‘You Have to Want to Be Seen’: Stevie Boi
Designer Stevie Boi photographed in Times Square by Michael-Antonio, courtesy Stevie Boi Facebook.
“The Stevie Boi brand is fearless. It’s a brand worth searching for, and a brand worth fighting for,” comments Steven Strawder during an introductory promotional video for his eyewear line, SB Shades.
February 8th, New York Fashion Week is fresh underway; a familiar scene for Strawder, publicly known as “Stevie Boi”. Snowed in, he unwinds in the lounge of his Upper West Side hotel, surrounded by close friends: Los Angeles based Makeup Artist, Edgar Anthony Arrolea and Mush, founder/designer of Fly Credentials.
Strawder balances innate eccentricity, fighting what he refers to as “industry demons” by nurturing a trusted creative support system. “Your circle is supposed to lift you up,” he said, with soft-spoken poise. “I really value their opinion.” “I don’t look at people like their working with me or for me.”
“I learned how to grow with other artists through my High school”, says Strawder, embracing passions for music and theatrics with C. Milton Wright’s drama program; a contrast from his structured military upbringing. Here, he accessed the freedom to become “an exaggerated part of yourself”, shaping personal and professional blueprints for showmanship and shock value.
An “artist at heart and business minded”, Strawder understood the importance of an image early on — modeling and using Myspace to actively promote his cheeky techno infused lyrics, networking in his present Baltimore, and skipping school to establish a coveted presence within New York’s night scene, forming a friendship with club kid Richie Rich. Their full-venue partnerships led to Strawder accessorizing Rich’s Mercedes-Benz featured Pop Luxe, and Rich conversely modeling for Strawder’s 2012 “54” lineup. “You have to want to be seen,” he said. “If you wanna be in the industry, you should be seen”: A mantra that for this emerging entrepreneur — continuously inspired by his surroundings, living in fashion capitols of Milan, Paris, Russia, and Japan, has perpetuated a high voltage vision, attracting entertainment and fashion worlds alike.
18-years-old, adulthood and the first taste of commercial success: Beyoncé’s stylist Ty Hunter and the affirmation of a Diva, opening her 2008 video effortlessly swinging a pair of Strawder’s custom fringe sunglasses.
Meeting Lady Gaga early in her career, resulted in headlining 2010’s Monster Ball accessorized in his first pair “SB Shines”, designing promotional pieces for her upcoming album, ARTPOP; and working with trendsetting forwards: Rihanna, Fergie, Nicki Manaj…reality stars, 80’s legends, drag queens, R&B veterans, rap new comers and icons, blogger sensations, media personalities — captivating Anna Dello Ruso, Japan Vogue’s Editor at Large/creative consultant with numerous collaborations, and securing a main editorial on Vogue Italia, photographed by Steven Meisel. “The artwork speaks for itself,” said Strawder. “It’s for the strong people”.
“I dealt with the transition easy,” he said, unphased by the pressures of instantaneous celebrity and social mediated culture. “I know I wanted this job, so I had to take it very seriously in order for me to be taken seriously.”
“I knew there was a magic about him and his mind,” said trusted confidant, Michael-Antonio. “He never stops working.” They met at a crossroads, one transitioning careers and the other beginning, in the mid 2000s. Sharing a brotherly bond and organic work ethic solidified by loyalty, he is a go-to photographer for Strawder’s rising cliental. “We don’t battle each other, we build off one another,” said Antonio. “His penchant for dark, sexual, aggressive and my love of beauty, sensuality and glamour is why our connection works — that’s what inspires me.” “Really, we haven’t even began to show the world.”
And as part of a world-wide mecca tour Strawder presented his 2013 Collection Leather, a punk enthused mesh “based around sexual fantasy”, to a packed crowd of Pop Culture limelightes and admires inside a small Manhattan venue hosted by Amy Poliakoff of Bravo’s Gallery Girls. See video below:
New York City’s Lower East Side, Late Spring: Strawder returns on business. As negotiations of filming a Paramount project is in the works, he is shifting focus toward acting; finding comfort in hectic schedules to reflect on the recent passing of his father, and “bringing a different approach” with upcoming designs emphasizing nature and purity. “It’s time to go back to something brighter”, he says, ideas for a Jackie Kennedy-esque summer line of shades circulating.
Ever accessible, determined to expand both persona and brand, Strawder remains goal oriented on “getting the public to believe in you as a person and as an artist”, building substantial audience-based trust in and out of his work environment — surrounded by like-minded visionaries, “people who are busy themselves.”
Mush is home in the Bronx. Long distance, yet in constant conversation, they recently saw each other when he outfitted Strawder for renowned designer, Patricia Field‘s “Chicken and Diamonds” weekly event. Initially meeting via Twitter, Mush says their “professional turned personal” friendship began as an internship for the Stevie Boi team. With 15 years of fashion experience, he, like most of Strawder’s tightly knit, remains protective of the public persona. “I understand how the game goes,” he said, seeing “people come and go”. “I don’t need anything from him.”
Working in a medical office and personal shopper by day, Mush acknowledges his 2008 founded indie street wear label, Fly Credentials, as the testimony of a fresh start from struggle. “The definition of a low point is different”. “We’re our worst critic,” he said. “Inside it was a place that I didn’t want to be.”
Specializing in custom, hand painted pieces, the two artisan designers share affection for self sufficiency and artistic license. “Why work for someone else when I have the skills and talent to do my own thing”, said Mush, mirroring one of Strawder’s straightforward Tumblr quotes, “Follow your dreams or you’ll spend the rest of your life working for someone who did.”
Strawder recently received a Blackout Award, and accepted Baltimore’s own Charm City International Fashion Week (CCIFW) Designer of the Year from pioneer model Beverly Johnson. Now at 23, he and his peers are traveling different, often winding paths. “They grow from it, or they fall apart,” he says. “The point is you’re being tested.” “If you want to live, you want to live.” Young and driven, they’re paths that lead to the same point of success.
On sale this December within select LA and NYC Macy’s locations, Stevie created “Aztec” – his first unisex pair of luxury, polarized sunglasses, with a portion of proceeds benefiting HIV and AIDS research funding; choose from interchangeable colors (red, black, and blue). Visit his website for these and other product details.