ROCKET had the unique experience of working with Bliss Foster, a stylist from Richmond, Virginia, and a character all his own, for the cover of Volume VIII, Issue 2. Managing Editor Emmel El-Fiky spoke with him about his work in fashion, his perceptions on recent changes in the industry, and his plans for the future. To keep up with Bliss and his latest venture, follow him on Instagram @blissfoster for even more innovative content.
Looking at him, it makes sense that Bliss Foster, a 28-year-old from Marietta, Georgia who is currently based in Richmond, Virginia, is a stylist. With his half-shaved, half-easybreezy long hairstyle and the affinity for colorful accessories and unusual silhouettes, he exudes a kind of knowledgeable coolness that only someone who really knows what he’s talking about could possibly embody. Working with him for our Spring/Summer 2018 cover, it was incredible to watch Bliss’s expertise come to life, with his never-ending excitement for ROCKET and for the project before us. It was equally interesting to learn about how he got to this point in his career, and how he felt about his place within the fashion industry.
Hailing from Marietta, a suburb about an hour outside of Atlanta, in the mid-90s, it was hard for Bliss to find an interesting source of fashion inspiration. “I love that place and the people I grew up around, but I didn’t like how everyone dressed. Except for the mall goths – those kids knew.” He found most of his teenage inspiration just from talking with other people online who had the same self-proclaimed nerdy interests in all things fashion and design. In college, the goal was to push the limit of possibility as far as he could stylistically, purely to see what he could create, even if it didn’t seem to have direction. “I stenciled the word ‘KAKISTOCRACY’ into the back of a heavy canvas army jacket I had, and all my shoes were laced in a different weird way… my aim was to see how far I could push the narrative that was imbued into the clothes I wore.”
“I stenciled the word ‘KAKISTOCRACY’ into the back of a heavy canvas army jacket I had, and all my shoes were laced in a different weird way… my aim was to see how far I could push the narrative that was imbued into the clothes I wore.”
This desire to challenge expectations of the fashionable norm led Bliss to becoming a stylist for VICTIM15, a Richmond-based design house headed by Shareef Mosby. According to Bliss, Shareef’s offer to let him create a lookbook for a recent collection was the first opportunity of its kind that he’d encountered, and it really let him flourish, and come into his own as far as establishing himself in the industry. “I’m super thankful for that. Shareef is a full Renaissance Man and an absolute creative machine.”
One question I had about his work as a stylist was whether or not Bliss could exact any kind of creative flourish in the projects he worked on. In response, Bliss noted that “if a stylist has a recognizable signature, they’re not doing their job well.” He explained that, on a shoot, his work was less artistic and more oriented around problem-solving. A designer has a certain vision for presenting their creations, and it is the job of the stylist to make that vision a reality. “It’s not about me and what I want everyone to wear, it’s about picking the right clothes to accomplish the goal.” That fact being acknowledged, there are definitely things Bliss likes to utilize in his work, namely bright colors, unusual shapes, and the kind of outfits people might wear if they’re feeling particularly bold.
This partiality for the wilder side of style definitely showed itself during this shoot for the cover. The clothes Bliss put our cover model, Gabby Reilly, in were nothing short of alluring. Chunky knit vests, yarn flowers and fringed sweaters next to firey flared sleeves and royal blue bell-bottoms at the bottom of an empty pool? Right up Bliss’s alley. In speaking about the genres fashion can sometimes constrain itself within, such as “couture,” “hipster,” “classic,” etc., Bliss was quick to mention his dislike for labels – “Most fashion categories are too broad to be useful anyway.” He prefers to keep things as unrestricted as possible, for the less restraints a person’s style has, the freer the mobility one has to experiment with all that is new and exciting in fashion, while also leaving room for personal innovation. “No labels – for me [or] my work; if it’s consistent enough to categorize, I’ve stayed there too long,” he explains.
“No labels – for me [or] my work; if it’s consistent enough to categorize, I’ve stayed there too long.”
While resisting definition, Bliss takes much inspiration from his industry contemporaries. He lists designer Geoffrey B. Small, author Mark Z. Danielewski, the Dark Souls series of video games, the DJ Black Madonna, and Kanye West (“duh”) as some of his most prominent sources of creative intrigue, that help shape his work as well as his outlook on life. Specifically referring to the Dark Souls video games, Bliss describes the series as a confusing but artistically-metaphorical representation of life itself. “There’s still a lot of debate online about what’s actually going on in the series. Most people finish the games and have no idea what’s been happening. But I love that!! It’s just like real life: there’s pieces and hints, but you’ve got to figure a lot of it out yourself.” These creatives, and their wide breadth of approaches to life, can clearly be seen in Bliss’s work – his affinity for the interesting, the extraordinary, the unusual, has definitely been composed as a result of these people and the media they create.
As we spoke about recent changes in the industry, I really wanted to know about how Bliss felt about Virgil Abloh taking over menswear at Louis Vuitton. I was met with much enthusiasm – “I could geek for hours about this.” Bliss really commended Abloh’s commitment to transparency, using his platform to educate his fans and followers and guiding them through the artistic process so that they might be able to create luxury items for themselves. This move is decidedly “anti-fashion,” lifting the veil that keeps much of the high fashion industry purposefully exclusive. But Bliss is all for it. “I love Virgil so much and his appointment in this position is so important… It’s corny to say, but Virgil is very literally ‘for the culture.’ I wish him enormous success at Louis Vuitton.”
“I love Virgil so much and his appointment in this position is so important… It’s corny to say, but Virgil is very literally ‘for the culture.’ I wish him enormous success at Louis Vuitton.”
Another point I wanted to touch on in my discussion with Bliss was his take on the recent trend regarding high-fashion brands being adopted as street style staples. For example, Gucci has become not only a historically cogent fashion house, but with items like the Chance-endorsed Gucci belt and the green and red striped tee shirts and sneakers, it is now a newfound streetwear staple. “Fashion is a big part of our cultural zeitgeist at the moment, and that makes me so excited. Rappers have always rocked designer clothes, but a middle-class high schooler in 2018 sees Chance wearing that belt and might save up to get one himself. Those belts start at $400. That’s serious money for a kid, but some of them would rather cop the belt than an Xbox. Whether you think that’s cool—like me—or dumb, it says a lot about fashion’s cultural position now.” In this way, high fashion has started to become more prolific, infiltrating the awarenesses of those who, historically, might not have paid attention or cared. This speaks to how we as a society are shifting our attention on fashion in general, and how we think of it as not only functional, but as an artistic expression, and a symbol of status.
“Fashion is a big part of our cultural zeitgeist at the moment, and that makes me so excited. Rappers have always rocked designer clothes, but a middle-class high schooler in 2018 sees Chance wearing that belt and might save up to get one himself. Those belts start at $400. That’s serious money for a kid, but some of them would rather cop the belt than an Xbox. Whether you think that’s cool—like me—or dumb, it says a lot about fashion’s cultural position now.”
Later, as we began to dive more into the tougher side of Bliss’s work, I had a few questions about how certain aspects of contemporary politics manifested themselves in the fashion industry. Specifically in reference to the #MeToo movement, which is a modern push toward increasing accountability for those who perpetrate sexual misconduct in the workplace, I wanted to know if the movement had affected those who worked in fashion yet. The movement originated in Hollywood, where much of fashion’s clientele originate, so it would be surprising if the industry had somehow evaded scrutiny. This is especially true when model accounts come out describing the incredible mistreatment they face at the hands of photographers, managers, and other industry professionals. According to Bliss, the movement has unfortunately not really hit fashion as of late, “and that’s a fucking shame.” Short strides have been made, such as with the condemnation of Terry Richardson, famed photographer who worked with the likes of Vogue, GQ, and Vanity Fair, and who recently had multiple sexual assault accusations come out against him. But alas, the industry still has a ways to go, as do many other sectors of the workforce.
Aside from the need for further accountability for the actions of “creeps,” as Bliss refers to them, there are also several other changes that could be made to the industry. The most notable of these being that accessibility for newer, smaller design houses should be made available as they begin to increase their brand. “It’s next to impossible for a new designer to break into mainstream fashion.” With fashion becoming even more of a corporatized entity, it’s that much harder for lesser-known designers to get their pieces on the board, let alone play the game. As for proposed solutions, Bliss recognized that the problem was bigger than one he could solve himself. As he noted, “I’m just the stylist.”
Relating to that point, we discussed one of the most challenging aspects of being a stylist and establishing himself as a professional. “Building trust with people takes a lot of time and work. Designers are rightfully very wary when a stylist wants to use their art to make other art.” However, for Bliss, these challenges are welcomed, as the results always end up being worth it. He clearly loves what he does, and will keep working at it to reach his goals. In speaking about plans for the future, Bliss described his dream of one day having the means and resources to “execute high-concept editorials using the work of new designers… Projects like that take a lot of time and money. I’d love to find a publication that entrusts me with a budget and a crew. Until then, [though,] I’m gonna keep grinding and doing good work.” If our Spring/Summer 2018 cover is any indication, it’s safe to say Bliss has a long, successful career ahead of him, and we are so lucky to be able to say we “knew him when.”
Photography by William Kelly. Beauty by Claire Powell. Model Gabby Reilly.
Originally published in ROCKET Volume VIII, Issue 2.