Olori Swank: Swank Is The New Black
by: iman n. milner
Photos: Lance Gross for EDGE Magazine
Webster’s Dictionary defines extraordinary as “unusually great” or “remarkable”. Extraordinary is not a word often used in our generation. We shy away from the magnitude of it, from what it suggests. But sometimes, the word just fits. Olori Swank is extraordinary. Her unique style combined with her commitment to excellence for her clients makes her a stand out in the midst of her peers and gives us a chance to use an incredibly underused word in the English language. Her bright and bold blue mane is the way most people know who she is but our goal was to know her for the budding businesswoman she is. And if that’s not enough she is one of the funniest, most down-to-earth and humble people you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting. Sit back and enjoy the wisdom from the styling world’s new staple accessory: Olori Swank.
Who Is Olori Swank?
I am a stylist. I am a friend too many. I call myself the antisocial socialite because I know a lot of people but I don’t hang out with anyone. Most of the time. I’m at home working on something or spending time with my siblings.
What is your process when you’re creating a look for a client?
When working with a new client I always research them. That’s my most important step. I try to find out everything about them. I look at all their old press and pictures. I analyze everything that I find. That helps me decide what I want to create for that person. Of course, I talk with them, find out what they like and what look they’re going for and why they called me specifically. I need to know what they think I can do for them. After I figure out what works , I take that and continue to build and make sure that all that prior information is in the forefront of what people see.
If you could give a brief 1-2-3 of the most important steps in your process, what would they be?
The first thing is to know your client. Everyone is different and everyone has different needs. Everyone has a different look that they’re going for. Also, know them as a person. Take the time to cultivate a relationship with them so that you can anticipate what they’ll like and feel comfortable in without having to ask. Secondly, cultivate relationships with designers, showrooms and brands. Stylists are the bridge between the designer and the consumer. We have to not only make our clients happy but we have to make the brands happy as well.
What would you say is the best way to make professional styling a career?
I would love to say intern, assist or shadow someone but that’s not how my story started. I never got to intern for anyone. I had to learn everything as I worked. There’s only a handful of stylists who are really part of the game which means there’s not many interning positions available. If you can’t find someone to work under and learn from, I would suggest doing workshops and then going into business for yourself. I have a workshop called A Lesson in Swank. I’m sure there are others. Sign up, take notes and start on your own.
How important is social media to a budding stylist?
Social network is ridiculously important. Look at me and Keyshia Cole, for example. I ran into her at a store in Atlanta and she approached me about my hair. I didn’t think to give her my card or anything. A couple of days later I saw that she had started following me on Twitter. She sent a message and a conversation later she told me she was doing 106 & Park and wanted me to style her for it. I’ve been working with her ever since. There’s a number of people I’ve met on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so I would not count that out.
Let’s talk about the signature blue hair. Was that something you did intentionally to brand yourself?
No. My hair was an accident. I wanted pink hair with purple highlights and when the girl finished, my hair was blue. I cried! I was catching a flight two hours later to go on tour with a client and there was nothing she could do to turn it back in that small amount of time. She promised she would change it when the tour ended but when I got to the first stop on tour, everyone loved it. This was six years ago and NOBODY had blue hair, that’s really why I cried, I thought people were going to think I was crazy. But when everybody said they liked it, I pretended like it was my style and my hair hasn’t been any other color since then.
What do you think are the important steps to building your brand?
The key to building a brand is consistency. The difference between mediocrity and greatness is consistency. Be consistent with your work. Constantly strive to be the best at what you do. And be consistent with your name on everything, that goes for social networks too. I am Olori Swank on everything that I do. I don’t make it confusing for people. Wherever they see me, the image of my name is burned in their brain.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by anything and everything. I’m easily inspired but not easily influenced. I can be standing outside and a series of cars drive by together and that will inspire me to do a color scheme based on that. Or in the wintertime, homeless people inspire me with their layers. I’m like I know you’re homeless and I actually feel bad for you but I just love the way you’re working your layers. I’ll go home and create a look that’s homeless chic. The leaves, when they turn colors, inspire me. I take inspiration from everything like a sponge.
How do you manage to cultivate and maintain healthy and supportive relationships in the business?
I am a very positive person in general. I try to find the good out of everything. I had the flu one time, I came off a long flight and my tire was flat. I had to sit there on the side of the road for 3 hours at 1am, with the flu, after working a press tour so I was already exhausted. I could have been mad about that but I wasn’t. I used it as a time to just be still and reflect. I work in a business where I am constantly moving so here was a chance to just be still. So I take that same attitude when I’m dealing with people. I try to find something positive in every single person. What I’ve realized is the way you come at people is the same way they will respond to you. If I put out positivity people always give it back to me. Just being genuine works too. I hear people say “people are fake” all the time and there is truth in that. People have their own intentions and motives but I’ve found that because I am genuine, people appreciate that and give it back to me.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I just want to be known as the best who ever did it.
Follow Olori Swank: @OloriSwank
Visit Shop Olori Swank: Shop Olori Swank
Styling: Olori Swank
MUA: Britt Garrison
Hair: Andrew Zepeda