What’s up y’all? It’s one of my favorite months of the year, Black History Month, and I’m celebrating Black creatives in the fashion and sneaker industry all February long! Up first is Harlem’s own stylist Terrell Jones. If you ever wondered who the architect behind the crafted looks of the “We The Best” superstar DJ Khaled is, he’s your guy. I caught up with Terrell the weekend after the 2023 Grammys to discuss the show being one of his biggest nights, his career, some of his favorite moments, what’s next for him this year and more. Check out our chat below.
Let’s start with the Grammys. You had a big night for two of your clients, DJ Khaled and Fat Joe. What was the inspiration behind DJ Khaled’s look?
I think the inspiration was just basically royalty. I played on a few things that I know the family loves, which is luxury, and that’s why I chose Roberto Cavalli and Fausto Puglisi — the designer of Roberto Cavalli — to collaborate with me to create the look for both Khaled and his wife. Both of them are huge lovers of print: cheetah print and tiger print. So, that’s why we chose a beautiful animal print because it had some power to it and it’s something that Khaled is known for. Then, I also wanted to go for something very regal, cohesive, and something that would give everyone their own identity, but still be a beautiful family portrait moment.
What about Fat Joe’s Grammys look?
(Laughs) I have to give Joe probably 90 percent credit on this look. He came to me with the color. There was something else that we were going to do. There was another moment that we were going to have, but Joe called me randomly one morning and asked, “What do you think about a fuchsia suit?” And I said I think that’s amazing, it’s very on-trend. It’s something that has been done. He said, I just think people wouldn’t expect me to do it and I said they wouldn’t expect you to do it and it’s a lot that goes into it, but I think it’s definitely something that we can accomplish.
Where I come in is finding the fabric of a certain quality. I come on the design side of what would look good. It can’t just be a typical suit, so it was a collaboration. But, I have to give the credit to Joe. The finishing touches are me with the fuchsia Louis Vuitton sunglasses and us going to Shoe Surgeon and saying let’s take the AF1 and do it in python. It was an architectural moment, but it came about because Joe was passionate about the color fuchsia. It was a great moment for us.
The looks you’ve been able to craft for your clients are more than just being a stylist. DJ Khaled isn’t standard sizing. Talk about how you’ve been able to take him from fly to high fashion.
It’s been an evolution of pushing the envelope. When I see my clients, specifically Khaled and Fat Joe, I don’t see size. That’s the foundation of my creativity. I see personality, I see style, and I judge it by the level of their courage in their sense of style. That’s the foundation of how I do things. It’s very easy for me to create because Khaled is a big, bold, loud personality. So, I take that and match it to a style that I feel like he would be able to carry and I go and deliver.
What’s your process?
My process can go so many different ways. These are men of a certain size, so my options are always very limited… I’ve used that to fuel my creativity because there aren’t a lot of things that come in their sizes. So, what I will do is sometimes I’ll find something I love, I’ll look at runway shows, and I obviously know that won’t work for them. But, I’ll still go to the designer, or the brand, or I’ll source the fabric that can match it or make it to where it wouldn’t look like it was botched or recreated. There are so many different levels. The beautiful thing we have now on our side is that both guys are such household names that I can pick up the phone and call a designer to see if they are willing to make something custom for me. Then, there’s the personal magic that I do through the relationship I’ve developed with the guys. Just doing what they call “The Terrell” and making magic.
Let’s talk about one instance where you did “The Terrell.” There was a moment when Khaled had on a Goyard shirt.
That was an interesting moment. Khaled is a huge lover of Goyard and he started buying a lot of Goyard luggage, so I wanted to do something more on the creative side. I went into the store and bought about $5k worth of Goyard silk scarves and I made him a jacket and a shirt out of them. When Goyard first saw it, they said they didn’t create it because they were getting so many calls and people were going to the store looking for the shirt. But once they realized that we went in and spent the money and used their authentic fabrics, they fell in love with us. So, that was just a creative moment. I don’t know if I would do that at this point in my career or today but at that particular time, I was reaching and looking for something that didn’t exist. And that’s how that was created.
There’s a lot of trust that goes into any stylist/client relationship. How was it in the beginning when you started with DJ Khaled and Fat Joe?
“Well, I have to give so much praise and so much gratitude to Fat Joe because he was the person who introduced me to DJ Khaled. Fat Joe and I never had a stylist/client relationship. We started with the great bond of brotherhood on behalf of his wife, one of my dearest friends and like a sister to me. So, we skipped that awkward or that weird moment or development stage. We meshed automatically as brothers and developed our own relationship and communication. And obviously, a huge level of trust because that’s what it takes to do this at this level. They’ll be out on the road and give me a call, and I’ll go out and source everything. I almost have to use their eyes and their spirit. The spirit they have for whatever idea it is that we are developing and then obviously put “The Terrell” on it, and go out, and execute it to perfection. Execute it to their loving and my liking. So, it’s a perfect balance.
With Khaled, we started very early. When I got with Khaled, he was still deejaying clubs and he hadn’t put out an album yet. He was a mixtape DJ, so when he would hire me, it would be one-offs, dressing him for his birthday party or when he got the cover of The Source. So, we had time to find a groove and to develop a rhythm that would work for him being in Miami and me being in New York.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a stylist?
I don’t think I ever knew that I wanted to be a stylist. I remember at one point in my career, I didn’t know that job existed. My inspiration came from being born and raised in Harlem, so I was always privy to a lot of fashion icons. Whether it was the women going to church on Sunday and the men well-dressed, or your local drug dealers in the flashiest Dapper Dan or Marc Buchanan leathers. I grew up in a neighborhood where style was one of the ways we communicated with each other.
I also went to a catholic school and that pushed me to be creative with my uniform growing up. Also, when I did get moments to style myself, whether it be after school or on the weekends, I wanted to make it a moment that someone would remember. So. that was my childhood: Growing up and understanding it was just a way of communication and that was the way I chose to communicate. That was my language.
It all came back to a sense of style. Once I found that, I never let it go and I released it to the world, and that’s how I found a career in styling. By basically sharing my sense of style with others.
What are some of your favorite outfits you’ve styled?
One of them is Remy Ma in the early 2000s during the “Lean Back” era. [Terror Squad] performed at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards in Miami and I put Remy in Dior head to toe! Back then, monogram was very new and it was just being reintroduced in a luxury way. I enjoyed that moment with Remy because you were able to see her in a different light. She was always known for colorful hair, street elements, or doing something that was left. Things that were on the harder side. So, I found this Dior Reggae collection and I thought that was the perfect way to introduce Remy to high fashion style.
Another one was when Khaled had his first son, Asahd, and I created clothes for them for the cover of XXL Magazine. Creating identical options for a man of his size and also an infant was one of my most creative moments because I was able to see my work from two different perspectives. Being able to create that and execute it to perfection for both of them was a special moment for me.
If you had to pick some moments from the last two years, what would they be?
Last year at the Oscars when I collaborated with Dolce & Gabbana and we created this amazing tuxedo for Khaled. It was very special because it was a process: Going through all the different fabrics, and sketches, explaining and understanding different textures and different cuts. I enjoyed that because it was a learning experience for me at another level.
What advice would you give an aspiring stylist?
First. always find YOU in whatever project that you are doing… Never let someone have you style them and not allow you to style them if that makes sense. You have to always be able to have your style and your personal taste shine. There’s that gift — that sprinkle that we all have individually that God gave us all — that we should always be willing to share. That should always be your finishing touch. That’s your stamp, that’s your mark on anything.
Leave a piece of you with everything that you do!
What can we look forward to from you this year?
So many things. But, what I will say is a little less styling and exploring myself on different levels creatively. Film and television. Let’s put that in the pot and a bit more on camera. You’ll see a bit more of Terrell. I’ll come from behind the camera a bit more in 2023.