“I have a phone call with Alicia Keys later and I have six looks that I have to do for that.” When I catch up with celebrity stylist Jason Bolden five months into a national quarantine, the world has slowed down but it’s obvious the glam father to the stars is still doing what he does best. With his mystic bronze Galaxy Note 20 Ultra in one hand and a matching Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 on the other, Bolden shares during a cyber sit-down in late August that his days crafting looks and curating personal collections have not ceased. Instead, he’s now using the power of “fashion-forward” tech (and his phone’s handy stylus) to challenge his creativity during a time of virtual shows, shutdowns, and civil unrest.
For the industry insider, born in St. Louis, the lead-up to the fall fashion event of the year is typically a busy one. Between New York Fashion Week, the kickoff to awards season, and film festivals from Venice to NYC, Bolden stays busy. But much like the rest of the world, 2020 has brought about a shift in priorities for the Styling Hollywood star.
“Right now what I’m really concerned about more than anything is making sure that the baseline and the fundamental things, we’re not missing out on,” Bolden shares. “I want to make sure humanity is the focus and we lean into that.”
Shortly after police brutality protests emerged on city streets following the death of George Floyd, corporate America began to deal with its own racial reckoning. The fashion industry, wrought with colorism, classicism, and racism, was no exception. While stories poured in about the lack of diversity in C-suites, corporate boardrooms, media newsrooms and even Hollywood, style connoisseurs from France to Fifth Ave. began raising their voices to say their beloved business must change too. “I’m past the optics of it all.” Bolden scoffs. “I need to see people behind the scenes to determine how the money is being used.”
Though global runways have seen an influx of Black models, those “behind the scenes” pulling the purse strings look decidedly different. Bolden says he wants to see that change, and at this moment in time, he’s making an unrelenting push to ensure that happens. “Hiring needs to be in executive suites and that’s what I fight for every day,” the proud advocate reveals. He adds that he’s mindful to work with brands who are fully supportive of Black talent getting a fair shake. “These are the people that hold so much financial value and they also have such a huge stake in fashion jobs,” Bolden says of the industry’s top fashion houses. “And I’m fighting and making sure that everyone is super conscious when it comes to hiring people. The hiring system should not look the same that it has for the past five years.”
From the start of his career to now, Bolden shares that he’s always been “very loud” about justice. It’s also why he says voting in the upcoming general election is another matter of importance for him. As the country undergoes a cultural and racial awakening, Bolden believes the time is ripe to “really hone in on making a shift and being conscious of the shift because it’s going to affect a lot of things to come.” In the past he notes that he’s been “very lucky” to work with some of the people who he says are on the front lines pushing for change. It’s why he believes vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris would fit so perfectly onto his client roster.
Thinking ahead to a presidential inaugural ball look should the Biden-Harris ticket win in November, the stylist to the stars with a passion for Black designers says he would dress Harris in a custom Charles Harbison gown paired with jewels from the archives of Eunice Johnson of Johnson Publishing Company fame. “What a lot of people don’t know is Eunice Johnson had one of the largest collections of couture and some of the most iconic jewelry of her time,” Bolden says with visible excitement. “So I would ask Linda Johnson Rice to dig into her mom’s archive.”
To finish the look, Bolden says he’d choose between a Manolo Blahnik heel or Christian Louboutins. “They both know how to make a sexy, strong shoe,” he notes. And the overall look would convey what he calls “quiet, smart, chic, strong opulence.”
“So if she taps me I’ll do it,” Bolden says, smiling at the thought. But first, the madness of Fashion month must come to an end. He told me he’s archiving street style looks on his Note and creating tons of mood boards for visual inspiration. Before we wrapped up our call I promised I would send him my own digitally enhanced creations. But that might have to wait until after the election.