Meet Sam Russell.
This Texas native has been in Los Angeles working as a wardrobe and editorial stylist for the past ten years. Sam's company The Wardrobe Department specializes in providing a full range of clothing and accessories for both large and small scale projects. Sam uses his eye for style to ensure each project is nothing short of first-class.
Sam talked to us about his career and life in the City of Angels.
So, how did you get started? Was fashion always something you cared about or did this develop later on in life?
I was your typical teenager. I loved movies and fashion magazines and dreamed of seeing the world. I didn't grow up poor, but my mom was a widow with 3 boys; travelling was just not an option. I was discovered as a model by Page Parkes in Texas and started modeling/acting part time for extra money. An agent at her office (Vicki Snow) noticed my eye/passion for wardrobe & fashion and she groomed me to become a wardrobe stylist in Texas.
What was your first wardrobe related job? How did that go? How difficult is it to break into the industry?
My first paid job was styling ad campaigns for Academy Sports & Outdoors. The pay was horrible, but I was so eager to learn and build up a resume that I dove in head first. To break into the industry is all about developing personal relationships & separating your ego from the work. You have to manage a lot of different personalities and it's not always an easy thing to do.
Tell us about your work on TLC's "Ten Years Younger." How did you get hooked up with the show and what was your experience like?
To be honest, I was dating a producer. We were BOTH in-between gigs and spent the first month of our relationship going to the beach and loving life. He then booked TLC's "Ten Years Younger" as the executive producer and turned to me and said, "Want a job?" I had three shows to my credit and the rest just happened. Turns out the series lasted longer than our relationship. The crew was incredible and I met Jeannie Mai (host of Style's "How Do I Look?") on that set, and we became fast friends. I would not change a thing about any of it.
We understand you worked with Stevie Wonder in 2009. That must have been exciting! How did that happen?
I have a privacy agreement and can't go too far into all of that. I started working for his wife three years prior (aspiring fashion designer Kai Milla); she introduced me to Stevie. He is a magical man, very generous and he has a wicked sense of humor.
What's one of your fondest memories of working with Stevie?
Meeting such amazing people and the travel. First class all the way. I think I have met almost every celebrity on the planet through him. Greg Upshaw is Stevie's full time wardrobe stylist/image consultant. I just got very lucky to get in with that team while Greg was busy with other work.
Tell us a bit about the Wardrobe Department. How did you start the company and what exactly do you do?
We work on large scale and small scale productions. The Wardrobe Dept. images established celebrities and we help groom up-and-coming ingenues. We work with design teams to create custom outfits for some clients and spend a week on the phone with Barneys NY tracking down a specific gown. It's a lot of public relations and pulling together outfits for people that are either too busy or have no clue how to do so. Aside from TV shows, we work on commercials, industrials and print campaigns.
You recently surprised Shenee Crespo with $10,000 in fashion. Why her, and what was her reaction?
There is the most amazing woman in Lanacaster City, PA (Lisa Troy) who connected me to the non-profit that is helping Shenee get back on her feet. The Family Service League in Long Island mentioned this amazing survivor/role model when I approached them about this travelling mission I started. You can see the video of her reaction on the my web-site; she could not stop thanking me! She is a single mother of 5 and owned 2 pairs of shoes. It was easy to choose her. The Giving Closet is always looking for stories of people that need a hand-up, not a hand-out.
What sort of styles did you end up giving her?
I gave her a combination of day dresses and weekend attire. I wanted her to feel confident as a mom and be able to look her best when going to work. She has plans to return to school to become a lawyer and she has a few pieces in there to help with interviews as well. She is imaged for quite a long time! I can't just keep doing this for celebrities... REAL PEOPLE need me.
Is this something you intend on continuing?
I am working with a production company to turn this into a TV show. This type of platform will allow me to help more people in a shorter amount of time. I am here to prove that Fashion really does have a heart!