NEWindustry looks toward a more inclusive future, Freddie Leiba reflects on his trailblazing path as a person of color in fashion. We caught up with him at his apartment in Hudson Yards.
What You Need To Know
Freddie Leiba grew up in Trinidad with a love ofRita Hayworth. Leiba studied and worked in London before to NYC, where he was asked to dress celebrities for Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine in the 1970s. Leiba never knew his job was that of a stylist until Anna Wintour wrote about him in a spread for New York Magazine in the 1980s.
Though he encountered, he developed his craft, styling high-profile models and celebrities.”I love dressing women,” Leiba said, holding up many magazine covers and spreads he’s styled over the years, including with Beyoncé and Madonna. He’s worked with Nicole Kidman, Diana Ross, , Janet Jackson, Jennifer Aniston, Queen Latifa, and many more. “I’m there to beautify and to celebrate a woman or guy,” said Leiba.
Leiba’s love of fashion and glamour began growing up in Trinidad due to a celebrity sighting and a mother who could sew. “It was Rita Hayworth, and I saw a woman like that. She had flaming red hair; she was making a movie called ‘Fire Down Below’ in the 1950s. And that image stayed in my mind,” recounted Leiba.
Leiba studied and worked in London before coming to NYC, where a friend asked him to work for Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine. Leiba was shocked to be asked to dress the celebrities. He assumed they picked out their clothes for the shoots. But he accepted the job.
“I did Jodie Foster when she was 15. All these incredible people I was meeting and dressing them but never thought it would be a career,” he said. Bottom line, he something with it,” said Leiba.he was a stylist until the 1980s when Anna Wintour wrote about stylists for NY Magazine. “And she gave us all the same suit and each different stylist had to do
His career took off, but being a person of color, there were challenges, especially while working with department stores. He was stopped on suspicion of stealing whilein handcuffs more than once. “And then I would try to get a taxi in front of my apartment, and they wouldn’t like that,” he recalled, on those difficult times.
After more than 50 years, Leiba is still on the job. He’s happy to see the industrymore diversity and inclusivity. He recently did a photo spread inspired by the Matter protests. But he about what it takes to work in fashion.
“They look at Instagram, and they don’t read anymore. If I walk into a room and they say we were doing something in the 18th century, I know exactly what I’m doing, and that’s what fashion is; you have to know the background,” Leiba insisted. Leiba, now 74, is giving and working on a book about his brilliant career, a career that he didn’t know had a name for a while – but has been brilliant in every way.