How Lucky Daye & Stylist Alexander Julian Explore Self-Expression Through Fashion
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Lucky Daye PHOTO BY ADRIENNE RAQUEL
Fashion and music have a strong relationship. A red-carpet look can go down in history, a singular accessory that an artist dons can skyrocket a brand’s sales, and more artists are adding “designer” to their titles.
The pair have only been working together since 2021, but this is just the beginning of their partnership. ALEXANDER JULIAN PHOTO BY DARREL HUNTER
Grammy-winning singer Lucky Daye and stylist Alexander Julian are the ultimate match, thanks to the former’s colorful risk-taking and the latter’s passion for adding his New Orleans touch to all facets of his persona.
“The thing is, it wasn’t even the clothes that attracted me to AJ. It was the creative aspect and what you can do with the clothes. You see how I was goofing around on that first day we met? I felt comfortable and he knew how to make everything come to life,” Daye, who recently earned five 2023 Grammy nominations including Best R&B Performance ("Over") and Best R&B Album (Candydrip) and also announced the Candydrip deluxe edition (out Dec. 9 via KeepCool/RCA Records), tells EDITION of his first styling experience with Julian.
“He already had this [Rick James-inspired] outfit with these thigh boots. And he added a chain. We started bouncing around ideas immediately. I felt this colossal feeling when I saw the pictures. I saw, looking back at him as we were taking pictures, looking at the joy. It is his kind of taste in the Afro-futuristic style. But his next thing is the [balance]: It’s feminine but still masculine. I think that AJ is a genius, and I saw that the first day I met him.”
LUCKY DAYE PHOTO BY KAYLA JAMES
Here, the pair unveil their magic behind the fashion.
How did you two initially meet? Take me back to that moment.
AJ: All right, I’ll tell this story, because I don't know if Lucky even knows this. So we actually met at the Flaunt Magazine shoot that we did last year, around February. I was a really big fan of Lucky. An interesting anecdote: I think two years before that, I was talking to my friend who was actually about to interview Lucky for Noisey. So she was telling me how excited she was to interview him and I hadn't heard of his music yet. I was like, “Oh this guy sounds interesting.”
I finally went to his album and I was like, “Oh my God, he's amazing.” I was on a date with this girl in 2020, during the pandemic, and she [asked me]: “Who's one person you would want to style?” I said Lucky Daye because I'd seen his videos and I love his style. Honestly, I love the music. I felt there was so much untapped creative style to tap into there. So I feel like I put that into the universe. I kept him in the back of my mind and later brought up a conversation with a friend [who let me know], “He's on our roster, I’ll set it up.” So I was very excited.
Flaunt had reached out to me about doing a fashion editorial for their magazine and I obviously thought this could be the opportunity. So I pitched Lucky. It was so funny because doing editorial is very hard—I had no money and paid out of pocket to fly to LA to do that. Even though we bought those racks that we had that morning, we had to return them. I had to use my credit card to actually buy those. But I felt like this is gonna be something big. It was an opportunity to work with somebody who I've been wanting to work with for a long time. I'm gonna say that God was lining things up properly.
LD: It was definitely from the ground up, you definitely made that happen to each step. Definitely give yourself some credit.
AJ: When I met him and when he came to the city, I was so taken aback. It’s one thing for him to look through the clothes. But he was so excited to put on all these interesting looks. And the energy was literally there from the second. So that's the kind of thing that tied it all together.
How long have you been a stylist?
AJ: I think it's been 10 years. I was styling when I was in college, but I wasn't full-time. But my toes were in the water. I was doing this in high school.
The reason why I love your style AJ is because you're so out there, especially when it comes to male styling. I think you push the boundaries in such an exciting way. But I think sometimes artists can be open to it, some artists may be stuck in their ways. So I'm curious to hear Lucky's perspective on that initial meeting.
LD: I mean, for me, it was perfect timing when I had no one. Like you said it was a vacancy. Or, I was on the board or whatever however you said it. At that time, I had nobody as a stylist at all. So it was funny how it all came together. The first time working with AJ was like, “Alright let’s see what we finna do.” My approach is that I pray for stuff, focus and meditate. But when I’m walking through the world, people say I'm unapproachable. I guess I come off serious. Then when you crack the eggshell, it’s something softer [under the surface]. When I met him, I was just like, “This dude’s tall as hell. He probably plays basketball. The set was hard and it was kind of fly. Was this during quarantine?
AJ: It was right after the first quarantine.
LD: So I go to the rack room, and I’m going through the options and I see different stuff, right? Cheerleading outfit for girls, pom poms hanging up on the clothes…I actually wore it, it was funny. The thing is, it wasn't even the clothes that attracted me to AJ. It was the creative aspect and what you can do with the clothes. So I started opening up and immediately! You see how I was goofing around on that first day we met? I felt comfortable and he knew how to make everything come to life. He already had this [Rick James-inspired] outfit with these thigh boots. And he added a chain. We started bouncing around ideas immediately. I felt this colossal feeling when I saw the pictures. I saw, looking back at him as we were taking pictures, looking at the joy. It is his kind of taste in the afro-futuristic style. But his next thing is the struggle: it’s feminine as well, but it’s still masculine. I think that AJ is a genius and I saw that the first day I met him.
Love that. So in terms of the way you guys work together, Lucky do you have a vision in mind? Or, AJ do you bring in concepts and you guys collaborate that way?
AJ: So when Lucky’s team reached out to me about Candy Drip, Lucky had told them about what he wanted. So Lucky and I don't technically, for each performance, powwow each time. But I think there's a direction that Lucky gave at the beginning of his album rollout. There was the concept of involving futurism. We talked about the struggle, staying true to our community, and our style. We also talked about a “future New Orleans” and making New Orleans a part of the stylistic story of Candy Drip.
So I took all those directives that we added seamlessly from Lucky and then built out this…it’s essentially a mood board, but it's these personas that live in this mood board that fits each song on the record. Each time when I'm approaching a performance, I'm thinking about one of those personas that lives inside this Candy Drip world that Lucky created.
I was inspired to speak to you both after watching Lucky’s ‘Over’ video. I loved the scenes of the various outfits—it showcases the different facets of Lucky’s personality.
AJ: When Lucky and I get to our fitting room and we are creating these outfits, again, one of my favorite things about Lucky is that he loves to try on exciting clothing. There was a concept of trying to show those personas because Lucky is such a multifaceted artist. His personality can also be viewed in so many different ways. Sometimes he’s to himself; sometimes he’s goofy or insightful. So I try to use that opportunity to build out those different personas that he has through the clothing. Essentially [the video] was supposed to be him trying on different outfits and changing to get ready for a performance. But we wanted to build on that.
Alexander Julian has been a fashion stylist for a decade. PHOTO COURTESY OF ALEXANDER JULIAN
“[LUCKY DAYE] IS SOMEBODY WHO I’VE BEEN WANTING TO WORK WITH FOR A LONG TIME. I’M GONNA SAY THAT GOD WAS LINING THINGS UP PROPERLY.” –ALEXANDER JULIAN
I liked this consistency throughout the Candy Drip era; you could tell there’s a story that’s being played out here. What is the significance of the connection between music and fashion?
LD: I look at it like it’s a movie in a movie set, but a soundtrack in a good scene. Or a cover on a book. It just makes it better. If it can shine a light on a person and make them feel a certain way or evoke emotion in them somehow, you’re doing art. You can see it; you can hear it. It intensifies, you got the other four qualities. So [fashion] is kind of like music. You got the visuals, you have the style, and the way we look in the styling. You got the picky things that we choose. We don’t do interviews with everybody; we don’t showcase our stuff for everybody; we don’t spread ourselves thin. I’m grateful that AJ’s so creative [even when styling multiple clients]. He’ll [show me something] like, ‘Wow, this is incredible,’ and won’t even know that it’s the same person [working with me] because we have our own connections. So I think that they go hand in hand.
Alexander Julian PHOTO BY RIOT MUSE
You can see the bond that you both have through the clothes.
AJ: Piggy-backing off of Lucky, I think it’s about having those different senses. You can have music that brings us all together in this world, but when you’re able to add on the visual and have it be all your senses like your eyes and ears, I think that elevates the experience. So you have music, an amazing sound that you’re listening to, which is one part of his dimension as an artist. But when you’re able to add on more dimensions, you’re creating an experience. I think that’s one of the reasons not even just style but visuals are really important.
Now, the pair breaks down some of Lucky Daye's coolest looks:
"Over" Performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon — April 2022
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I'm going to share my screen so we could go through some of these looks. I think this performance was afro-futuristic and so badass.
AJ: Lucky can go with this one because he picked the designer!
LD: Most times we do communicate when we're not working with each other. I send ideas to him and he'd be like, “Yo, check this out.” We both have a love for fashion, style and art in general. So this was just a scroll on Instagram. I guess I was just searching. Sometimes I get into these rabbit holes. I saw this designer—I don't remember his name [Editor's Note: the designer is Clara Daguin]—but it was this dress he made that flowed out. It was a wedding trail and it lit up, basically. And I sent it to [AJ] like, “This is crazy, innovative type stuff.” And I'm not thinking he’s gonna do anything with it.
AJ: Like you said there's a lot of artists who kind of come off combative. Lucky is never combative, but a lot of artists will be uncomfortable with that. But I think I try to make sure to think ahead of that to make sure that he’s not uncomfortable. So even though he doesn't show it, I [think], “I hope he's not uncomfortable” because I worry about that sometimes. But then, he will send me something completely insane. Like a light-up yellow trail, wedding dress—I'm gonna do that. I [responded], “Instagram is doing its job because I've actually just got it on my feed as well. This is dope.” It was always meant to be.
The algorithm works in your favor.
AJ: It literally works in our favor. So, I reached out to the designer from Paris and we actually got that sent over. He was supposed to wear this for his last performance in New York for the tour, but—maybe it's my fault—I forgot to bring the battery packs for the jacket.
I was actually going to ask, how the technicalities behind it work.
AJ: There’s two battery packs inside the pocket that Lucky turns on at the beginning of the performance, so if you watch the performance, he has his hands in his pocket. It's so funny, we were literally practicing that because it was so stressful because they’ll start blinking crazy and we're trying to time everything. It was a whole thing. But yeah, he turns on the jacket at the beginning of the performance when his hands are in his pockets.
I love that. Little tricks on TV that you wouldn't even notice.
AJ: She killed this. She was really great to work with and now a big fan of Lucky and we're talking about more stuff hopefully for the future.
LUCKY: Yeah, that jacket was insane. I don’t know where the pants came from. The rings…AJ went shopping for me a long time ago and nailed it, first try easy. Alicia Keys gave me the glasses, and the hair is Tracy [Love].
64th Grammy Awards — April 2022
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Usually when looking at red carpets, everyone's wearing the plain black tuxedo, but I love that both of you are continuing to break those stereotypes that we always see.
AJ: Yeah, thank you. He definitely was really happy about this. But this one was a little bit of a troublemaker because my one thing is I need to find a way to make him stand out and to make him obviously look good. But oftentimes we want him to stand out. I knew he was gonna go home with at least one Grammy—
LD: I didn’t know
AJ: Nah, we knew it bro.
Congratulations, by the way. It’s huge and well-deserved.
AJ: Lucky [told me] his favorite color was green. So obviously that's a color that we revisit often. Then I reached out to Jacquemus about this really amazing look. The look that I wanted had these crystals that dripped off the jacket. Obviously, I was thinking Candy Drip has to do that. That one wasn't available so then they sent me this one I was like, “That's it.” We tried so many outfits, but Jacquemus ended up being the one we worked with. And in the end, I think this is so much more perfect than even my first option for the Grammys. We tried to get something custom tailor-made in Rwanda, but that didn't work out too well. I remember trying to convince the team about that one and putting it on Lucky. He never said he didn't like it, but it wasn't good. I think that was another moment where I really knew we had some things that I could tell that he trusted that I was going to come with something that works. Then the necklace, the jewelry he did was all Cartier. Cartier reached out to me to dress him and they were all really excited about it. So that necklace he was wearing is literally half a million dollars.
LD: Yeah, light flex. [laughs]
AJ: There was an AP watch in there too. [laughs] It's amazing. Because the more we do, the more these brands are like, “What's going on with Lucky? How do we get it tapped in with him?” Even Lucky sends me stuff with designers reaching out to him all the time. Everybody's trying to get down on the train now. So I'm really happy to see that.
Los Angeles Stop of Candydrip Tour — March 2022
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I love that you guys went with the green. Those little details, with the boots and the gloves tie the look together.
AJ: So we did "Lucky Nights". How long did we do that fitting for the tour? We were in the office for hours to do all these looks for the tour. Obviously revisiting that Candydrip persona, the mood board with monochromatic and amazing teal green. I'm a maximalist. I'll naturally add 20 necklaces, gloves, glasses, everything. But I tried to reel back because I don't want to catch myself doing the same thing over and over again. And also, sometimes you don't actually need the most. I’ll always ask Lucky, “You trying to do a glove?” And he’s like “Yeah, let’s do it.”
LD: Oh, he did elbow gloves.
AJ: Now I’ll give him the offer of the long option. We try everything. I always do the skeleton of an outfit. So I think the outfit started with just the blazer or the suit. I don't even think we had the shoes yet. I think we had the necklace, blazer, and suit. I went home and we did that six-hour fitting and decided on the piece that we loved. I was like, “This is for LA, we have to do it big. There's so many people going to come to the show.”
Every time I am thinking about a show, I personally am thinking about who's going to see this, whose eyes are gonna be on this outfit. For LA, we had to come hard. So we got the shoes after that. And naturally again, I'm gonna go for a glove. So we got these gloves literally tailored the date of. I had to call our tailor to LA. She literally sat there and worked on these gloves for two hours. Then the jacket was Undercover and I pulled literally four or five teal jackets and that parka was the winning one. This is one of my favorite looks too. I mean he looks cool as hell.
2021 Soul Train Music Awards — November 2021
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Again, it's all in the details. You have the coat, the gloves... I thought the little pops of color that tie into Lucky's persona were really cool.
LD: It’s giving Black Joker.
AJ: When we always do these looks there's always a hilarious reference that either Lucky or his manager, Sam, will pull out. I think this one was obvious with the color: Joker. But also I was thinking kind of New Orleans with this by including the Mardi Gras references with the coat. With Lucky being from New Orleans, there’s Mardi Gras. That's always a quick stylistic tie into New Orleans, but there I've done some research—right before the pandemic—into Mardi Gras.
I love the whole culture and aesthetic behind it. Socially it was important to us too. Lucky was performing and I feel the crowd and audience are the people that really enjoy Lucky’s music. I want to make sure to give them a look. So, we tapped into that ring, that Brandon Blackwood coats, also to highlight Black designers obviously. And then a really beautiful, well-fitted Amiri suit. Amiri has also been a brand that's supporting Lucky and I. Really happy about that. Lucky went to their show and they dressed him from head to toe. They're always sending us stuff and they're really happy about that as well.
I love that you reference the Joker and Mardi Gras, but it's not too over the top. Because sometimes if you veer too far to the left it can look costumey, but I like that it's subtle enough so you get the reference, which is good.
AJ: I wanted this look to be kind of dope. I wanted the Soul Train Awards to be his show. I'm always biased, but honestly, Lucky's performance was the best one that night.
I agree. The guy could sing his ass off, we all know that.
AJ: So we were wanting to bring the heat.
Candydrip Promo — 2021
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So for the Candydrip promo, going back to the green again. To me, it's a little bit of a 70s reference, with the fur and the patchwork.
AJ: This one, again, is still the idea of the future in New Orleans, but then also tying in that same historical New Orleans like we were talking about like Mardi Gras and those colors. But also talking about—I don't know what the politically correct term is—the hood. Him wearing his grill, there's that sense of an urban feel to the whole look. I feel that's something that we want to really tie in. The jewelry became my important aspect to it because when we were talking about Candydrip and that world, I think the grill… Lucky that was the first thing we worked off of Candydrip. Right?
LD: Yep. There were like four people we were looking at?
AJ: Yeah, we did a bunch of people and I really love where we ended up. That was one of the first things that I think they called me to talk to me about looks on Candy Drip. And then I was like, “Let's do a grill.” And Lucky was like, “Hell yeah.” So Lucky and I all work together to design each tooth of the grill.
It’s giving pimp status, but the dopest pimp on the block. This is one of my favorites. I liked this consistency throughout the whole Candydrip era. You could tell there's a story that's being played out here, through the clothes, the music videos and your performances. What do you think the significance is between the connection between music and fashion?
LD: I look at it like it’s a movie in a movie set, but a soundtrack in a good scene. Or, a cover on a book. It just makes it better. If it can shine a light on a person and make them feel a certain way or invoke emotion in them somehow, you’re doing art. You can see it, you can hear it. It intensifies, you got the other four qualities. So, [fashion] kind of like music.You got the visuals, you have the style, and the way we look in the styling. You got the picky things that we choose, we don’t do interviews with everybody, we don’t showcase our stuff for everybody, we don’t spread ourselves thin. I’m grateful that AJ’s so creative that he can do more than one thing at one time. He’ll be like “Wow this is incredible”, and won’t even know that the same person that’s doing my stuff because we have our own connections. I think that they go hand in hand.