It's a stormy October night in New York City, and news of a hurricane soon to be known as the devastatingly destructive Sandy, is starting to pick-up coverage on several news outlets. While the streets of Manhattan undergo a veritable monsoon, a surprisingly dry June Ambrose saunters into Pier 60 for the Black Retail Action Group's 42nd Annual Awards Gala, where she is being honored for her achievement in fashion. Dressed in a navy Moschino gown, staggeringly high Christian Louboutin shoes, and a Giuseppe Zanotti crocodile clutch, Ambrose is seemingly unscathed by the crazy elements around her---quite possibly a visual reflection of her storied career in the insular (read: white washed) world of fashion. At 41, the Antigua native has managed to reach a level of success, that many in her profession can only dream of obtaining. For a woman who has built an empire on the mantra, "Without good work, there is no celebrity," her current position hasn't come without trial and a few of life's storms.
For nearly two decades, she has helped define a generation of effortless style, by successfully presenting a high level of urbanity and glamour to a street sensible crowd, that before her sartorial intervention was prisoner to over-sized baggy gear that kept their supremacy on the block and not in the boardroom. And while many of her celebrity clients (P. Diddy, Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott) still find comfort in those voluminous wares, they are now undeniably chic and tailored to perfection.
A self-taught stylist, who acquired most of her knowledge through books and film, Ambrose started her career in the early 90s as an intern at Andre Harrell's now defunct Uptown Records. It was during that internship that she learned the business of styling, that in time led to the establishment of her styling and imaging agency Mode Squad in 1994, and later a career defining partnership with famed music video director Hype Williams. Dubbed "a modern-day hip-hop Holly Golightly" by New York Magazine, Ambrose is forever moving and shaking in the fashion industry and beyond. In the past decade she has released a best selling book (2006's Effortless Style), conquered television---most recently starring in the Vh1 reality show Styled By June---and debuted an affordable shoe collection to be sold exclusively through Home Shopping Network (HSN).
After so many years in the business, how does it feel to now be recognized for your achievements?
It really is truly humbling. My career goes over the span of twenty years. You work tirelessly not thinking about the accolades. You do it because you’re passionate and you’re living your dream with your eyes open. At every turn, every experience and accomplishment in my career has been truly humbling because I truly do what I do to make a difference in people’s lives. I’m able to make a difference and leave a legacy behind that my [two] kids and my family can be truly proud of me.
How Do You Define Style?
Style’s about self-expression. It speaks to the sign of our times. It’s a language, it’s a conversation. I think that’s the beauty of fashion and style. Fashion is mute without style. That’s how I feel about it. I feel like every day when I get dressed up, it’s lights, camera, action.” I feel like I can truly create the way people perceive me through how I look and that’s kind of a powerful weapon.
You manage to juggle a career and motherhood looking fabulous, what are five things that every woman should have in her closet?
A girdle. That quintessential dress and it doesn’t have to be black. It could be navy, it could be maroon. But that one that can trapeze to different things—a convertible. It goes from day to night. A power suit I think is super important for women to have. A great pair of big glasses to hide the bags from the lack of sleep, [because] we do so much in our lives and careers. And a great pair of pumps.
How can a woman, who doesn't have the budget of some of your A-list clients, transform her look and style?
I think experimenting and not being afraid to try new things really helps a woman to evolve and helps her to reinvent herself. And it’s okay if others may perceive it to be something that’s radical, but that’s really truly the fun of it all. We’re all under construction every day, so never stop reaching towards that successful moment.
Additional Reporting by Danica Daniel