Donnell Baldwin, Stylist. New York

Words by, Igee Okafor & Donnell Baldwin

Photography by, Xavier Duah

Styling by, Donnell Baldwin

Originally from Graham, North Carolina - a super small town of about 14,000 people, Donnell Baldwin, 37, is the second of two children. Recognized for his incredible talent as a stylist, Baldwin is a kid at heart who prioritizes having a great time, and cracking jokes so if you are going to connect with him, be prepared for endless laughter, and big smiles. 

Currently, Baldwin works at MR PORTER as the US Deputy Styling Editor alongside being a Co-Owner of MR BALDWIN STYLE

Cardigan / EFM (Engineered for Motion) . Shirt / H&M . Knit Tie / Ralph Lauren . Slacks / Club Monaco . Boots / Ralph Lauren

LIVING

TALK ABOUT YOUR NEW YORK EXPERIENCE. WHAT IT IS VERSUS WHAT YOU THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO BE.

My New York experience has been interesting. I am a singer and am very passionate about music so when I moved to NYC, fashion was supposed to fund my vision of becoming a jazz recording artist.  I auditioned for Broadway, I did music showcases on the weekends, wrote and performed songs at local venues.  Once I began styling professionally, the music took a bit of a back seat and fashion began to lead the charge and open doors for me.   

HOW HAVE YOU SETTLED INTO THE NEW YORK LIFESTYLE ? ANY REGRETS?

I have definitely become comfortable with the New York lifestyle. New York is totally different from any other place I have lived.  I grew up in North Carolina, studied abroad in London, went to graduate school in Honolulu, Hawaii, moved to Washington, DC for a number of years, and from there lived in the Hamptons which eventually brought me to New York City working in the Ralph Lauren Corporate Headquarters. Every time I see those bright lights and tall buildings or hear taxi drivers blowing their horns in fury, I feel at home.  There’s absolutely no place like it.

HOW DO YOU EAT IN NEW YORK?

I am by no means a foodie.  I eat a very simple breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a couple of snacks in between.  My eating preferences are extra boring. I’m not too adventurous when it pertains to my meals.  

DINNER PARTY. 5 GUESTS. ANYONE IN THE WORLD. WHO ARE YOU INVITING?

Well, obviously my beautiful wife, Courtney, is invited so I guess that makes 4 more seats? HA!

1) Potus & Flotus – I see how resilient they are despite the naysayers and negative feedback.  They both seemingly hold it together really well.  I really admire and respect them.  I also enjoy seeing their love for each other.  

2) Oprah Winfrey – She is phenomenal.  Everything about her inspires me to hope, dream, and pursue passion.

3) Andre Leon Talley – He is also from North Carolina and that makes me feel connected to him.  His journey seems interesting and compelling.  I would love to learn more about what keeps him motivated.

4) Mark Zuckerberg - I want to know what is going on in that brilliant mind of his.  As a fellow entrepreneur, he has impressed me beyond measure and I would just ask him for advice.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE NOT ATTENDING EVENTS OR STYLING?

I am always working so an evening with me looks something like Pinterest, mood boards, Google image searches, fashion magazines, and runway shows. My wife, Courtney and I are normally finishing up looks for one of our groom clients, prepping for the next photo shoot or simply doing menswear trend research.

Blazer / EFM (Engineered for Motion) . Linen T Shirt / H&M . Trousers / Club Monaco . Engine Turn Belt / J Crew . Boots / Ralph Lauren

SOCIAL MEDIA

WITH SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT AT ITS CAPACITY THESE DAYS, YOU ARE CONSIDERED AN INFLUENCER TO SOME. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THAT?

I literally post what I like, what encourages or inspires me, behind the scenes pics of me working on a photo shoot for MR BALDWIN STYLE or during the day while I’m at MR PORTER.  I enjoy giving style advice, showing a project that I am working on or simply a quick picture while at a casting for new talent/models.

INSTAGRAM OR SNAPCHAT?

Instagram! The Gram, for sure. 

WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE INFLUENCERS?

None other than Igee Okafor. I also enjoy watching the style and influence of Lenny Kravitz, Pharrell, Sean Connery and model, David Gandy.  These men are confident, stylish and own their personal style.  They all have signature style which positively impacts me and how I approach my day to day style.

MENSWEAR & GROOMING

LET US DISCUSS YOUR PREFERENCES AS IT PERTAINS TO MENSWEAR. WHAT DOES MENSWEAR MEAN TO YOU?

Menswear to me means masculinity, individuality, ease, comfort and effortless style adorned on a confident and impeccably tailored gentleman.  I don’t like a lot of fuss. Fussy looks are annoying to me. Less is definitely more!

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR STYLE SIGNATURE? WHAT CAN PEOPLE POINT OUT AND SAY "THAT'S SO DONNELL"?

I am a bit of a style chameleon so it really depends on my mood.  I love all things rustic.  I grew up preppy and dressed that way from time to time. I am also very inspired by designer collections that walk the runway. So, it really depends. I dress for the occasion. 

WHAT IS THE MOST TREASURED ITEM IN YOUR WARDROBE?

My most treasured item in my wardrobe is my wedding band which I have not removed since getting married.  Another item is my turquoise and sterling silver cuff.  I literally wear these two items every day.  

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PAIR OF SHOES?

I almost always wear boots. I am a Southerner and I am obsessed with the southwest. There is something rugged and classic about wearing a good boot.  Aside from working out, I feel a bit off when I am not wearing my boots. My favorites are my two pairs of RRL engineer boots in black leather and camel colored suede.  

WORK

TALK US THROUGH YOUR JOBS, ALL OF WHAT YOU DID TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING. 

I have been working in fashion/retail for a very long time.  Retail was my very first job ever. I remember turning 16 and watching my friends get jobs they had no real connection to.  I realized that maybe they didn’t know what they were doing or which direction they should be going in, job-wise.  I have always wanted to move with a purpose.  I was interested in fashion so naturally it became very clear to me that every job I pursued would need to have a fashion component in order to get me where I wanted to go in life professionally.      

Fast forward to deciding to pursue styling professionally, I remember having a conversation with my wife, Courtney (many years ago) and I was complaining about my current work situation at the time and how much I disliked it.  I vividly remember her saying, “If you want to style, just start styling!”  I had done it for many years here and there for friends, events, helping people update their wardrobe, etc.  It all started with one decision to do it – to start styling.  I’ve been styling ever since.

YOU HAVE BEEN LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH GQ. TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATION TO THE BRAND.

When I became a GQ Insider, I felt like there was rites of passage that I had just entered. It happened when I was a Styling Manager for Ralph Lauren Corporate in the Digital and Wholesale divisions. I remember being invited to my first event and feeling exclusive – haha!  I unfortunately have not been able to attend many events due to my workload but I am looking to build a tighter relationship with GQ!  I have been an insider for a few years now and I have not really been able to tap in and stay connected consistently. My role as a Style Editor keeps me pretty busy.  

YOU OWN A BOOK NOW. YOU'RE AN AUTHOR. WHAT INSPIRED IT?

There was no style resource for the modern groom.  As my wife was looking through countless book and magazines focused on the bride during our wedding planning, my only resource was GQ magazine. Most of the attention is on the bride (which is totally fine), but when you’re looking for inspiration for a look or just to get an idea of options it can become frustrating.  

Additionally, Courtney and I had started working with groom clients styling them for the wedding and gathering looks for their groomsmen and etc. What we realized is that we physically could not work with every groom out there and every groom is also not willing to (or cannot afford) to work with a stylist.  GROOMS: A Professional Stylist’s Guide to Wedding Day Apparel for Every Budget was created to serve as a reference and guide to grooms living anywhere around the world.  It’s literally like having a pocket stylist to guide you on making the best wardrobe selections for one of the most important days of your life.

Linen Blazer / Billy Reid . Band Collared Shirt / Ralph Lauren . Linen Trousers / Club Monaco . Vintage Pocket Square

WHAT IS ON YOUR FALL WISHLIST?

I want a pair of HOOD boots I saw at Liberty Fairs during New York Fashion Week: Men's. They are amazing! Imagine the combination of a hiking boot and a sneaker – they are literally amazing and I need them. 

DO YOU HAVE ANY STYLE ICONS OR INSPIRATIONS?

Yes!  Lenny Kravitz, Andre 3000, Pharrell, Sean Connery, David Gandy, John Varvatos, Ralph Lauren, Doug Bihlmaier and the list goes on and on and on.  I view fashion as an art form with many different interpretations.  I really enjoy how people put themselves together.    

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST STYLE MISTAKE YOU HAVE EVER MADE?

I tried sagging my baggy jeans when I was younger.  I remember it being the coolest thing during that time so I purposely did not wear a belt that day to school.  I completely forgot that I had a presentation that day where I would be standing in front of my class to share what I had been working on. As I was trying to keep my pants up and present at the same time before I knew it, my pants were around my ankles and there I stood in front of my entire class with my underwear exposed. This goes down in history as my biggest style mistake ever. Needless to say, I was no longer interested in not wearing my pants on my waist.

ANY STYLE PET PEEVES?

One of my styling pet peeves would have to be being too flashy. I think it is natural for most fashionistas to stand out and show their “style game” but it can be done tastefully. When I see the monogram hat, folio case, belt and sneakers styled together it can be very overwhelming and a styling eye sore. There is nothing wrong with having these items, just don’t wear them all together at the same time!  YIKES!      

WHERE DO YOU GO TO SHOP?

I like one of a kind pieces so I often find myself in vintage shop. TRUE vintage shops, not the marked up trendy ones.   Wear one designer for the rest of your life. Who would it be?

I would have to say Ralph Lauren.  It has just always been the most appropriate and makes the most sense in both professional and social settings.   

TALK ABOUT YOUR HAIR AND SKINCARE ROUTINE

I moisture every day.  I also use natural oils like tea tree oil and Shea butter to keep my skin soft, clean and young.  I also shave (with clippers) everyday to avoid skin irritations or unsightly bumps.  I rinse my hair every morning to reset my curls.  Afterward, I use coconut oil or Shea Moisture products (or both) to keep my curls hydrated.  I highly dislike dusty, brittle, dry hair so I try to always have a little sheen.  I comb the product through with my fingers - only.    

TALK ABOUT YOUR BODY AND WELLNESS

I work out 6 times a week. I like body weight exercises the most and I typically do a full body workout, yoga and/or cardio.  I have been recently going super light on the weight training as I tend to build muscle quickly. Faith, Fitness and fashion are a few of my ways to a balanced life!

TALK ABOUT YOUR FRAGRANCES?

My favorite fragrance is Cartier: Declaration D’un Soir.  My second favorite and what I wear every day is Lucky Brand’s Lucky You.  I like clean, fresh scents.  Mixed with the coconut oil, Hibiscus and coconut Shea Moisture product I use in my hair, there’s just something that happens.  My wife likes it a lot and that means the world to me.

MUSIC

WHAT KIND OF MUSIC ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

It all depends.  I listen to gospel or jazz in the mornings on my way to work which keeps me centered and inspired.  If I am working out, I normally listen to hip hop. I like running to the beat of the drums.  In the evenings, the music choice is R&B. I enjoying singing at the top of my lungs on my commute home. I drive every day, by the way so no belting on the New York subways.

ADVICE

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY YOUR END GOAL IS IN LIFE?

My end goal is to help people.  I want people to feel and look their very best.      

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO ACCOMPLISH A DREAM?

If you are going to do it, DO IT!  This is what my Mom would say to me all the time as I was growing up about any endeavor I wanted to pursue. The notion behind this to give your absolute best at whatever you are striving for. When you give your all, there’s nothing left to give.  Hard work will always pay off.  

Dress Code showcases the personalities of a variety of men whose personal styles I admire. Sharing their personal experiences, aesthetic, and taste level, these men are redefining what it means to be a "real" man in today's society through their manifestations .