An unpopular Bay Area stigma is that residents tend to be slackin’ on the fashion front, yet that couldn’t be further from the truth. True, Northern California may be on a different kind of tip than its Southern counterparts, but where Los Angeles may be purveyors of fashion that exists on trend, the Bay Area takes part in maintaining classic looks to go with its classy demeanor. Though definitive in nature, this is still California and norms are meant to be broken. This is where San Francisco stylist Rap Sarmiento blurs the lines between glam and urban, traditional and contemporary. Whether it’s styling himself or a client, seamlessly blending different styles is Rap’s forte, complete with adding finishing touches of polish and flair always cued to the right levels in his looks. We caught up with Rap to talk about how he turns every outfit to an alphet by adding his personal touch and key fashion essentials. Hit the jump for the full feature.
For the readers out there who aren’t familiar with the particulars yet, please tell us about yourself.
My name is Rap Sarmiento. I’m a stylist and creative consultant based in San Francisco. I love collaborating on projects with other creatives to help each grow both artistically and in business. I’m a bit of a health nut but French fries are my weakness. I enjoy a good turn up as much as rolling one up and vibin’ out.
How did you get into styling?
I’ve been in love with style since I was five. In college, I would pick out looks for my friend who is a musician whenever she had a show. But it all really started when I got into taking #OOTDs. I pushed myself to try new things and also looked at my fits critically to see what I can do better. I started producing shoots starring me styled by me. Then it grew to me styling and producing shoots for other people. I definitely used social media to my advantage. I’ve been able to work on some really amazing projects with super talented people.
What’s a personal touch that you like to add to outfits whenever you’re styling someone?
There will always be some element of gangsta luxe — I use patterns and textures heavily and mix it up with a little bit of throwback West Coast flavor. I like to imagine that I live in a Fresh Prince of Bel Air meets Scarface (okay, that’s Miami but you get the picture) kind of world.
What is your style philosophy?
Styling is storytelling by using fashion to make a statement, evoke emotions, and provoke a reaction. My styling is eclectic but well-assembled for both personal styling and project styling. I tell people, “Do you.” Be confident in what you wear and let your freak flag fly; Harry Winston said, “People will stare. Make it worth their while.” Confidence is everything so you have to be comfortable in what you’re wearing, but also not afraid to test your limits. Trends are not a bad thing, the key is to personalize it. I also believe that while dressing how you want, everyone would benefit from a little polishing. Whether it’s some tailoring, finding that perfect shade of red, or learning how to roll a cuff properly.
Who are some of your style inspirations or icons?
So many. Prince, James Dean, Pharrell, A$AP Rocky, Karl Lagerfeld, Tom Ford, Aaliyah, Rihanna, Tony Montana, and Ryan Philippe in Cruel Intentions. I think what’s common among them is this IDGAF attitude. They take classic pieces and looks then turn them upside-down. It all goes back to being fearless in what you wear.
Name some of your fashion essentials.
Lint roller, steamer and a great tailor. Fit is everything and tailoring your clothes can take your off the rack purchase to the next level. Also, accessories! Invest in a simple timeless watch – SAY NO TO MICHAEL KORS – that will upgrade every outfit. Make sure to at least have a white cotton pocket square so your blazer/sport coat/suit jacket pocket is never naked. Build a foundation of classic pieces first, then work in seasonal and trendy pieces.
What are some of the best and worst trends out right now?
I’m all about the athleisure look that started a few years ago and in the past year has really taken off. It works especially well in the Bay Area weather because it incorporates easy, light layers that vary in formality to tailor your look to time of the day. The worst trend? I wouldn’t say it’s the worst, but Birkenstocks are just not for me. Sandals belong on Jesus and at the beach. I would rather see dope sneakers. Oh and still don’t get grey hair. I get the lavenders and pale blues, but grey? Why speed up the aging process?
Any fashion regrets that you have?
Oh so many. Early college years were the worst. I was just hella extra; not that I’m not still extra, but I’ve learned that a little bit of restraint goes a long way.
If you had to wear only one outfit from now on, what would it consist of?
Black jeans, white slouch tee, black perfecto, aviators, and a tan suede Chelsea boot. All of which would be Saint Laurent except the white slouch tee. That would be T by Alexander Wang. And my daily jewelry – watch, bangle, ring, earrings. Effortlessly edgy yet timeless.
To see more of Rap’s work, visit his website at rapsarmiento.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @rapisoffensive.
Photos by: Melissa Catahan