To conclude our Black History Month Series, we met with celebrity stylist, Memsor Kamarake. Wendy Williams’ stylist showed up in his signature denim on denim Armani ensemble, ready to dish on his journey as a stylist.
Though he was born in New York, to West African immigrants from Sierra Leone, Memsor’s journey began across the pond. He was living in London and used to read Vibe magazine, religiously. “I was voracious! I would read it cover to cover. I got to know all the editor’s names and followed Emil Wilbekin, who at the time, was a market editor.”
The fashion enthusiast admired Emil’s work and began to study his day-to-day life through the lens that was provided with each magazine issue. This ultimately led to the revelation of his future profession. “I remember saying to myself, “Oh my God! That’s what I want to do!” The market editor is the point person responsible to source products for shoots that best suits the editor or stylists’ vision.
The first step Memsor took towards attaining his dream job was to head back to where it all started, New York. In doing so, he acquired a position at the Ralph Lauren store, which lent him a ‘scope on the business side of fashion. Of his experience he stated, “Working at Ralph Lauren on the retail level was very instructive. There was the Polo Sports store and then the mansion [Ralph Lauren] that was across the street.” Seeing how both stores operated separately, but were yet one entity, introduced him to the notion of branding.
Coincidentally, he encountered his role model, Emil Wilbekin, at a party. He seized the opportunity to tell the editor how his work had inspired him. He recalls telling him, “You’re one of the reasons I moved to New York, I was very highly influenced by your work”. As fate would have it, a friend alerted him of a fashion assistant position that opened up at Vibe. Unbeknownst to him, Emil had been promoted to Editor in Chief. “I met with the fashion director at the time, and she says, “You’re fantastic, let me walk you down to my boss”, opens the door, and it was Emil. The Editor immediately recognized him from their previous run-in and sealed the deal! Since then, the relationship between the two has morphed into a brotherhood.
Memsor found himself working for the very publication he had admired for so many years. He worked his way up the ladder, from fashion assistant, to market editor, and ultimately, Fashion Director-which he did for 5-6 years. As print began to phase out, the transition to digital, forced the stylist to move on to a career in freelance.
In the midst of freelancing, he was approached to take a meeting with the Wendy Williams show. Though he did not know all that it entailed, he advised to always take a meeting. “What’s the worst that can happen?” It’s a good thing he agreed because here he is, 5 years later, as Wendy’s resident stylist.
The stylist admits he’s had a reputation for working with people on the rise up; on their way to super stardom. A great example, is his shoot with then Senator, Barack Obama, before his political acclaim to Commander-In-Chief. His clientele also includes, Beyoncé, Brandy, Melanie Fiona, Ciara, and more.
More than anything, Memsor has taken a philanthropic approach to work, lending his hand in international fashion productions, in an effort to assist in assimilating western practices. “The idea is taking what I know and spreading it around the world. Working with a designer who maybe doesn’t have access to what we have. You bring that level of production to what they have there, little by little they progress, and you also get to see a different standard of beauty. How they’re influenced by what we have here, but also influences that are home grown.” He finds solace in stepping into the shadows to allow others to thrive.
One should always pay it forward. A quote that resonates with him is, “Each one teach one”. “I am only here because folks did the same exact thing with me. I am a recipient of that blessing and love that folks poured down on me, so therefore, I want to make sure I am that for other people.” By allowing himself to be a vessel of knowledge to others, he believes he is honoring those who came before. He considers veterans such as, June Ambrose and Misa Hilton, as mentors who guided him along the way, and provided him with keen advice; something he wishes to pass along. Other fashion notables who have inspired him are fashion designers, Edward Enninful and Kimora Lee Simmons, along with fellow celebrity stylist, Jenke Ahmed Tailey.
Though he never interned, he strongly encourages it. “Interning gives you first hand experience of whether or not this is for you.” To those who want to hop straight into it he stated, “The work is what sustains you. Don’t just pretend to do the work on Instagram with a picture of a rack of shoes and you’re not on set. It’s not the most glamorous job.” No matter what point in your career he cautions that he always finds himself walking down 7th avenue, on a hot sweaty day, with a garment bag. For those who think they are above that, this job isn’t for you. In addition he advised, “The relationships are really important as well. If you don’t have the relationships it’s not going to work, so returning samples on time is key.”
If you’re going to delve into this career, give it all you’ve got. “Don’t come in and be a mediocre stylist or come in mediocre and work up to higher.”
In conclusion, Memsor expressed his desire for aspiring stylists, “I want you to respect the work that I do, but I’d be more honored if you used that inspiration to then go do something for yourself, rather than follow my every move. Get off that couch and show me what you can do! “
Thoughts on this ambitious stylist?
Look out for his new website launching in March!
To keep up with this denim trotting maven follow him on IG @memsor