The stylist waving her wand over electric talent of the likes of Jorja Smith, AMA & more.
As part of a campaign to celebrate their latest shoe drop, Nike React Element 55, the iconic brand have enlisted the help of London’s most exciting and reactionary homegrown talent right now – all each formidable forces making waves in their respective industries.
Looking at Bemi Shaw’s portfolio, it reads as an intimidating who’s-who of the buzziest Brit talent doing the rounds right now. Jorja Smith. AMA. DJ Yasmin. And the London-born stylist is not shying away from that fact that she’s on a mission to stan and platform black excellence, as well as the next generation of female bosses.
This game-changing energy, mixed with her ability to produce eclectic, fire looks has made her the perfect candidate for the Nike React Element 55 campaign.
We chatted with the stylist and journalist about being picked for the Nike collaboration and designing her own pair…
How did you get into styling?
I studied fashion journalism at university and quite quickly got into industry after my degree – but in a writing capacity. I’ve always been interested in styling however, and I started working with upcoming artists in developing their style and from there broadened my knowledge, honed my skills and landed a job.
What do you love about it?
I really love the moment someone walks out with a look they feel confident in. You can literally see the change in their body language and the way they present themselves. From an editorial perspective what made me fall in love with styling is being able to create a story with clothing, really having an idea and executing it and creating a piece of – dare I say it – art.
You seem to constantly be championing incredible women, and in particular excellent women of colour – is this a top priority when it comes to choosing your projects?
Always! My journey in fashion was really confusing to my own identity. Being a working-class woman of colour in a very elitist industry is a baffling experience. I really lost myself and questioned my own identity very early on in my career. Now that I’m stable and know who I am I like to highlight other women that inspire me and women that look like me. When I choose my project I always make it clear I want to work with a diverse team, whether its gender, sexuality, size or race. Representation matters.
What would be your top tip for someone starting out?
Intern, intern and then intern some more. But, also don’t work for free and kill yourself struggling. My real understanding of the “fashion world” started when I worked in the industry. I took every experience as a lesson and really tried my hardest when given an opportunity. Email people whose careers you covet and ask them questions, or ask if you can assist them in any capacity. Be proactive and find your niche, then excel in that.
What was your reaction to getting picked by Nike to collaborate for the React Element 55?
Initially nervous, I’m not an influencer (in the social media sense of things) and I don’t necessarily put myself out there as much as I do my work. However, once that passed I was super grateful and humbled to have been selected. The team were so amazing and working with both Lauren Maccabee and Salwa Rahman was a dream – they both made me feel comfortable when it came to getting my portrait done.
What do you think makes your work so disruptive and reactionary?
I like to think out of the box, which I guess is the disruptive idea of my styling. I like real people and new talent to shine through in my work. I react to things that happen around me and affect me directly, whether its politics, art or my own personal feelings at the time. I think my work is raw and very unapologetically me which might not be completely polished all the time, but it’s very real.
Bemi Shaw (L) with Salwa Rahman (M) and Lauren Maccabee (R)
Bemi Shaw (L) with Salwa Rahman (M) and Lauren Maccabee (R)
What was your starting point for designing your shoe?
I like dark muted tones, so I started off with a black canvas. However, adding elements of colour like beige and whites elevated the shoe and made it more lifestyle. Basically I wanted a trainer I can wear to fashion week but still look chic as wearing heels.
What did you want to convey with your shoe?
Though I’m into fashion, I’m not into trends, so style and substance were important to me. I wanted to create a trainer that bypassed the seasonal trends and can be worn until the soles fall off.
When do you feel most creative?
This changes often for me. Sometimes it’s when I’ve been given control over a project and can really tell a story and create something that is fully mine. I love delving into an idea, pulling moodboards together, drawing references and really developing a project. However, recently I’ve worked on some really great collaborative projects and having other people’s opinions and ideas merge with mine has resulted into some magical moments. I’m excited to work on some more creative collaborations in the future.
Why do you think it’s important to nurture female creativity?
The future is female in my opinion. I think it’s an exciting time for women in this industry. I want to uplift and nurture female creativity as I think this is the direction we are going in that is going to change fashion – and the world – for good.
What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever had?
“It’s only clothes.” Because we take fashion a bit too seriously sometimes. It’s what you take from fashion that’s important and yeah, at the end of the day it’s only clothes.
What kind of person do you imagine wearing this shoe?
Everyone! That’s why it’s so perfect. It’s literally a trainer I can wear, my mum can wear, my nan – OK, maybe not my nan. But, what I’m saying is, it’s a really a diverse trainer especially because you can customise it.
What is it about London that gets you excited, and keeps your work energised?
The people! I often say if it wasn’t for the people and Carnival I would be somewhere else. London has a very amazing roster of talent, whether upcoming or established you can always find amazing people to draw inspiration from. I moved here when I was 18 and was blown away by the fact that London really never stops, I used to go for walks at 4am when I couldn’t sleep and be surprised that London was still happening around me. London itself is a natural energiser.