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.
- Freddie Leiba grew up in Trinidad with a love of Rita Hayworth.
- Leiba studied and worked in fashion in London before to NYC, where he was asked to dress celebrities for Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine in the 1970s
- Leiba never knew the job he was doing 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 went on to develop his craft, styling high-profile models and celebrities.
Leiba’s love of fashion and glamour began growing up in Trinidad due to a celebrity sighting and a mother who could sew. “I just love dressing women,” Leiba said, holding up manyand spreads he’s styled over the years, including with Beyoncé and Madonna. He’s worked with Nicole Kidman, Diana Ross, Sarah Jessica Parker, , Jennifer Aniston, Queen Latifa, and many more. “I’m there to beautify and to celebrate a woman or guy,” said Leiba.
“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 didn’t know 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 something with it,” said Leiba. 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 while in handcuffs more than once.
“And then I would try to get a taxi in front of my apartment, and they wouldn’t stop for me and things like that,” he recalled, on those 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 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.. He’s happy to see the industry more diversity and inclusivity. He recently did a Matter protests. After more than 50 years, Leiba is still on the job. But he says his focus these days is educating about what it takes to work in fashion. “They look at Instagram, and they