Ade Samuel, intern-turned-celebrity stylist, has a new goal. She wants to be known for her designs

Celebrity stylist and designer Ade Samuel has worked with a roster of clients including Yara Shahidi, Big Sean and Yvonne Orji.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Since Ade Samuel emerged on the local fashion scene, her log line has been “magazine intern-turned-celebrity stylist.” After all, the Bronx-raised daughter of Nigerian immigrants got her start assisting fashion editors at Teen Vogue and W magazines before training with stylists Cher Coulter and Simone Harouche.

Now based in L.A., Samuel calls the shots. She has dressed “grown-ish” teen star Yara Shahidi in playful, color-rich red carpet pieces by Bibhu Mohapatra, Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh and Dolce & Gabbana. She helps rapper Big Sean think outside the T-shirt-and-jeans box and glams up singers Jhené Aiko and Kelly Rowland. She also worked behind the scenes on Beyoncé’s “Formation” video, styled the “Black Panther” cast for the March double-issue covers of Essence magazine and outfitted “Insecure” star Yvonne Orji this past awards season.

Samuel has also been styling breakout Marvel star Letitia Wright for the press blitzkrieg surrounding the “Black Panther” release and this month’s “Avengers: Infinity War” opening.

LOS ANGELES, CA., MARCH 5, 2018-- Visual focus on the personal style of fashion stylist Ade Samuel
As she expands her reach, Ade Samuel, a magazine intern-turned-celebrity stylist, has dressed Letitia Wright, Jhené Aiko, Kelly Rowland and others. She also launched her eponymous shoe label in 2016. Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

“Designers love her,” Samuel said of Wright, who plays Wakanda’s royal genius, Shuri. The actress has wowed in sophisticated pieces by Thom Browne, Gucci and Calvin Klein, and Samuel was able to bring out her more down-to-earth side with street wear in Drake’s “Nice for What” video.

Though hers is a great Cinderella story, Samuel is ready for a new chapter. The highly motivated New York transplant wants to become “a stylist that’s more than just a stylist.” Her goal is to be known as a designer — and an influencer as well.

The first step in her master plan is to expand the eponymous shoe label she launched in 2016. She describes the line of high-end heels as “edgy but also sleek, classic and comfortable.” Designs include a pointed-toe pump reminiscent of spectators and a vampy black leather number with six buckled straps. Each pair was made in Italy, and they sell for $300 to $400 on her e-commerce site, On the soles, you’ll find a small gold plaque bearing her name.

During a recent interview at her Sherman Oaks home, stacks of shoe boxes lined the wall.

“I wanted to put out something that I felt was not only needed but something that needed to come from a woman,” she said of the collection, referencing the fashion industry’s male-dominated landscape. She rattled off top-tier women’s footwear brands started by well-known male designers. “These are all men creating women’s shoes,” she said. “Can they put their foot into these shoes?”

Samuel also wants to address another glaring void among the luxury shoe ranks. “Just as a black woman, we’re missing in the market of luxury designs,” she said.

LOS ANGELES, CA., MARCH 5, 2018-- Visual focus on the personal style of fashion stylist Ade Samuel
Designer and celebrity stylist Ade Samuel says she is busy working on new footwear designs. Here is her Italian-made Sophia open-toe, calf-leather pump, $330. This style and others are available at Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

There’s a handful of black female shoe designers carving a niche for themselves, including Theresa Ebagua, Layla-Joy Williams and Aurora James. Celebrities such as Beyoncé and Gabrielle Union have been photographed wearing their sandals and slides, but these brands are a long way from achieving household name status.

“It’s challenging,” Samuel said of the designing business. “To produce the molding of the shoes, to figure out where you’re going to produce, to [determine] the price points … all of that plays a huge factor into why there aren’t a million shoe designers.

“I’m not someone who comes from money. I built this from the ground up with my own money. One of my biggest obstacles is finding people who want to believe in a new brand. Manolo Blahnik can be sold in any store. Sergio Rossi can be sold in any store. When you have a brand like Ade Samuel, you’re like, ‘I don’t know who that is.’”

Despite these challenges, she strives to get her line into stores, including Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue. She is also creating looks for a second wave of Ade Samuel shoes, but she’s tight-lipped about a release date. “With my next collection,” she said, “I’m looking to shock everyone by allowing my creative mind and my own cultural influences to play a huge part in the different styles.”

Stylist and designer Ade Samuel.
Stylist and designer Ade Samuel. Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Her family’s African roots have made a lasting impression on her styling eye. “My aesthetic is to always build textures, layers and prints. It comes from being of Nigerian descent,” Samuel said.

She recently put that inspiration to work while prepping Angela Rye for a red-carpet moment. The political analyst wore a velvet and ankara print ball gown by Nigerian-born designer Queen E. to attend WACO Theater Center’s “WACO to Wakanda”-themed Wearable Art Gala in Los Angeles in March. (Tina Knowles Lawson, Beyoncé and Solange’s mother, and husband Richard Lawson are co-founders of the North Hollywood center.)

“I look up to my grandma and mom and the way they used to dress,” Samuel said. “Being able to take a piece of fabric and create a look that wasn’t for walking the runway or for a major fashion show, it was just for a party or wedding, that’s just so inspiring to me. Keeping that in everything I do is important.”

Ade Samuel’s quick picks

Favorite L.A. store: Just One Eye in Hollywood. “It’s so unique. It’s almost like you’re walking into an art gallery the way the store is structured.”

One of her proudest red carpet moments: Big Sean’s navy Salvatore Ferragamo ensemble worn to the 2018 Grammys in New York. “I think that was really unexpected for a rapper to be in a suit for the Grammys.”

Spring trends she’s tracking: Color blocking; boots with shorts and summer dresses; sheer pieces with texture; and bold prints and suiting for men.

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