful person. What she stands for and what she's becoming for the world is amazing. To collaborate with someone who's so powerful and so talented and so beautiful, it's probably one of the greatest things you can do.
I had seen that [dress] two weeks before. I got called for Lizzo probably two days after that. In my head, I was like, "What's the creative?" And then they told me the photographer was Paola Kudacki. Me and Paola, when we collaborate, it's magic.… And we spoke with Lizzo and she got it, and the editors got it.
That dress was just magical. I wish I could be like, "I styled the shit out of that dress," but that dress was the moment.... That was probably my favorite cover I've ever styled.
TV: With your work, I'm honestly having trouble picking a favorite look, though Issa Rae's 2018 Golden Globes look is up there. Do you have a look that you're most proud of?
I think the Lizzo Time cover is one. Iconic for me, just because I'm such a fan, is Mariah Carey's look for Billboard magazine. That was a big moment for me because she's been on my bucket list for 12 years. Ezra in Moncler was [also] a big moment. I loved the pink suit on [Michael B Jordan] for Vanity Fair.
- List item
As a designer, Cardi B in Aliétte and Kelly Rowland in Aliétte were the two big moments I was obsessed with.
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue