Meet The Stylist Behind Ice Spice's Distinctly New York Looks
Like most people born and raised in New York, Ice Spice doesn’t let us forget it. But she’s not loud about it. You just know based on the music she makes, the way she speaks, and most importantly, what she wears.
Most of us met the 23-year-old rapper via her “Munch (Feelin’ You)” music video. She stood out for her red curls and her understated but sexy outfit that felt very New York (name plate necklace, denim cut-offs, cotton tube top, and white Nike AF1s). But as the song and her persona gained steam, we started to see her wardrobe level up, but still maintain a very New York aesthetic. In the music video “In Ha Mood,” she leaned all the way in, wearing True Religion jeans, two B.B. Simon belts, Jordan 4s, and a white tank top that revealed her red bra. A Twitter user tweeted: “Ice Spice needs a stylist bro, wtf is this??” and she aptly responded: “U wouldn’t get it.”
Since then, Ice Spice has been on a whirlwind of a press run, attending New York Fashion Week and wearing looks from Dion Lee, Tommy Hilfiger, Coach, LaQuan Smith, and Tia Adeola, while still looking completely herself. That’s thanks to Marissa Pelly, who’s been styling Ice Spice for the past couple of weeks.
“I never wanna be the type of stylist that tells someone what to do or tells someone how they should be,” says Pelly. “I think that it’s most fulfilling and most honest and authentic when it’s a collaboration.”
Here, Pelly breaks down how she got the gig, some of Ice Spice’s most recent looks, and what it’s like to work with an artist who’s generating so much attention.
How did you get this gig?
I was actually recommended to Ice through another stylist, which I thought was really cool. That doesn’t happen a lot in our industry. There’s a lot of gatekeeping, so I’m very grateful to that person. It just happened very quickly. They recommended me and immediately her manager called. She’s so busy and has something going on like every single day, so I kind of just jumped right into it with press and then Grammy week and fashion week, and it’s just been so much back to back. So we’ve been able to actually collaborate quite a few times in a small period of time. And it’s been really fun.
What’s really appealing about her is that she doesn’t look super polished and she still feels like a young, cute girl from the Bronx. She feels relatable. So when you first met her, what were the conversations like? What was your approach to styling her?
I never wanna be the type of stylist that tells someone what to do or tells someone how they should be. I think that it’s most fulfilling and most honest and authentic when it’s a collaboration. So I get to know you; I get to know your vibe and how can I just kind of elevate you and bring out the best in you. And that’s how you make sure it’s still authentic and they’re still themselves but just in the best light possible. She’s from New York. I’m from New York. I kind of understand her vibe. When I first met her, I just immediately got IT girl energy. She’s so unbothered and so sweet, but knows what she wants. She’s so effortlessly cool. She has an aura about her where I’m just like, okay, she doesn’t have to do too much to make an impression. And I feel like everyone’s out here doing the most and it almost comes off as inauthentic. Especially during fashion week, everyone’s playing dress-up, you know. But with her, she doesn’t have to do too much to be the coolest girl in the room. She’s not the biggest fan of wearing heels, and a lot of stylists will see that as a problem, but I’m like, I think it’s awesome if she wants to still rock her Jordan 4s with this dress or with that, because that’s her and that’s what people love. She comes with her own style, so why not just collaborate on that. I’m not here to change anyone.
What does she like to wear? You said she doesn’t love heels, but she looked really cute in her Coach outfit with heels.
She did. So she’ll do something like a platform, but it’s also just about building trust with your clients. Once you really start to vibe, then they’ll be more likely to try something new or go for something to step out of their comfort zone a little bit. Also, fashion week is the time to do that, you know, but to an extent because again you don’t want to play dress-up. But she likes to show her figure. She really likes things that are comfortable. She is willing to push the boundary a little bit with fashion, but she doesn’t want to look like she’s wearing a costume or anything like that. So it’s always making sure that each look still has a piece of her, whether it’s like a Jordan or tight jeans or a crop top. And making sure all those authentic parts of her are still involved.
What brands is she into?
She loves Chanel. We haven’t had a Chanel moment yet, but I’m hoping that that comes soon. She loves Chanel, she loves Prada, she loves Givenchy. But then she’s also into the Amiris and more of the elevated streetwear brands. I feel like she would really be into anything as long as it’s cool. She’s also not brand pressed. Like, she’ll wear a smaller, more niche brand if she thinks it’s cool. And she’s not going to wear something that she thinks is wack just because it’s luxury.
I loved the Eckhaus Latta look. I thought it was an interesting choice, and she looked really cute. Talk about that look.
We were doing a fitting for a Grammys press event, so I guess that was kind of the first carpeted event that we’d be doing together. And she hasn’t done a ton of carpeted events. And for someone who maybe isn’t really into wearing gowns or fancy dresses and heels, she likes to wear things that are a little more cool and less traditional. So I’m thinking to myself, how can we make this really authentic? And me being from New York, my starting point is always to pull New York brands, like Luar, Telfar, and Eckhaus Latta. And I just saw that sheer set and I was like, this would look so cool on her whether she did it with a sneaker or a boot for, like, a street-style press look. But then once we put on that little Balenciaga bag and her chain, and if we did a Rick boot with that slit, I thought this could actually work for a more nighttime carpeted event. And it came together kind of on a whim in our fitting. That is the perfect example of a look where the girls that get it, get it.
So with New York Fashion Week, she was introducing herself to the fashion industry in many ways. What was your strategy?
I knew we had to make a splash, because this was her first fashion week. I wanted to make sure she was super confident and that every room she walked into she left an impression. And she was so positively embraced everywhere she went. There were certain shows where we could kind of step out of our comfort zone a little bit so that she could have those moments. The Dion Lee full lace dress was everything to me. We tailored it to be super tight to accentuate her figure a little more. And paired it with the Givenchy boot.
And then for shows that maybe people weren’t expecting her to attend like Coach or Tommy Hilfiger, she’s really into this schoolgirl aesthetic or like a ’90s school punk aesthetic. So it’s easy to tap into that for the American brands. So for Coach, I love the little dress and the platforms, and I added the tights for a more ’90s punk look. And then for Tommy, I asked the team if I could cut up their samples. And they gave me stuff to play with. So I just got a really super-oversize men’s blazer and we cropped it and made a custom skirt. We reupholstered the corset top to match the mag. And then I did a thigh-high sheer tight and to bring it back to her. Those were moments that were really fun to collaborate on, because it was like a challenge. How do we keep up the momentum and not make this a branded moment, but still make it a moment for her. And shoutout to tailor Corin Wright because she held it down all weekend.
@queenmiki_ Traumatizing experience. Can you see how towards the end security started to panic? #nyfw #icespice #boweryshowroom ♬ original sound - Miki
The Tia Adeola look was really cute too.
That was one of my favorite looks. I thought that was like a perfect performance look for her with her Black Cat Jordan 4s. It was knitted, so it was very Tia and respectful of her brand. And I love how she wore her furry Brandon Blackwood bag as she was performing.
That was the cutest detail, when she was onstage with her bag. It felt very old Nicki Minaj.
I know. It’s so reminiscent of mixtape Nicki. And I love that. It’s like history repeating itself.
People also really seemed to like this Jean Paul Gaultier look. Well, the top with the cargo pants.
That was for MTV. And she had her hair done in this flip style, and I just wanted to do something super cute and a little elevated, but still super relatable. I wanted, like, a TRL vibe. So it’s low-rise cargo pants, the MSCHF sneakers, and the JPG top that we are seeing everywhere. It was actually a mock turtleneck, but I had that removed by my tailor to make it more of a scoop neck and more chill. It gave fashion girl vibes with the JPG, but still remained chill and relatable to everyone there.
She also looked great in that LaQuan Smith burgundy look.
I think that was the perfect performance look. She loves a catsuit. She loves things that are comfortable and easy to move in when she performs. She loves wearing sneakers when she performs. So the catsuit with the velvet detail is iconic LaQuan. And I just think him being a New York designer and her wearing something that’s super iconic to his brand.
Why do you think it was so important for her to step out during New York Fashion Week? And were you surprised by the reception and how much attention she drew?
I think it was really important for her, because she is from New York and she does desire to be in the fashion space more. So this is the first step. But I mean, she’s Princess Diana. How could she not be at New York Fashion Week? I feel like it would be a discussion if she wasn’t there. It was really important for her to step out in the streets and be with everyone and also show people that she belongs in this elevated space. I wasn’t surprised by the reception, because I really think that her city loves her. And that’s why I love working with her, too. She’s so cool. She really is an IT girl. She wholeheartedly belongs in that space. But I do think that outside of New York fashion, when I saw the reception on Twitter, I thought, “Wow, she’s really a star.” I’m just so happy that everyone loves the direction of everything, and I think when people are super authentic and really present themselves as they are, people are going to rock with that. She’s not trying to compete with anyone else, and she’s really not trying to look like anyone else and it’s working.
Her hair is such a big part of her look. Do you consider that at all when you are styling?
Hair is so personal for the client. I don’t dictate that in any way. And honestly I don’t really think about it too much. Her hair is so iconic for her. It’s always gonna be part of the process and part of the look.
Are brands receptive to her and loaning you clothes?
Brands are really receptive. I feel like everyone knows that she is the moment. But I wouldn’t say that she’s a moment. There’s longevity here for sure. And I think brands are seeing that and people are really eager to work with her. My DMs are definitely flooded with people asking to send me clothes for her. This is the first time I’ve worked with someone who’s this hot. So it’s been really exciting. I’ve been learning a lot.
How did you prepare for this moment? You said this is the first time you’ve worked with someone who is this hot, so how have you made sure you are ready for this?
I mean whenever I’m looking at looks on a runway, I immediately think of one of my clients. I start to really think like an editor. But I’ve come up in this industry very traditionally. I went from intern to assistant. I’ve assisted like every stylist in the game. From second assistant to first assistant to market editor. I still do a lot of market editing for other stylists outside of my own clients, because I think it really keeps you relevant in these designers’ inboxes and strengthens your relationships. So I do think that I’ve been well prepared for a moment like this for a long time, and it’s just about getting that chance. But I mean, to someone reading this, I would say on one hand you’re never really prepared because life is crazy and the situation can be a lot crazier than expected, but you just have to jump right in head-on. And on the other hand, it’s almost like you’re more prepared than you think you are. You just have to be confident. You’re good at what you do. You’ve been working so hard at this for so long, and you just need to be given that chance. And honestly, the best way to prepare yourself is really to just do it.
I’m curious, during NYFW did you see any shows/looks that you felt would really suit her?
I think that my favorite was the Dion Lee show for her. It has just the right amount of edgy and elegant. I can’t get my mind off of that lace dress she wore. And that was a look that was very collaborative between me and Ice. She really wanted to wear something lace and had seen a similar look. So I had to really work with the designer to pull from their archive to get that and to achieve that look that we had talked about. I also think that LaQuan Smith is such a good fit for her. I would love to have a custom LaQuan moment with her. I think that he quickly became, like, such an iconic figure in New York fashion, and I think that she’s well on her way to becoming an iconic figure in New York fashion. So I’d love to do some sort of collaboration or see some sort of collaboration between them or, like, a special project.
It seems like everything she wore was custom or tailored.
Everything has to be tailored. That’s styling 101. Your biggest secret weapon is a great tailor. Yeah. Because fit is everything. Fit can make something look mass market or luxury. It can make or break the entire fit.
And last question: How would you describe working with Ice Spice? Does she have certain references she wants you to keep in mind?
We haven’t really talked about fashion icons or anything like that. She for sure loves Nicki Minaj. There was one moment when we were getting ready for the Dion Lee show and we were touching her up in the bathroom and a Nicki song was on in the background, I forget which one, but we were all kind of mumbling the lyrics to ourselves as we’re working. And she’s like, “Are we all Barbs?” But it’s been really fun working with her. Every moment is so New York. And for most of my career, I’ve been told that if I want to be a great stylist, I have to move to LA. And I just don’t believe that’s true. So to be working with someone who lives in New York and loves that New York aesthetic, it means so much to me. And it’s so exciting.