Recently, Complex did a sneaker shopping video with Jonah Hill. He said in the video something to the effect of “Don't let people put you in clothes. Fuck that!” I thought it was interesting because everyone thinks he’s a style god. Do celebrities need stylists?
Campbell: It’s rare for me to ever talk about clients I work with. The way that Jonah expressed himself is the way that I want [celebrities] to feel. I don’t want people to know that I style or work with people. I love the fact that people can think that that artist came up with it on their own. That’s part of the magic of it, to me. I think it’s more important for people to buy into the artistic fantasy of the artist. I love thinking that an actress can walk down a red carpet and that is her personal style. But we broke that illusion by asking her who she’s wearing, and she says “My stylist.” And then the stylist posts on Instagram. Jonah Hill wants people to buy into that. I’m a real artist. I think that if he doesn't have a stylist, he has a really good publicist who can get him the things he needs. I’m going to look closer to see how he’s rocking it, and how he’s putting things together.
What looks have you created in tandem with a celebrity who has gone on to bigger things?
Campbell: I’ve had a pretty substantial career at this point. When I started my journey in styling, the first magazine that I was able to help create was Vibe magazine. Within Vibe, the idea of what hip-hop culture was supposed to represent didn’t necessarily work with my narrative of how I think it should be represented. So I added a lot of glam into what was then an industry based around a lot of realness and, I don't want to say ghetto attitude, because I don’t know what that means really, but more like a gangster rap aesthetic. Add skateboarding into hip-hop. Add snowboarding into hip-hop. Making the silhouettes really thin and sleek.
One of the shoots that I loved doing in the beginning, there were two that were very impactful. There was a clothing line called Sabotage, and it was all tech. I dedicated eight pages to an unknown brand that was all about the future of fashion. I wanted to use high-tech sneakers. I used soccer shoes that looked really modern, and I started a wave of high-tech looking sneakers.
And then I did a shoot that was called “Game Boy,” and it was a hybrid of all sports. I did snowboarding and hockey and rollerblading, and then people really started to embrace the hockey jersey in fashion. I shot Chanel for Vibe, and of course, Chanel and Vibe didn’t really go hand in hand. All of a sudden, you started to see hip-hop artists wearing the Chanel that I was shooting at Vibe in the early days, like Salt n’ Pepa in Chanel. And that was a huge thing back then.
Did you ever work with Obama?
Campbell: I will tell you this. I had the privilege of meeting the First Lady and the president and the First Lady has her own stylist. Obama is the president. He doesn’t have a stylist. He dresses the way he wants. If you do a shoot with him, and he’s wearing a tie that you don’t think is nice enough for the picture, you can let him know that maybe he should try another one. But it’s not something that you can insist on doing; you can just suggest it. I’m just saying, there are ways of working with people as powerful as the most powerful people in the world.