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Solange Franklin: On The Rocks at Barneys

Solange Franklin’s warm aura and love of jewelry made for a charming conversation over penne arrabbiata and an Old Fashioned at Freds. Her effortlessly layered bold prints and killer bright jewels have us rethinking our spring wardrobes. Our friend crush is complete.

Which should come as no surprise. Solange is a go-to stylist and creative consultant for clients ranging from international editions of Vogue and Elle, millennial behemoth Glossier, and serious talent like Kerry Washington. She knows how to bring in that “wow” factor by way of jewelry, often while promoting emerging designers—a woman after our own hearts.

More so, we respect how Solange’s work champions women of color. She understands that in today’s always-on, frenzied world, she can be the message through her styling and editorial campaigns. Read on to enjoy a glimpse into Solange’s daily grind and insights into what she does outside of work to stay creative and inspired. -Jenna Wise for The Stone Set

How did life lead you to become a stylist? How has your Midwestern upbringing influenced your life as a New Yorker?
I was a junior at Mount Holyoke College and my best friend sent me the registration link for Intro to Costume Construction. I’ve always been the type that had an extravagant vision for an illustration or a piece of pottery and just couldn’t get the execution to match the vision. Probably needless to say the same was true for the costume construction class but in that room I realized creative direction was valid. Other students consulted me for ideas and direction on the aesthetic and character elements in their garments and that was exhilarating. It was the first of many validations that set me on the road to styling.

I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, and I think Midwestern humility is ingrained in my professional and personal decisions. I value grit and integrity above all else. No-bullshit New Yorkers are just my type and I’ll never take 24-hour bodegas for granted.

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Take us through an average day.
I think of my time as being split between prep mode and shoot mode.

Prep mode can be 20 hours hunched over Vogue Runway, trolling for designers to suit my vision board. My most favorite prep-mode day is digging into trade-specific ateliers and appointments. There’s a particular New York thrill in watching the button guy sift through his archive or having the milliner school you on care, history, and an increasingly rare art form.

For shoot mode I’m on set. I plan for 12 hours and then my level of disappointment or excitement waxes or wanes from there. I can count on one hand how many times I was desperate to leave a photoshoot. Thankfully, I like what I do!

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What have been some milestone moments?
Going to Marfa with Solange Knowles for her Chinati activation. I cried big, crocodile tears.

Standing court-side while Serena Williams gave her “resting day” serve for our Gatorade commercial sent chills up my spine.

And styling the Teen Vogue Young Hollywood portfolio really shook the young, Conde Nast intern in me. Ten years ago Teen Vogue was my first major fashion internship.

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How do you describe your personal style? What’s a go-to look?
Most of my wardrobe is vintage but I think I remix 70s florals with city-slicker appeal. I’ve been favoring a bright fuchsia muumuu-looking smock with a barely-neon turtleneck underneath and black Adidas shoes. A fail-proof look of mine is oxford shirt, collegiate skirt.

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What’s your approach to styling jewelry? We need details on your hair jewels (they’re amazing!).
Oh, thank you! My hair jewels were procured in the bead district. I rifled through tons of beads, figured out which ones were big enough to accommodate a braid, and then created a pattern that made me feel Disco inferno.

When I style jewelry I think ‘which pieces are in the same family but give a subtle thrill?’

What lessons have you learned as a business owner?
Aside from brutal accountability? This is a j-o-b. Art and commerce have long existed; even though I feel privileged to do what I do, I shouldn’t just be happy to be present.

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We love that you use styling as a medium to have a voice and create commentary. Other than fashion, what are you passionate about?
Women and people of color. I like to consume, center, and create our stories.

I work with Troop 6000, a Girl Scout program specifically for girls experiencing homelessness in the NYC-shelter system. Empowering girls through play, self-discovery, and sparks of an alternative future is what drives me.

Your work often intersects with music. What’s on your playlist?
Motown, H.E.R., Jill Scott, GoldLink, Solange Knowles.

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What’s a dream weekend?
An entire weekend in Bed Stuy curled up with my cat, my husband, my novel, and a big old glass of wine. Throw in local vintage sifting, live jazz, and sunshine—unfiltered bliss.

What’s something about you that may surprise people?
I’m shy.

Give the world some advice.
Prioritize vertically.

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Favorite pieces in your jewelry box?
I have a nameplate with my married surname: Franklin Reed. It’s in my wedding font and was an anniversary gift to myself! I like to loop my Khiry mask pendant on that necklace along with my Old Céline ‘V’ for my mom’s name.

Triple inlaid bamboo earrings by L’Enchanteur.

Givenchy scorpion earrings. I typically only wear one at a time, though.

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Favorite jewelry designers? Any pieces on your wishlist?
I love Khiry (former Barneys intern, actually!), Mateo, Vhernier, Verdura, and David Webb pieces.

I want a Sidney Garber rolling bracelet. Actually, two. I think I’d be very happy from ages 40-100 with those and a crisp white oxford shirt. I’m impressed that 100% of her proceeds go to charitable organizations.

Finish the sentence: diamonds are _______.
Political!

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Photography by Emerald Carroll for The Stone Set

This story is in partnership with Barneys New York.

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