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Esskayji on styling Humble the Poet for Canada Reads
As a stylist and designer I often try to incorporate messages and images into my outfits and styling Humble the Poet for Canada Reads was going to be no different! When Humble approached me about styling him, we discussed the concept of the show, which eventually lead to him talking about the book he had chosen to champion: Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis. I thought it was only appropriate to incorporate certain themes from Fifteen Dogs into Humble’s style for the show – to give him a leg up on the competition and, of course, as some eye candy!
When Humble first met André, he asked the author to sum up his book in three words, to which André responded, ‘Gods, dogs, and death.’ That definitely hit the feels! These words described the book perfectly. So when Humble and I discussed looks a few weeks before the show, I suggested the possibility of including a dog theme in his outfits and he brought up these three words. I immediately wanted to have the words written on a shirt for the very first episode of the show, but also wanted him to go for a professional, suited look for the first day. So we did both – I bought some iron-on letters and had Humble help me iron them onto the centre of the shirt. Using different fonts and some artistic license, we came up with a great tee that summed up Fifteen Dogs perfectly. Paired with a light blue linen suit, our crisp, white statement tee looked great.
But we weren’t done yet! Since we weren’t voted off, Humble had to come back the second day with another dog tee. I love to have my clients showcase diversity with their looks, so the second day we went with a more casual look. Humble wore a pair of black skinny jeans, a gold turban, and a denim boat-neck button up, which had a little puppy in the pocket. This shirt was also custom made. I initially wanted to have Humble wear a dress shirt with dogs on it when he told me the title of his book. This was difficult to find so I had to get creative and come up with a way to make it myself, while still having it look great on television. I found the iron-on puppy and, with Humble’s help, we decided to take the iron-on route again. This particular shirt was a fan favourite. I have to say that placing the puppy in the pocket of the shirt was Humble’s idea, though!
Humble avoided elimination again on day two! For day three, I wanted to retain the diversity in looks, while also making a different statement in this episode. Ditching the dog theme for day three, Humble wore an authentic African Dashiki, paired with black skinnies and a pink turban. This look was a simple ‘one love’ look, showcasing what Humble is all about: spreading love and light. Normalizing and accepting diversity in fashion is also an important aspect of the message I like to spread via styling.
Celebrations began as Fifteen Dogs made it to the final episode of Canada Reads! For the last day, we definitely wanted to end with a bang and a message of power and inclusivity. Humble had suggested a shirt with the statement ‘Be Your Own Hero’ in our initial conversation. It was one of many ideas we had shared, but I wanted to be sure that it would resonate, so I waited until the third day to make the shirt. Again, we ironed on the statement in the centre of a black tee, which was eventually paired with a navy checkered suit and sky-blue turban. This was the perfect winning outfit; sharing a universal message that was not only applicable to André’s book, but all the books, the theme of the show, and, of course, Humble himself.
It was important to both of us to tell a story with Humble’s outfits. As artists, that’s what we do: shares stories through our respective arts, whether that be the art of writing or creating memorable looks in fashion. In this case, Fifteen Dogs made that easy to do.
Esskayji is a celebrity and personal stylist and creative consultant who believes in expressing emotions via fashion. ‘You are a canvas, paint as you please’ is her motto and she believes that we can overcome many self-confidence and security issues by focusing on our style choices.