Music

Stefflon Don And Stylist Toni Blaze Are London’s Coolest New Pairing

Stefflon Don’s outspoken nature isn’t the only reason why she’s transformed into a global rap star — it’s also her daring sense of style. The Birmingham, UK-born, Netherlands-raised artist has been on the rise since 2017’s breakout “Hurtin’ Me” single and her seductive looks have grown along with her. After collaborating with artists like Mariah Carey, Halsey, and Jeremih (as well as securing her first songwriting credit on Ty Dolla Sign’s new album Featuring Ty Dolla Sign), Stefflon is returning with a new project and called on stylist Toni Blaze to help redefine her style.

Blaze grew up with a grandmother who had her own tailoring company in Nigeria and a mother who “was very creative in terms of the ways she would dress me.” Inspired by fashion greats like the late Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, Blaze attended London College Of Fashion and Central Saint Martins. She then landed a position at London-based style publication Wonderland magazine. “I assisted a stylist called Matthew Josephs when he used to work there for about two years or so,” Blaze tells Uproxx. “When he left, I stayed on and progressed my way up. I went from assistant to the fashion director, then my next title was fashion editor.” Now she’s the editor-in-chief who helped bring covers of Migos, Nicki Minaj, and Emilia Clarke to life over the past two years.

After Stefflon’s manager reached out to Blaze, the pair connected this summer to frame the artist’s new aesthetic. “Move” and “Can’t Let You Go” are Stefflon’s first new music of the year, and the looks that go along with them reflect two sides of her: Bad Jamaican Gyal and Girly Romanticism. Uproxx caught up with Blaze and Stefflon about their collaborations, designer taste, and what’s next for this dynamic duo.

When did you first begin working with Stefflon Don?

Blaze: So we did [the “Move” video] back in July. Anytime you work with someone who loves fashion, it just makes your job so much easier. She’s not afraid to take risks. I can bring her a pair of shoes that she might think is a bit wild, but she’ll go for it. The main aim for her is to look very editorially stylized. Obviously, we all love a big-name brand, but I could put a designer on the mood board that might’ve just graduated or just coming up in London and she’s very open to trying.

Are there any go-to designers that you use with her?

Blaze: The main one is Melissa Simon-Hartman who did a lot of stuff for Beyoncé’s Black Is King. She worked on the “Can’t Let You Go” gold cowrie shell look — it’s just enough to signify that African influence. Steff is of Jamaican origin, and I’m of Nigerian origin. So we wanted to celebrate that, but not in a cliche way. In the scene where she’s got this green leotard, that’s from Lisa Folawiyo. She’s a Nigerian designer who does these amazing prints. We used a lot of people of color and I thought that was quite important, especially during this time.

Many people have finally opened their eyes to inequality this year.

Blaze: When I was at St. Martins, I was the only person of color in my 20-person class. So it’s nice to have this full-circle moment where my work has been recognized and I can now have conversations with the British Fashion Council’s diversity committee. My long-term goal is to do brand partnerships where I can bring people from disadvantaged families who want to get into fashion but don’t have that middle-class background where they can intern for free.

Getting back to “Can’t Let You Go,” the pink dress was such a romantic touch that complemented the song’s subtlety.

Don: My boyfriend is Nigerian and sings in Yoruba, so I guess being around his family for the last two years has inspired me. The Yoruba language is very spiritual. I don’t get the same feeling when I sing English. But even though I’m doing something different by mixing that with the Jamaican dialect throughout the song, the root is still Stefflon Don.

Blaze: That dress was from this designer called Selam Fessahaye. But even if you look at her glam, it was very stripped back for her. You’re drawn to her and it just felt very angelic. It was nice to see her in that way.

On the flip side, the “Move” video reminds me of ‘90s Lil Kim as well as Steff’s dancehall sound.

Don: I’m definitely inspired by a lot of the Jamaican dancehall scene, especially women like Lady Saw and Patra. I’ve never seen that look before with the metallic hat and the matching waistband. I think that was dope.

Blaze: That was super fun, too. For the mood board, I was looking at all these really old Beenie Man videos. So I thought about how to bring that to Steff, but in an elevated way. That dancehall scene was just so amazing — even down to the hairstyles. With the metallic look, she was supposed to [represent] this running joke with Caribbean restaurants where you have the woman who’s the boss. I really just wanted it to feel like when I was going to bashments in London growing up. You’ll see these girls dressed to the T with their fishnets and bling, and they’re there until 6 a.m. It’s ghetto fabulous in a great way.

The two-piece blue mesh outfit also represents that bashment style.

Blaze: That was from Auné. She designs these really weird, great prints. I don’t think I even met Stefflon then but I already had it on my mood board. That bandana felt very “Island Gyal” but very expensive at the same time. With the way the camera cuts on that look — because the trousers are so see-through — it gives the illusion of being hyper-sexual.

Even the way that I accessorize the chains, I used Mr. T as a reference. There was a point where she was like “You’re choking me!” when I was adding more chains. [laughs] When it comes to videos, you want to be in that fantasy. It’s about feeling that level of escapism when you see that person’s look.

Are there any other places that you draw inspiration from?

Blaze: My favorite designer is John Galliano. I have this really big book at home, so when I’m stuck on a project, I just go through all the old Dior shows he designed. Whether it’s the way a corset has been layered or a leopard print that clashes with a billowing dress. It shouldn’t work, but then it does. Also, one of my favorite photographers is David LaChapelle.

So I always draw from those references. I think it is because of my university background. We always lived in archives — you can find every single magazine in their library. I like the idea of hyper-realism and things that you wouldn’t expect from certain artists — like a Marie Antoinette-style dress on a rap girl.

Steff, what is the vision you’re taking with your next project?

Don: It’s totally different from what I’ve done before. I’ve learned how to take people more on a journey and have records that cement my sound. I came with a lot of island vibes this time. I feel like as we get older, we change and have different outlooks on life. This project will show my growth and I’m super proud of it.

Seeing you elevate from “Hurtin Me” and being the first British rapper to cover XXL to where you are now, you’re not part of the rap conversation as much. Do you feel the same way?

Don: I agree. When I came up, it was just me and my manager — we had a little bit of label help but there wasn’t really a solid team. To make something globally successful and remain there, you have to have all these different avenues with people really riding for you. If I had the team doing the right things back then, then I guess I would be in the places that you think I should have been in. But it’s not too late. We’ve switched up the team now, learned from the mistakes and we’re going to come harder than ever.

×