Let's talk Llewellyn Jenkins. From his somewhat mythic ascent through the fashion ladder with touchstone accomplishments to the modern-day pied piper that he's become without whom some of today's stars won't make a sartorial move. Everyone from E! Networks to Iman has benefited from Mr. Jenkins' uniquely trained eye, fastidious attention to the fashion-forward and the easy-going manner at which he administers chic strokes of visual genius on the couture monde. His fashion vocabulary and access runs the gamut- from the haute (Balenciaga, Hermes and Kieselstein) to the hot (Rick Owens, Jil Sander and underground sleeper designer Andrew Nowell) with all the stops in between.
Speaking on Llewellyn's contributions to the industry has a danger of sounding like its bragging on his accomplishments-almost even name dropping. However, it was HIS haute handwriting that was felt on Ebony magazines first beauty cover. With direction from beauty editor Alfred Fornay and Llewellyn manning the styling, the Wilhelmina model at the time sat with chunky turquoise jewelry adorning her neck, fingers and wrists, a salmon Whittal and Shon wide-rimmed straw hat complementing a Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress. This would serve as Llewellyn's first entry onto the fashion tableau and that would start him on his journey. The model would go on to be known as B. Smith, model, restaurateur/lifestyle guru.
It was this particular fashion penmanship that was sought after to visually interpret fashion stories, from his history-making post at Cosmopolitan as well as for stories in international Vogue magazines and other fashion bibles. It was his sartorial stamp that was sought. It was him.
Born in the Mojave Desert and raised all across the country, Llewellyn fought the urge to come to New York until his Morehouse College commencement, when the urge became obsession and destiny. In his teens he would steal away from his Baltimore home on Saturdays, telling his mother he was going to a friend's home and making the detour to Grand Central. Just getting off the bus and watching the cosmopolitan New Yorker in all of his splendor was enough for Llewellyn, as most times he didn't even leave the confines of the bus station before boarding the jitney back to Baltimore. He would replay all the scenes of urban grit and glamour in his head over and over until he was able to steal away again and collect more inspirational images to be mentally stored. Thus the decision to move to New York City was a foregone conclusion for him by the time he had matriculated through Morehouse. Fresh out of school, Llewellyn found himself between the hours of nine and five toiling in the conservative halls of a law firm. His chance meeting with style icon and renowned makeup artist Byron Barnes would change that. Barnes' casual perusal of Llewellyn's nuanced style choices and easy command of the fashion scene were enough to convince him to proclaim "You will be a STYLIST!" In short order Llewellyn was sent to Barnes' uncle at Ebony (who was editor at the time), and Jenkins' first styling job was sealed- this resulted in the aforementioned first beauty cover for Ebony. After that, the number-crunching and brief-filing at the law firm didn't stand a chance against the creative whirlwind that would envelope him.
Llew lived the sort of mythic life in New York that autobiographies such as Madonna and Diana Vreeland expound upon with great detail; that of being utterly creative and being surrounded by the cultural zeitgeist at an age when most of his peers had not figured out who they were and what they wanted to do with their lives. He would regale his hometown friends with tales of styling SO AND SO at SO AND SO and being asked to shoot beauty campaigns for SO AND SO with nary a hint of self-aggrandizement; this was not a selling point for him, it was just what he was born to do- his DESTINY. He apparently was also destined to be at the Zoli agency (simultaneously on the men's board AND the style division) and to do an exhibit at the Smithsonian. His client roster has included the young and fabulous from the past, but also includes some of Hollywood's latest incarnation of A-list stars, who have benefited and continue to benefit from Llew's grand touch. Even the cast of characters from that pop cultural giant known as BET (perhaps his most well-known and longest single post) sing his praises, from Free and AJ on the seminal "must see" television program "106 and Park" to Big Tigger on "Rap City" and BET host and recording artist Ray J. All have learned to not only appreciate fashion, but to cultivate their own style. "Fashion is of the moment", Jenkins has been known to say, "but style is forever".
Although accomplished beyond what most stylists will ever reach, it is that southern gentlemen's affectation that keeps Llew's world view grounded and his fashion eye open. It is this same affectation that keeps his name on the lips of everyone in the know and under the radar of those pop culture junkies that follow his clients' every move. He dresses the movers and shakers without being caught up in the paparazzi-oriented mania that his styling inspires. Many people have seen his visions, but not his visage. He has almost intentionally been able to work unrecognized to many outside of the industry while becoming essential to those who work inside.
So what's next for Mr. Jenkins? Although currently serving as fashion director for new upstarts YO! TV and Pulse magazine, he still handles freelancing projects on an individual basis. What's most interesting is- according to Llewellyn- though he has admittedly done a lot, he hasn't even begun to fully expand his creative wings yet and is always excited about the challenge of the next project. He handles runway, editorial and television with such aplomb that he can basically write his own ticket in many ways. You never know where you'll find Mr. Jenkins' name, until your appreciation of a brilliantly-styled layout in a magazine leads you to read the fine print on who did the styling or until the clothing a particular person on television wears leads you to wait for the closing credits to see who put that look together. A lot of those times, the name you will find at the end of both will be Llewellyn Jenkins.