You can’t keep up with Mikiel Benyamin if you wanted to: 22-years-old with his own office in Midtown Manhattan, directing a small team of assistants and interns, signed to Wilhelmina Artist Agency, and what’s more? He gets to collaborate with the likes of Cardi B (peep the archival glamour goodness Mikiel put together for the “Bodak Yellow” video) and Keke Palmer (think: those edgy NYFW looks she pulled this past winter).
The young stylist has paved the way by setting himself to a high standard; he studied up with internships in the fashion industry, built a network, then trusted himself enough to make it on his own — and he did. Although Mikiel explained that New York “kinda adopted” him after he moved here from Egypt at the age of 11, it almost seems as if he adopted New York.
The FADER caught up with Mikiel fresh off of grinding for an upcoming project — “we’re talking pulling clothes from roughly 50 different brands.” Over the phone he talked about his work ethic, the best look he ever created, working with Cardi B, and who he’d love to work with next.
When did you decide to become a stylist? How did you make it happen?
I actually went to Business School, so what I learned before has nothing to do with what I do today. You just have to know where you’re headed to and have a grip on how to get there. I’m the kind of person who sets goals for themselves. Everything I do has a goal behind it — to get somewhere bigger, or book a bigger client, just go bigger for myself.
I always knew I wanted to be a stylist. I started to intern for a really long time so I could get the hands-on experience learning from people. One of the best learning experiences I had was at NYLON Magazine — I love, love, love the team there. I owe a lot of my success to the lovely team. I learned so much from them and understood so much about this industry through working with them. I did that for a while, then after I thought that I had learned enough to take it on by myself and started to book my own clients.
How did you take that leap and find your own clients?
When I turned 22, I had been styling for a while, so I presented myself to some managers and celebrities that I knew. From there, I started working and it really turned into something bigger than I would’ve imagined — it’s really overwhelming, but I am really thankful for it.
So how did you and Cardi B link up?
I knew Cardi’s publicist and got connected. It happened very naturally. They liked what I was doing. I feel like my style is very streetwear-New York-meets-glamour and there were key ways to put [looks] together. We kind of collaborated and made this huge moment in fashion — everyone was looking at models and then things shifted and now everyone’s looking at rappers. The relationship built organically.
Can you tell us a bit about your process for styling her "Bodak Yellow” video?
I styled half of the video — the looks in Dubai, in the desert are styled by Laquan Smith and his team. The looks we did together were in the restaurant — the Valentino — and the Nicole Miller chair scene, which we wanted to make grungy, and went very streetwear. For the restaurant we wanted to make it super high glamour, like nothing that’s out right now, stuff you can’t get your hands on as a stylist or celebrity. We tried to get as much as possible from archives and runways in the 2000s — stuff that’s super rare. The transparent Valentino look is from, I want to say, 2007 or ‘08 runway, not sure. It’s archived from them.
That’s so dope. I feel like Cardi also does a great job of incorporating up-and-coming designers into her wardrobe. Can you speak to that?
I love doing that, I love doing new designers. I also do that with Keke Palmer and Chantal Jeffries. New brands — not only can you help them out, but they can help you out — they’re mostly from Instagram. When you find a brand that is like so good that you’re like I don’t know why this is not on a runway, I feel it’s an injustice to just scroll past it. For example, Human Aliens is actually a brand Cardi stumbled upon on Instagram and showed me, then I reached out [to them] and requested a bunch of looks that she had been wanting to wear. I always build those relationships with new brands because you never know, like someone who’s on Instagram today could have the best runway and sell at all the stores — Dover Street Market, Barney’s, VFIles, and Opening Ceremony — in like three years.
Speaking of Keke Palmer, you played a major role in her edgy fashion moments during NYFW in February. How did that come to be?
Me and Keke connected over my work and wanted to do work together and make something in fashion, such a collaborative effort. She’s someone I admire. Her work ethic — she’s worked so hard for so many years, which explains her super long career. Literally 15 years in this industry, and everyone loves her. We reached out and everyone let her in and loved her and wanted her at their fashion week shows. When I get to work with someone like that, I’m super grateful.
One of my absolute favorite looks to this day is Keke in this powder, baby blue outfit. It was an upcoming designer, Namilia — I love them so much — and she wore a fur jacket by Helen Yarmak. It was a huge, grand moment. It’s my favorite to this day, I don’t know how I’ll top that.
Well you have big things on the horizon; you were recently signed to Wilhelmina Artist Agency. How did you build this relationship? How does it feel?
We were reaching out and we got something back, we went in for a meeting and they liked what I had to offer and they signed me as an artist. So we work together to make my work stronger and strengthen me as a stylist in the fashion industry. However, even for models they have to book themselves — not everything I do I get from them, and not everything I do I get for myself. But, it’s been really cool, I’m so excited to see what we can do together. I love my bookers from there, love the agency — they really do mean business — they’re one of the best out there right now.
What do you envision for yourself next?
I definitely feel like I’m growing in this industry, but I want the glow up process to continue. I’m excited to see who I land next. My dream client — and I know it’s not going to happen, I’m literally 22 [years old] at the end of the day — is Gaga. I absolutely love her. When I was a teenager she changed my life. She’s one of the biggest reasons I got into the fashion business. I would definitely love to work with her. In general, I love young, strong women that are just paving the way and doing something different in the industry, not looking so regular — just wanting to give a good fashion statement. That’s what I love in a client.