He walks into a room and you can instantly feel his powerful presence. You brace yourself expecting to grind through a stale conversation with yet another imperious professional; but the legendary stylist sits down and makes you feel like you’ve become the most important part of his day. Ty Hunter is obviously extremely talented and has a keen eye for fashion, just ask the countless celebrities he’s styled throughout his career. Nevertheless, it is his beautiful spirit that has gained him the loyalty of royalty. In true Ty fashion, he had it all, but still knew that there was more. He followed that feeling, left behind everything he knew and took a chance on himself. The esteemed stylist has transitioned into an author and entrepreneur with an exciting television show and many special projects in the works. Industry Rules sits with the fashion icon and discusses life after his leap of faith.
RA: Your new book Makeover from Within has so many gems the reader can apply to his/her own life- What is your favorite and most utilized Ty Takeaway?
TH: “Learning to say no.” At first it was the hardest thing for me to do because I’m such a giver and it pleases me to please other people. I’ve always been in relationships, so I had to learn to say no and spend time alone. Although I’ve never been to therapy, writing this book was therapy for me. The transition from thinking it, to writing everything down, to saying it out loud through recording for audible, definitely was a form of therapy for me. It helped me learn that things don’t work out because there are greater things that could happen later.
RA: As you said writing your memoir was very therapeutic. It must have been very cathartic as well. The reader learns of the traumatic events of your life: from getting shot, to being sexually assaulted, to following the ebbs and flows of your ever evolving romantic relationships. All these moments molded Ty to be this spectacular man he is today. What was it like having to go through these events again, while putting them in writing with co reputable fashion writer Eila Mell?
TH: It was really really hard. Eila and I would record our calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and there were times I would just be crying because I didn’t understand why things were. I would also start to realize why certain things happened the way they did. For example, I talk about my dad taking me to a Diana Ross concert. My dad, my brothers, my cousins, all the men and even the women in my family were huge sports fans and I always felt like the black sheep of my family. My dad would take me to the Super Bowl and instead of watching the game, I would just walk around. But while writing Makeover from Within, it hit me that my dad taking me to that Diana Ross concert was his way of showing me that he cares. That moment allowed me to understand why I am the way I am. That was his way of trying to bond with me. Little does my father know, it sparked something inside of me and it’s the reason why I do what I do today. Writing this book I realized this is where it all began, and ironically the person who I thought was the most against it is the reason I am in fashion.
RA: You emphasized quite a bit the women who raised you and the beautiful impact they’ve had on you. If you had to style your mom and Godmother Ethel now before one of their outings, what would you put them in?
TH: My mom use to have this dress and I swear I want to redo it. I remember it so clearly because as a kid I thought it was so far left. It was this silk dress that was yellow with yellow flowers all over it, which is probably why I like yellow so much today. It was all yellow flowers but it had a black and white polka dot belt that went around the dress and ruffled down. It was the contrast of the flowers and the polka dots that didn’t make sense and made me love it. I know for her to wear that back then people were probably like “what the hell is this?” But every time she wore it I just loved it. I talk about that dress all the time and always bring it up to her. My aunt Ethel was just fly, both she and my mom would watch Natalie Cole and redo her looks. They would wear wigs, but be so cool because they would leave their real hair out in the front before that was even a thing. I would just stare at them and be in awe. I would definitely just style them in looks that they wore in the past that are timeless and they could still rock now.
RA: I love your philosophy and saying that our first outfit is skin, what are some of the steps you took to love your first outfit?
TH: I was teased growing up, kids would call me [homosexual slurs]. I was given titles before I even knew who I was, and just being teased or talked about allowed me to grow some tough skin. I had to learn to just be. I’m the person that’s still not going to wear what you’re wearing and I’m still going to go left even if you guys are going right. I learned to build my own lane and stay in it, and that’s where my comfort was. People can look and talk but I have conversations with the guy in the mirror and when we agree that everything is cool, then everything is cool. Once I learned to live in my truth that’s when my freedom began.
RA: When you work with a client in what ways do you help them feel good in their first outfit?
TH: I find out what my clients’ insecurities are and then work with them through the transition of styling them. Most stylists show up and say “this is Givenchy look number 7, everybody want it put it on.” I prefer my clients to first tell me what they’re insecurities are. The client might tell me she doesn’t like her knees or her arms, so I say “okay I know you don’t like your knees, so let’s find a solution: Let’s try some makeup or let’s do these leggings.” I try to get them to a place of acceptance. Nobody is perfect and everybody has insecurities, but we have to get to a place of truly knowing that God created us the way we are. Then we can be happy and live this thing.
RA: You are a man of many talents, creativity flows through you abundantly. What usually triggers your creativity, and gets those juices flowing?
TH: Just another day, just waking up. My inspiration comes from just waking up in the morning and trying to keep peace of mind. I put on gospel music, take long walks and take trips by myself to find my zen.
RA: We can also expect a handbag line from you soon, which is so exciting! What inspired the idea?
TH: Well the handbag line is a collaboration with a brand called A.Cloud. Their name inspired me and I decided to create the line based on shapes that are above the clouds. I designed everything round like the planets and delivered a celestial vibe throughout. There’s more luxurious pieces with Swarovski crystals and there are more casual bags as well for everyday use.
RA: You’re also working on a line of Synergy Sprays, can you tell us more about that?
TH: The sprays are coming out soon, I have 3 fragrances that are called Push, Play and Peace. Push is the first one of the set, it’s designed to get you out of the bed. Play is more like you got home from work and it’s time to drink margaritas and play. Peace is to help you go to sleep. It’s an all natural line that you can spray on and I’m so excited.
RA: It seems like the magic starts when you step out on faith and go off course. What has it been like for you since you’ve stepped into this new entrepreneurial phase of your career?
TH: It was the scariest thing and it’s hard at first. I had to leave my comfort zone, and you know deal with losing insurance and the steady paycheck. But the freedom alone makes it worth it. I’ve been able to learn more about myself and create freely. I became an author, created a clothing line, got to be on a Billboard in Time Square and be a part of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. I had to just jump and and let go of the fear of the unknown, because once I jumped I still had my family. Beyoncé is still my sister, I can call her anytime, and Ms. Tina is still like my other mother. Going on my own forced me to put all that time and energy into self, and gave me the courage to become more than I ever expected.
RA: For someone who travels the world, works with legendary superstars, and lives a life some could not even dream, you are unbelievably humble. How do you stay so down to earth?
TH: It’s easier! I don’t go up too high, and I don’t go too low. When you’re way up there the drop is harder and when you’re too low, coming up is a challenge. I’ve learned that we are all created differently, and what might hurt you might not hurt me; so I I try to put on other people’s shoes before I communicate with them. I don’t allow things or people to strip me of my character.
RA: Who is Ty Hunter outside of styling & fashion?
TH: Ty is just a real person, a humble regular person. It’s crazy how I’m looked upon as almost dinosaur like, but I simply put out what I want to receive.