Style Dish: A delectable treat; fashion eaten out of the palm of your hand.
For our second main course of Style Dish, we introduce to you our favorite Southern bell known for his love affair with “volume, color, and pizzazz” designer/stylist, Anthony L. Williams. Celebrated for his cunning edge fashion sense and infamous one-liners, Anthony L. Williams captivated us on Project Runway Season 7 and Project Runway All Stars with his bubbly personality and skillful designs.
As the resident stylist of VH1’s hit reality show, Single Ladies, Anthony has mastered the art of the perfect silhouette, creating glamorous, contemporary looks with an impeccable fit. Anthony serves up his most stylish dish yet as chats about all things fabulous in life and style. The unforgettable designer reveals his exciting new venture with the Single Ladies 2 cast, addresses the Stacey Dash rumors, (was she really a diva on set?) and how to master Val’s signature vintage chic without breaking the bank, along with his coveted style secrets.
You definitely were a fan favorite on Project Runway season 7. We positively j’adored your infamous one-liners and your glamorous designs with a pristine fit.
Thank you, I appreciate that. It’s interesting looking back because of the way people saw me. If they ever wanted to know the real me as a person and as a true designer; I feel like Project Runway All Stars showed me as I truly am.
Let’s talk about that. What was the experience like for you on Project Runway All Stars?
I felt like Project Runway All Stars was a bit forced, if you will. I had a great number of reservations in moving forward with my contract on the show. I felt as if something was hovering over me and I just couldn’t shake it, but I pushed passed it and did it anyway. It was a nice experience. I met some amazing people and to be honest with you, I don’t think that competition was ever my fight--going into Project Runway All Stars was not about me competing. I don’t know why, but I just had that feeling going into the situation, and I most definitely had that same feeling coming out of the situation. It just wasn’t about me; there was a greater picture, a greater purpose. It was an opportunity for me to learn more about myself.
What was life like for you after Project Runway and All Stars?
The reality check of it all is that Project Runway has very little to do with the fashion industry. It’s very interesting, as it’s not really connected to the fashion industry in any capacity. I’ve been in a lot of seats where a lot of people don’t respect you because you were on the show. It was trying for me to figure out what to do after the show because in my hometown it was a big deal, but in the grand scheme of fashion, the insiders are like, ‘well, who are you?’ [Laughs] I’m a realist; people don’t make clothes like that. In the realm of fashion, that’s not how it really works, hand stitching wrap dresses, its just not happening.
You did have a great run though. [Laughs] How has the show impacted your career?
Life after Project Runway and All-Stars was difficult for me to be perfectly honest with you. At first, when Season 7 ended, I just didn’t know what to do. I stopped working at Neiman Marcus when I went on the show, and most people didn’t want to hire me. People were mainly fascinated by my presence on the show but weren’t necessarily interested in the actual product. I figured if the show made all this money off of me then I was going to find a way to make money off of myself. So I started marketing myself in different ways. God gets all the glory because I haven’t had to work for anyone else since Season 7. It’s a hustle; I just diversify myself. I don’t just make dresses, I am a brand. People pay for me to show up and deliver whatever it is I’m delivering because they’re paying for a piece of the Anthony Williams experience. I don’t take it for granted at all.
I know you’ve truly lived the rags to riches tale; born and raised in Birmingham Alabama living in poor living conditions. Tell me about your life growing up.
Growing up there was always a concern about food. We lived in a shot gun house. You could literally look through the front door and see the three rooms—the living room, the bedroom, and the bathroom were in the kitchen. As a child, I was never scared of a rat because there were so many on the floor that they became like a pet. My mother took care of my siblings and I the best she could. There was always a concern with our food because there was never enough. There was never enough of anything. Today, one thing that governs me now is that I can never watch someone else go hungry.
How did you fall in love with fashion?
A lot of people don’t know this but I can sing, and as a child, I would sing at this Baptist church and the clergy would give me money. That became one of my survival tactics. It was just enough money for me to go to the thrift store to get a few shirts and pants. I became known as the little boy who always looked nice, and I thought that was so weird that people thought I looked nice when everything I wore came from the thrift store. I learned to take the little things and make them beautiful. I would go to the women’s side of the store because their side of the store was busier than the men’s side of the store. I remember distinctly seeing all of these long sequin dresses. They were the most beautiful things I had ever seen, and I was attracted to the sparkle because as a child, I loved Christmas trees. From that point on, I fell in love with gowns. I wanted to be around them, I wanted to smell them, and I wanted to engulf in them. But that’s the thing about evening wear; it’s all about fantasy. A gown is never functional! I don’t give a darn how functional it is, it’s still not functional! [Laughs] You can’t go jogging in a gown. I think that fantasy became my great escape for my reality. One of my elementary school teachers said something to me and it stuck with me for the rest of my life. She said, ‘Anthony, you’ve been taking nothing and turning it into something for so long that you’re prepared to do it for the rest of you life.’
Let’s talk about your venture as a stylist on VH1 Single Ladies. As you know the world went crazy for Val’s wardrobe played by former cast member, Stacey Dash during season one. How did you land your stylist’s role on the show?
I know this is probably going to blow you away, but I had no clue what I was doing with Stacey Dash. The producers called me and said that they were having some problems with the wardrobe, and in less than five minutes they told me that Stacey Dash was going to need assistance with her fitting. Mind you, I was just coming to have a consultation, and I was told that Stacey would not look at any other stuff in the fitting unless I was there. I went into this particular fitting which took place five minutes after I was just sitting in this producer’s office, still negotiating whether I wanted to do it or not, because I had only designed for people, but had never styled anyone. When I went into the fitting, Stacey rejected most of the things because she just didn’t like them. We then scheduled another fitting in a few days, and honey, I have never seen a woman glow from the inside out like Stacey Dash did. That was the first time I submitted her board and every look was approved.
What was the experience like working with Stacey?
Despite the rumors and everything you’ve probably heard about her, Stacey Dash is not a diva. I loved working with Stacey Dash because she educated me. The producers of the show kind of threw me in there, it was a sink and swim moment, and I thank them for that because Stacey taught me how to make her look amazing. I remember she had her assistant buy me the first season of Sex and the City. She told me to observe the garments, and taught me not to buy the dress where the greatness of the dress is at the hemline, as producers usually want to shoot from the breast up. Stacey presented an undeniable level of great professionalism. She was on time, no matter what was going on Stacey Dash never made you wait. She was always ready. Working with her was a great learning opportunity for me.
How can we get Val’s look on a budget?
Always go vintage! We used a lot of Zara Runway, Top Shop, and Chanel. If you find any store in New York that has Zara Runway you have hit gold. Believe it or not, I flew to New York to shop for Val’s looks; Century 21 had a lot of great pieces as well. Overall, Stacey Dash really wasn’t a label whore about things. [Laughs] She really loved vintage; she really loved when we could chop and screw stuff. I didn’t really shop at Neiman Marcus a lot. A lot of times when I would bring her stuff from Neiman’s she hated it. Not that there’s anything against Neiman’s, but she didn’t want anything that looked tangible. Her wardrobe was very affordable. We really reconciled her budget by not buying accessories. I put her in one charm bracelet, and we had three different earrings, like diamond studs and a classic necklace. I really didn’t invest a lot in accessories because I felt like at that point in a woman’s life of her caliber, she would probably invest a lot in her jewelry and just wear the same pieces everyday. Stacey wore her own shoes. She wore Christian Louboutins, and believe it or not, we only had about six pairs of shoes! [Laughs]. We just changed the clothes.
Will you be returning for Single Ladies season 2?
I am working on the show. Although I am not styling any of the ladies this season, I did a lot of the set work in the boutique for the back drop of the show. I always dress the mannequins so if you see something this season that looks off that wasn’t my work. [Laughs] There’s a scene coming up in episode 5 of season 2 where I actually play the role of the guest designer. I actually have a walk on role playing myself on the show, which is really exciting!
What other projects do you have in the works?
I am working on my own pilot for my own television show now. I can tell you that the show will give a voice to the voiceless. It will be a life changing show, that’s all I can reveal at this time. I am also trying to move to L.A. so I’m not trying to create too many projects right now. I also travel as one of the fashion directors for Macy’s as well. So between traveling for Macy’s and my appearances and bookings, along with the work I do on Single Ladies, and writing and creating the pilot for my own show, I’m really kind of booked these days.
What are some of the do’s and don’t as far as summer trends for women?
I think yellow is such a pretty color, but there are so many different shades of yellow that sometimes it’s so hard to pull off. I think women need to figure out what shade of yellow works best for them. I notice going into summer that women are still wearing dark polish. I am the biggest fan of OPI Linkin Park After Dark but I don’t think it’s something you should take into the summer.
For the woman on a budget, what stores do you suggest should become her fashion muse?
H&M has some really gorgeous staple pieces in fun, bright colors. For the girl who is looking for that pop up color right now I am down with H&M and Forever 21 for the girl on a budget. Forever 21 has these amazing sparkly rectangular shaped bracelets in blue, pink, and lime green. We actually used a few of them on Single Ladies.
What staple pieces should every woman have in her closet?
A fabulous bag! If a woman just throws on a pair of jeans, a tank, or a crisp white shirt, and a good bag then her outfit is haute. I am obsessed with all Prada handbags right now because they are full of life and color! As a matter of fact, when I got eliminated from Project Runway All Stars, I went to the Prada store and brought myself a bag. I think that every woman should invest in one good bag. I am also a fan of Giuseppe Zanotti’s. If you can afford Giuseppe’s then I say go ahead and treat yourself. For the woman who can’t afford Giuseppe’s I would encourage them to try buying a pair of sandals that give off the appeal of a pair of Giuseppe’s and maybe try adding a few broaches on the front of your shoes. It will add sparkle and give your shoe a haute upgrade.
Can you share with us some of your fabulous style secrets in creating the perfect silhouette?
It’s all about a good foundation. I think you’ve got to respect the underwear of it all. A woman must wear the right bra. Ladies, you don’t get a free pass because you have a large chest and you want to wear a strapless dress. No panty lines. I absolutely recommend Seven Jeans, I think they are amazing. I think they shape you up in an amazing way.
With all of your success, at the end of the day, what gives your life meaning?
What gives my life meaning is who I am when no one else is around. I am very concerned about facing myself at the beginning and at the end of each day. I’m concerned about who I am outside of my home. I need to make sure that I can face myself, and respect the man looking back at me in the mirror. I have to think about the things I say in this interview, I have to think about how I treat people because the worst thing in the world is to not be able to face yourself. And that’s my biggest fear in the grand scheme of things, and I see it more often than not. I see people who cannot face themselves because they are not proud of the person that they’ve become, and I am determined not to become one of those people.
Single Ladies Season 2 Premiers on VH1 Monday, May 28 at 9/8c
Follow Anthony L. Williams on Twitter: @sewAnthony
BY: EBOYNE' JACKSON