Celebrity Stylist: Kevin Sanders

Born in Northern Arkansas, Mr. Sanders worked with his father in the family business, becoming accomplished in a wide range of skills extending from con­struction to cattle farming and even to com­mercial salmon fishing in Bristol Bay, Alaska. After earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology at the University of Central Arkansas, he followed his lifelong love of fashion to New York City in 2003.  He arrived in the Big Apple with nothing more than his dream of a major fashion career and his determination to realize that dream with a job in retail as a men’s European fashion sales specialist.  He developed relationships with such established vendors as Versace, Prada and Moschino.  He combined his retail experience with assign­ments assisting fashion stylists on editorial shoots until he landed his first gig as a professional stylist. In addition, he traveled to China to begin work on his lines of clothing Kevin Howard Brand Jeans® and KEVIN HOWARD.  He is a professional consultant to major fashion brands, writing a book on fashion styling techniques for everyone, and speaks globally on the topic fashion branding.

Kevin Sanders is known in fashion circles as the Stylist with the Golden Touch — Sanders has styled for the Oscars®, Tony’s, Grammy’s, Golden Globes, SAG and People’s Choice Awards.  At each event his clients walked away winners.

Describe yourself in 3 words:
Humble. Creative. Dedicated.

What is your life motto?
Strive to be happy, be honest, kind, and patient with yourself.

When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful?
It took me a year and a half to land my first gig.  Then another year until my first major television appearance and press articles.  I have had many successes and my ultimate goal is within reach and it took eight long and happy years.

How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream?
In the beginning, every waking hour; now I work about 14 hours a day without travel.

Describe how difficult the business really is?
Fashion is a toxic, cutthroat, and vexatious career field.  However, the rewards are great and the chance to be creative outweighs the bad.  The landscape is highly competitive and the starting pay is below average.  It takes a driven and tough-skinned individual with good communication and writing ability.  In the end, it’s a multi-talented career that is not for the weak of heart.

What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson?
People are not always kind out of goodness.  Everyone has their own agenda and you must be aware and cautious in your business dealings.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date?
Move forward and don’t look back, but learn from both the good and bad experiences.

What is the piece of advice that you weren’t?
Love yourself and take ownership of your career.

In your mind, is formal training essential?
I have a firm belief that you are born with creativity.  There is a certain “eye” one applies to create their vision, which grows to create your signature look. Most technical alterations are done by seamstresses and tailors. Then you have to build your brand and image.  Unfortunately, for a fashion stylist it is valuable to have business and marketing background.  In the end you are creating a business and a brand to give yourself financial success as well fulfil your dreams.

What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career?
Start as an assistant, which rarely is a paid gig and be prepared not to be paid for a few years.  Apply for internships with fashion magazines or designers.  Make contacts each step of the way and send them personal notes and let them know what you are doing.  Keep a blog and have social media presence.  Make yourself a success before you are by building your brand with a firm foundation. Create a mindset of success and visualize where you want to be in your career. Thus, build your brand/image from the beginning even when you are assisting or interning.  No matter how menial; be happy where you are as well what you will become.

What kept you going when you felt like giving up?
An unbreakable belief in myself. With the support of the universe, my family and friends, I was able to overcome challenge and forge ahead bravely with confidence. I probably drove the latter two supporters half-crazy along the way.

Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time?
Yes and No…I threw myself into the fashion industry and surrounded myself with industry people.  Then when I went to work at Macy’s, I met the director from CNN American Morning, who introduced me to my first client Soledad O’Brien.  From that I grew my contacts to ultimately style Jamie Foxx.  Yes, be in the right place and luck has a part, but in due course all you have is yourself and your talent.

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