In Los Angeles, it’s more than having talent. It’s about understanding the importance of hard work and surrounding yourself with the right team. Who are you building with? How will you collectively work to bring your vision to life? With passion and strategy you can make great things happen. For Maricel Meneses, an emerging stylist behind your favorite new artists including rappers Jay IDK and SuperDuperKyle, she understands the importance of this and is just getting started. As a Los Angeles native with an extensive background in streetwear working for streetwear labels HLZBLZ and Dimepiece LA and mastering her craft with Top Dawg Entertainment, Maricel knows what that elevating your hustle is all about putting in the time and dedication. Currently working as the merchandise marketing for Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) and a styling assistant, we spoke with Maricel to talk about her journey so far, the importance of building with the right team and her favorite spots in Los Angeles to find inspiration:
LA Pulse Mag: How did you get into your current career? What words of advice would you give to those interested in getting in the same hustle as yourself?
Maricel Meneses: I was always into fashion growing up. My mom refused to buy my sisters and I toys to play with because she thought they just made the house messy (I know, weird, I think?), but always took us shopping! I hated that, but now I'm thankful for it because I probably wouldn't have gotten into this industry otherwise. In regards to streetwear, my older sister played a lot (if not only) hip-hop around the house when I was a kid. That definitely played a factor in the type of fashion I got into as an adult. My first experience in this industry was interning for women's streetwear brand HLZBLZ. I was a sales intern there and learned how to find wholesale accounts and close sales.
The next summer I actually became the wholesale coordinator for another women's streetwear brand Dimepiece LA. I wasn't even looking for a job! This is while I was going to school full time pursuing social work, which I now have my B.A in. While I was in school, I just pursued fashion for fun. I worked little retail jobs and looked for internships. I actually started off as an intern at Dimepiece too and 2 months after interning, I notified them I had to resign because that semester I had to have a mandatory internship that was related to my major, which Dimepiece obviously was not. They then offered me the wholesale coordinator position, which was great because I was able to quit my retail job and I split my time in the campus library working on homework and closing sales or would go to the office on days I got out early from class.
Two years later in my senior year of college, Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) was looking for assistance in their merchandise department. I was a huge TDE fan and applied right away. By this time, I already had a lot of experience and knowledge in fashion and streetwear, which impressed them. I then quit Dimepiece and after graduation only had TDE on my schedule, which I hated because I'm someone who has to be busy every second of every day. I was with TDE for maybe 7 or 8 months by this time and started learning more about the team behind an artist and became interested in styling. Without a good stylist, it is hard to completely elevate an entertainers career. So I started emailing different stylist and actually only got one response. It was from Debbie Gonzales, who I now assist and who taught me literally everything. I am so grateful for her! Side note: it was perfect that we began working together because she cares about social justice just as much as I do and does tons of volunteer work. Because of her, I am able to live out both of my passions. Anyway, I interned for a couple of months, left TDE after 2 years and then became her assistant.
The advice I would give to those interested in getting in the same hustle would be to work hard, have patience, don't be entitled, build genuine relationships and intern, intern, intern! I would not have had big opportunities if it wasn't for interning. Even though I had paid positions, I still took on an internship even after I graduated college. This is definitely an industry where you will have to pay your dues, multiple times. You are going to have to make a lot of sacrifices. It really depends how bad you want it!
What was the most exciting project/projects you worked on?
I just did my first VMA's! That was major for me since growing up the VMA's was a big award show for our generation. I assisted Debbie with styling Super Duper Kyle and Noah Cyrus. Both of them looked so bomb! Earlier in the summer, I was part of the styling team for Big Sean's looks for YG's "Big Bank". Those are probably the biggest projects I've done for styling so far. Also, Noah's feature in Hypebae was a significant project for me too because I've been following them for forever. At TDE, I made some mock packages for Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. merchandise. They didn't go into production or anything, but it was cool to even be in a position for that.
What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?
Not to be scared, not to quit when something is hard and that being assertive is not being mean. Tons of experiences have taught me those same lessons over and over again. I am someone who always had to do everything perfect the first time doing it. Being scared of not being perfect has stopped me from doing so many things in the past and I absolutely regret it. It's a gift and a curse because it makes me perform as an overachiever because I make sure there's no room for any criticism, but it definitely is not always that serious.
My first day of college was a full day (literally it was like a 8 hour class because we only met once a week and it was 4 hours of learning and 4 hours of "lab") of a sewing class. I am someone who is not gifted with anything that requires physical coordination. In 8th grade, our teacher was really into knitting and required all of us to buy supplies to knit and I hated it because it would stress me out that I wasn't perfect or familiar with it. I used to get intimidated really easily. We did like 7 hours of learning that day and 1 hour of playing with the sewing machine and I was STRESSED. I literally dropped that class the same night. I am so mad at myself for that because now that I'm in styling that is such a valuable skill that I'm currently learning. And it was all because of fear! Definitely don't quit because you're scared or because it is hard. All experiences are useful! Overtime you'll learn, so these things won't be "hard" in like a week or a month honestly.
You will be taken advantage of in this industry if you aren't assertive. You will be walked all over and never paid. That's all I can really say. It's super straight forward. Oh also, set boundaries. I was just an "Ok, ok, ok" person for the longest time because I did not want to ruin opportunities. No. Lol.
Describe a normal day working on your craft.
Most people think styling is so glamorous and just putting an outfit together. There is so much more to it than that! You one, have to be really organized. Sometimes you'll have 8 showroom appointments and a few store pulls in one day and in order to stay on top of it, you have to have time management, plan your day geographically and keep in mind the wardrobe budget. It's a lot of driving, answering emails in between driving and visiting showrooms for incoming pieces and making sure you meet deadlines with brands/showrooms to ship on time for the event, keeping up to date with tracking. Honestly, it's a perfect work day for someone like me who has be stressed 24/7 lol just kidding.
On brainstorming days, it's much more chill. It's a lot of reading up on the Vogues, Hypebeasts, Highsnobiety sites to learn about upcoming collections or just browsing the web for hours looking for new cool brands. Styling is a 24/7 hour job, which I love! Also, styling is the most physically demanding job I've EVER had! I think that aspect surprises a lot of people. Sometimes you have to carry 5 full garment bags over your shoulders and walk 2 big blocks in Downtown Los Angeles because there's no parking. I'm 5'1" and do not work out at all, so I don't necessarily have muscles built for this but you gotta get it done!
Did you have any mentors growing up?
Mentors in fashion growing up, no not really. Mentors in my work ethic, yes. My mom has been a single mom since I was in the 4th grade and even before then, always worked multiple jobs. From when I was in grade school to my earlier college years she worked from 8am-11pm, took my sisters and I to school every morning and picked us up from school between jobs, would drop us off then go to a new shift. Maybe that's where I get my "I have to work 24/7" mentality from now that I think of it. She mentored me without even knowing, I guess. But my oldest sister, Michelle, definitely made sure I worked hard and went for what I wanted but in a smart way.
I do have mentors now though that guide me through all the craziness of this industry. Obviously, Debbie who I previously mentioned. She's the greatest! But I do give credit to my boss at TDE, Matt Genius and an old coworker of mine at Dimepiece, Janelle Hethcoat. The three of them make sure I do what is best for my personal wellness and professional life too. Janelle is the definition of a real boss and is someone I aspire to be as I continue to grow. She's so fearless and just always know what to do! I can be really indecisive and she will snap me back into my senses. Matt talked me through a lot of my growing pains. Like I mentioned a couple times, this industry can be a tough one. Without Matt reminding me that everything happens for a reason and that I should always look out for myself, I would not have surpassed a lot of my fears.
What's your next hustle?
I've covered a lot of departments in fashion: buying, wholesale, merchandise marketing, e-commerce and obviously of course now styling. As of now, styling is where I really want to grow. I do want to continue my own personal client list and make history somehow in streetwear. I'm still figuring that out and growing. I can't even think of the future because I'm so focused on succeeding here. Designing would be cool.
Any favorite underrated spots in Los Angeles for shooting or finding fashion inspiration?
I do know overrated spots: those painted pink walls with wings. Half kidding.. To be honest, I really think for fashion photos the simpler the better for backgrounds. You want the outfit to be the main focus, not really where you are. Find some cool, clean and simple walls and let your outfit define the photo! As far as fashion inspiration, I go back in time a lot. I look at old magazines, watch old music videos and just google a lot. Inspiration can come from anywhere though if you really are present in the moment.
Check out more of Maricel Meneses’ work on her website: MaricelMeneses.com