“Part of love is going home and learning your people,” says one-half of the stylist duo, Sarah Edmiston. Ahead of the Met, she and partner in fashion crime Zadrian Smith sat with ESSENCE, telling us about their working relationship ahead of getting sensation Ariana DeBose ready. Zadrian and Sarah have been styling separately for about ten years prior to coming together and have been able to shape and mold a partnership that has created looks that feel authentic to the wearer while still creating a memorable fashion moment. Their description of their styling process sounds a bit unconventional. “We don’t agree on anything,” says Smith, “but that’s the beauty of the process. Our process is allowing the other person to be 100% who they are. Through that authenticity, we’re able to discover some of our most creative moments. I think we also allow that to permeate through our work with our clients. We want to honor them authentically and make sure that we are not trying to paint our aesthetic on them and allow them to be who they are.”
The two met through a mutual friend in 2020. The pandemic and racial injustice were both confronting the world. A mutual friend, photographer Misan Harriman, felt their synergy would benefit both of them enormously and introduced them. Subsequently, they fell in love with each other platonically, and working together became a no-brainer. “One thing that I love so much about our partnership and love about Sarah is that it’s very rare that you meet someone where your morals and your values are so aligned,” Smith gushes to ESSENCE. The two would describe each other as the most hard-working people they know, which in the stylist world is the highest compliment one can receive. Most do not know how grueling the work of styling is, but in the case of Zadrian and Sarah, hard work pays off.
To give you a glimpse into the life of a stylist, I have to report that the duo found out they were dressing the West Side Story actress just three short weeks ago. DeBose’s team was able to carve out just two days for her to get fitted for her in her Jospeph Altuzarra dress. The duo describes Altuzarra’s designs in the most poetic balance of “juxtaposition of intellect and depth and levity and humor.” On the day Edmiston went to Altuzarra’s studio, she reminisces, “from the minute you walk in the door. There’s this amazing kind of ethereal creativity, but it’s very grounded; it’s very human.”
Working with Altuzarra has been a dreamy process for the duo, as he says he and Karl Lagerfeld’s creativity would show up in similar ways. “It’s this very intelligent, consistent considerate creativity where hyper processes meet total contemporary ideas.” The dress in question that DeBose debuted with Altuzarra by her side is a satin fishtail classic 30s dress with a train and Bucherer Fine Jewellery for her earrings. “If you had a panning shot from the train up, you would die of shock by the time you get to the top because it’s an amazing cropped parka bomber at the top,” says Edmiston, “the bottom and top of the look, they’re completely in that great contradiction that does honor Karl of total classicism, sitting alongside a totally contemporary almost utility look.”
Within this chaotic but beautiful process of getting DeBose dressed for The Met Gala, the duo has learned a few things. “I’m learning to trust. I’m learning to let go and trust my team, and in that trusting, I’m able to find more pockets of joy for myself that exists in life outside of the fashion industry.” A piece of advice for any budding stylist that wants to enter into the industry. Something else that was mentioned in conversation with the duo was how fashion has been slowly but surely turning back to its pre-2020 ways. Young people that want to enter the industry must be aware of how Black people are treated. That’s why working with women of color, specifically Black women, comes naturally to the duo to uplift their voices. “How, how are we right back to where we started?” says Smith,”the one thing is the fashion industry has always let you know what it is. So, if you are a minority, and if you’re trying to be a part of it, you just have to accept the fact that it is going to be tough; it is not going to be easy.”
When we asked the duo what other advice they had for emerging stylists and those who want to get into it, candidly and jokingly both say at the same time, “Run” and “Don’t do it.” In all reality, though, styling is not an easy job; not everyone who says they are a stylist is actually a stylist. “I’m being very honest and very human; you have to make sure that you love it. Because if you don’t love it, you won’t be able to do it,” says Smith. Everyone thinks being a stylist is glamorous and that every night you get invited to parties, but that is far from the truth. It is a beautiful thing to create a visual moment that will influence generations but don’t forget to get to The Met Gala, you have to work at it.