BABATU SPARROW: Designer, Stylist, Creative Spirit

Babatu Sparrow is a designer, stylist, creative director, writer, sometimes photographer and in case you couldn’t tell by the name, one of the coolest cats around.

Reserved to the point of mystery, he is a stark contrast to the flamboyance of the fashion world he inhabits. He carries with him a certain stillness and never seems to get ruffled.

What energy would be used for extravagance in attitude is instead channeled into his work. He is an artist…the way others are surgeons, scientists, or athletes. And although he calls it “fun”, he takes his work very seriously.

We got Sparrow’s take on what makes a good designer and stylist, what style is, and the state of Trinidad’s Fashion industry… amongst other things…

EP: You design, style, you’re a creative director, you write. Did you always want to do all of those things? Or did you find yourself falling into those roles as you moved deeper into fashion?

BS: My main focus initially was fashion design and from there it became creative direction. There was a moment in time when I was in magazines so that’s where my love and passion for magazines came in……and styling for publications for magazines. So I started off with a focus on designing but the other expressions, they just became other outlets along the way, which I think creative people tend to look for and need.

EP: What it is about designing that you enjoy?

BS: It’s a way to create and I think with any form of creation, when you do it, and you do it right, it just feels like you’ve done something amazing. To be able to take an idea and transform it to an actual 3D thing, I think that’s something pretty cool.

EP: What are you trying to convey when you design?

BS: Anytime you design anything, you’re trying to tell a story. When I design, I’m telling the story of whatever it was that I was inspired by, whatever it is that moved me to design. I’m telling that story in my manner and hoping that people get it and understand it or want to interact with it. If they do any of those things then on some level it automatically is a success.

EP: What do you think makes a great designer?

BS: A great designer is a good story teller. That’s what an artist does. Being able to pull ideas together so that when a person sees your work, they understand and feel like they are connected to what you were speaking about. I think that’s what everybody hopes to do… should hope to do.

EP: Is it safe to assume that when you’re styling you’re trying to do the same thing? Tell a story?

BS: Yes, always.

EP: What is style to you?

BS: I think style is your way of detailing who you are in a visual manner.

EP: What is your pet peeve as a stylist?

BS: Not everyone pays it the respect that it deserves as an art form. Some people just think “my friends told me I had good taste, so I’m a stylist” but it’s so much more than that. You can’t just say I’ve got a steady hand so I can operate on somebody. It sounds silly but in truth it takes a lot more than that. There are amazing amazing stylists out there that do it so well. To just say that you’re a stylist without having studied fashion, without having studied why designers do what they do, without having studied colour, without understanding silhouettes, without understanding textures and fabrics and photographers and how photographers incorporate into the world of style … without knowing who these people are and what they do, it’s almost a slight to come out and say “Yea, I’m a stylist”.

Also, having to convince somebody that if they listen to you that this is going to be an amazing picture. Having to convince people irritates me. I’m doing what I do because I know what I’m doing. And if you listen to what I am saying and have a little faith that I’ve pulled talented people onto this shoot to make these pictures look amazing, you would know,  I’m not going to waste my time and I’m not going to waste yours.

Or someone says “I don’t know if I want to wear those pants”……no one asked you what you want to wear. It’s bigger than you, we’re creating art right now. That’s a bit of a peeve as well.

EP: What would be your dream story to style/shoot?

BS: I don’t know that when I do photo shoots or styling or any other project that I think about it that way. For me, it’s all perfect in the moment. If I’ve picked the right photographer, and I’ve picked the right model and I have the right supporting staff with me, then it’s all going to be perfect in that moment.

EP: How are each of your processes similar or different if you are wearing different hats?

BS: It always starts, for me, with inspiration and figuring out whatever it is that I’m inspired by. So if it’s a play, a movie, an art show, a book, whatever it is, whatever it is that makes me say “wow, there’s some great visuals here” or “there’s something great here”, it usually starts with that. From that point I go into research, researching more of it , figuring out what I’m trying to say and then piecing it together so that what’s in my head makes sense to everybody else.

EP: Your commitment and passion are so evident in your work…

Thank you. Whenever somebody identifies with something I’ve done, that’s really humbling for me. It’s always a great feeling because that means for that person I told the story right; they got it, they liked it and they identified with it and there’s nothing cooler than that. Styling and designing for me is an art form and it should be fun. I enjoy the creative process and when I do see my creation again, in person or in a magazine, that’s a very rewarding thing for me.

EP: Any stylists or designers whose work you really admire?

BS: There’s just way too many. Patti Wilson is amazing. She’s just really talented. Edward Eningful, the Fashion Director over at W. That’s just two people. There’s a ton of people that are really great out there and in fashion there’s just way too many designers I mean. Ricardo Tisci at Givenchy, Nicholas Ghesquiere…Galliano, Alexander Mc Queen and there’s just so many super talented people that are here or were here that kind of embody that full creative spirit.

EP: You are from New York, and you have spent time in Paris and in Trinidad. What similarities/differences do you see with the three places?

BS: Paris is full of creativity, there’s a lot of art there, there’s a lot of architecture there and to me the creative energy is all over the place. It’s there all day every day.

In terms of the atmosphere I found Trinidad interesting because it’s still growing. It’s evolving and it’s changing and it’s consistently becoming different. It also takes a lot of getting used to.

There’s a ton of artists in Trinidad, there’s a ton of people designing, there’s a ton of people interested in design, and then there’s a whole new crop of students that are now trained in it that are going to try, and hopefully will change the tide of fashion. But the people that are supposed to support these arts are still unsure of how to fulfil their role. I think that that aspect of it hasn’t caught up to the “art” aspect.

Also in Trinidad, it always feels like there’s a select few that are constantly in support of the arts and that was a big difference for me  because when you go anywhere else, you go to Paris, you go to New York, wherever, people love fashion, they love art, they love these things and they support it relentlessly.

Trinidad is just approaching that as a viable economy. It’s not as developed as New York or Paris and that’s probably natural but I hope that the relevant persons get involved and do even more things to support it better.

I think it’s a really interesting time for Trinidad and fashion.

EP: How do you feel about being back in New York?

BS: Love it. Absolutely love it. New York is always hard, it’s always difficult but it’s that thing that challenges you to be better than the next person and the next person and the next person. On top of that it’s littered with things to do. It’s amazing….it’s home.

See more of Sparrow`s portfolio here ->

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