For twenty years, America has known TV host and style expert Lloyd Boston best from top
shows such as The Insider (CBS), the popular companion show to the Emmy-winning
Mr. Boston joined MONARCH for a conversation providing insight on his personal style, career, and
influences; the launch of his next book; and the business of style.
MONARCH: Good Afternoon, and thank you for taking time to speak to us today. So we are going to have the pleasure of receiving a new book from you in 2020—congratulations!
LLOYD BOSTON: My pleasure, thank you. Yes it will be released on Kensington. This will be my fifth book and first novel.
M: That’s so exciting. It’s a busy time writing a novel and being the resident style expert on the Wendy Show. How did you get started in fashion?
LB: I was always interested in fashion as a child. I just loved putting clothes together in a special way. I went to Catholic school most of my life so weekend clothes and play clothes were really special to us. We had a chance to put together stuff that most public school kids could do every day, but we could only do it off of school time. I’ve always loved texture, color, and patterns. I could draw anything I could see or imagine; art was always in my bones. Clothes were an extension of my love for art and creativity.
I got started in the industry professionally at nineteen, when I landed my first internship with Tommy Hilfiger. I met the designer in a shopping mall, where he offered me an internship. I stayed there for well over a decade, leaving as the VP of art direction.
M: With social media providing visibility transforming the majority of American’s into celebrities, do you think it’s easier to be a stylist today versus when you began?
LB: I was only a stylist for a short period, mainly internally at Tommy Hilfiger. And then when I launched my career as an author and fashion journalist. But I’m very close to the world of styling. I do think with social media it is easier to gain exposure as a stylist, but I don’t know if that always translates into work, into dollars and cents. For many years a designer would hire a stylist and have them put their collection together in a unique and clever way so that it would “make noise” on the runway. A magazine would hire a stylist to put together arresting, fresh editorials by pulling clothes from lots of different brands. Music labels would hire stylists to style their artists, and big brands hire stylists to style their catalogs. These are still the main clients/bread and butter for stylists, and I don’t think they are turning to social media to hire stylists. I’m sure many of them still use top agencies that represent stylists to hire them. Social media can’t hurt, but it’s not the only avenue. I don’t want a young person to think, “Because I have a cool Instagram, I’m going to get as much work as an established, agent-represented stylist who’s in a big city like New York or LA.”
M: How would you describe your look?
LB: I would have to say it has evolved over the years. But my personal style is probably Preppy meets Whatever I’m Feeling That Day. I really dress my mood, but preppy is always at the core of what I wear. I really believe in the classic elements of American style: a great pair of chinos, a crisp white shirt, a gorgeous navy blue blazer. I love things like the color camel, whether it is a coat or a great pair of shoes. I love that kind of time-honored preppy American style. But then I’ll pepper in whatever I’m feeling that week. I’ll toss in some rugged camouflage, biker chic, vintage or European, even African-inspired pieces. But it’s usually always in a blender with preppy.
M: Where do you draw inspiration or influence?
LB: It depends on what I’m working on. As a writer I’m inspired by everyone from James Baldwin to Toni Morrison to Ralph Ellison. The classic black writers who inspire me personally. I also love looking at literary voices that are unexpected, like Simon Doonan, the former creative director for Barney’s—he’s a humorist. Early on I was inspired by Erma Bombeck, a feminist humorist. Depending on what I’m feeling, lots a different writers get me excited to express myself in the same way. As a creative person, a fashion editor, and personality, I’ve long been inspired by Quincy Jones, who has so many slashes in his title that it’s hard to keep up with everything he’s done over the years. When I think of Jeffrey Holder, who was a director, painter, choreographer, sculptor, and dancer—he inspires me. I also think of creative people with brilliant business minds like a Martha Stewart, my former boss Tommy Hilfiger, or Ralph Lauren. When I look at how they’ve navigated a simple idea, design philosophy, a lifestyle, a way of living into these billion dollar brands, it’s a constant source of inspiration. I look high and low and all around, because some of the most unexpected sources and people can really spark an idea that’s fresh and interesting.
As a creative person, a fashion editor, and personality, I’ve long been inspired by Quincy Jones, who has so many slashes in his title that it’s hard to keep up with everything he’s done over the years. When I think of Jeffrey Holder, who was a director, painter, choreographer, sculptor, and dancer—he inspires me. I also think of creative people with brilliant business minds like a Martha Stewart, my former boss Tommy Hilfiger, or Ralph Lauren. When I look at how they’ve navigated a simple idea, design philosophy, a lifestyle, a way of living into these billion dollar brands, it’s a constant source of inspiration. I look high and low and all around, because some of the most unexpected sources and people can really spark an idea that’s fresh and interesting.
M: The city or location with the most style, domestic or international?
LB: It’s hard to name just one, that’s nearly impossible. Every city has its own flair and flavor, if it’s done right and doesn’t get watered down by what the masses are doing. I love Rio for that reason in particular. I find that the culture is so rich and vibrant, it is so true to who they are. You see a little bit of American influence here or there but for the most part they’ve stuck to what makes them unique. The patterns, the textures, the fit, the barely-there clothing—it’s a beach city where bodies do 80 percent of the work and the clothes do the rest. Whether they are nineteen or ninety you will see them in the same stringy swimsuit, and no one judges them, because it is a part of the culture.
When you go to Paris, you see well-dressed men who put American men to shame. When you go to Italy, you see really natty Italian men who turn fashion on its ear with the simplest pocket square or neck scarf. I also love the way many kids in Tokyo take urban street style inspired by New York and give it their own spin. It depends on where I am, but I always see each city for what it is and don’t bring any preconceived notions about what’s hot to it. I really soak it in for what it is and where I am.
M: What are you currently watching?
LB: I’m not a huge TV fan. I have a tendency to watch things over and over again because I like to study the hair, costumes, and production design. I also dig into the script and see what nuances are in an actor’s delivery of a character. I just started watching the original Dynasty on Amazon Prime from season 1, episode 1. Even though it’s big eighties, big hair, and big clothes, it’s timeless in a way. I don’t have to rush to watch it, I don’t have to worry about everyone talking about it the next day. I love watching things at my own pace. I loved Feud by Ryan Murphy on FX about Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. I thought that was beautifully rendered. I love a look to the past. Every night I go to sleep to the Golden Girls; there’s no better sleeping pill.
M: Would you agree that movies and music influence fashion, or does fashion influence music and film?
LB: They go hand in hand. There’s always a zeitgeist moment that inspires a writer who’s writing a screenplay and a costume designer and production designer who’s along for the ride. And there’s always music that is unique and inventive that can spark, inspire, or enhance a scene in a film. Back in the nineties when I worked for Tommy Hilfiger, his big partnership, industry wise, was with the music industry. He loved to put burgeoning music stars on his runways and in ad campaigns. He would also design clothes and accessories inspired by music. He loved rock ‘n’ roll, but he was open to all different genres. So I saw firsthand how fashion and music could copromote each other’s industries, help them grow and be relevant when one was slumping a bit. Movies, music, and fashion—they absolutely take cues from one another. You can count that from decades past whether you’re looking at movies from the seventies like the rock opera Tommy. Where Tina Turner and Elton John were in the film. Even today with the Elton John biopic, the fashion is definitely a character in the film. Set it apart from his struggles and you can watch the film on mute and really enjoy it because they captured so many of his outlandish costumes in a way that was a time capsule but still looks kind of modern.
M: What are the top three films that display the most style in the sense of fashion?
LB: I love a movie called The Women, the original version. I love that it was in black and white but a color section was inserted in the middle of the film. The women attend a fashion show and all the colors in the scene come alive, starting on the runway.
Mahogany is a personal favorite. Diana Ross is credited for the costumes, and there’s such a fun take on her Cinderella story. Her character Tracy Chambers going from rags to riches from the midwest to the runways of Milan and Paris. She would do everything from cool seventies Essence Magazine looks on the subway to being on the runway in a Japanese gown with a matching geisha wig to an Egyptian number to a fur muff in a fountain. It was very much fantasy done seventies style. It’s very timeless for me. It reminds me of the women in my family that inspire how I see fashion today.
I’m a big fan of the campiness of Mommy Dearest. The fashion and set design were great. Giving you Joan Crawford from the forties through the seventies and eighties. I love that movie as well.
M: Top five movie or television stars with the most style?
LB: That’s a hard one, because you never really know what style is personal or purchased through a stylist. But at the end of the day they do get credit for it being their style regardless of how they achieved it. There are a lot of stars that have a true personal style. For instance, Sharon Stone has always had an amazing personal style. Diane Keaton does as well, which kind of floods into her characters. Diahann Carroll, we knew her for her most stylish role, Dominique Deveraux. But whenever you see her out and about she’s dressed beautifully. She never tries to dress younger than her age; she honors it. I interviewed her once on the red carpet and she was wearing her own Chanel and I love that she didn’t borrow or have a stylist pull for her.
Robert Downey Jr. has a style that’s kind of European bad boy meets tailored and dandy. Quincy Jones is in his eighties, but he still has flair. Actually, Billy Dee Williams and Quincy would have to tie for me. Billy Dee and Quincy will throw on a metallic scarf that was once only reserved for flashier men, rock-and-rollers, gay men. But they do it in a way that is—for Quincy it’d be that Chicago feel and for Billy Dee he was raised in Harlem. They bring to mind black men of a different era who understood shine, texture, and fit in a way that was of the streets.
M: Which era would you describe as the most stylish or fashionable?
LB: I love the seventies. It wasn’t the most stylish or fashionable but it had a real free flair to it. A lot of the seventies took inspiration from the 1940s. I came up in the seventies and reveled in men that wore clothes that fit tight and weren’t afraid to show their manhood and their sexuality; it was sometimes androgynous. Women who took a lot of risks with hair, jewelry, and lengths that weren’t like the decades prior. Almost like a peacock preening. The seventies speak to me because they give a nod to the forties. The forties were a more buttoned-up version of that unique flair—shoulder pads, cinched waist, and skinny belts. The seventies took it over the top!
M: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us!