Hollywood Entrepreneur Style feat. Jelani Johnson
July 23rd, 2014
Jelani Johnson is an Ivy Leaguer, a world traveler, and an entrepreneur carving out his own space in Hollywood.
Although we crossed paths at Columbia University, we didn’t spend much time together on campus. He was wrapped up with classes and councils, and I with basketball and the discovery of fashion in NYC. When I moved to Los Angeles in September I knew very few people here, so I reached out to Jelani. We quickly re-connected as he brought me into his social circle and showed me around town. Since then he’s become a close friend and has had a strong impact on me personally and professionally. His keys to success: constant learning, genuine relationship building, and a worldly charm that makes people want to be around him.
The Cincinnati Ohio native has style, too. Not just in the way he dresses (which is always sharp and approachable) but also in the way he carries himself and interacts with people.
“As a kid I was blessed to have parents who exposed me to the world. Travel was a big part of our family experience and at an early age my passport was full of stamps… When I was 15 I moved to Mexico City, Mexico and spent my last 3 years of High School living and studying abroad. After High School I moved to New York City to attend Columbia University where I double-majored in History and Anthropology. During my Junior year of college I studied abroad in Brazil (in the cities of Salvador and Sao Paulo). I was there for the greater part of a year; living beach side while studying Black Anthropology and South American History at a Brazilian university.”
All that studying abroad taught Jelani to be independent and gave him the confidence to carve out his own path.
“After college I was on the finance/consulting track when by chance I met an agent at an event in Manhattan who opened my eyes to the possibility of working in Film & Entertainment. So I picked up and moved out West… My first job in Hollywood was working at the Creative Artists Agency (CAA). After a brief time there I transitioned to an industry-leading management and digital content company. I spent three years there before recently leaving and partnering with another manager to start our own management & production company.
I’ve never been happier. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. In many ways I look at my time spent at larger entertainment companies as a sort of “Professional Graduate School“. Everything I’ve done was in preparation of this moment.”
We caught up with Jelani at his partner’s swanky home/office in Hollywood to share with you a sliver of his lifestyle. For the shoot I styled him in one of our favorite garments for the “Young Creative Entrepreneur”; an unstructured cotton suit that can be dressed up or down.
1. New Age T-Shirt & Jeans
The unstructured suit is cut from a very lightweight denim, which is an ideal tailored fabric for those who want to look sharp and professional but not overly traditional or corporate. Jelani is a creative professional with plenty of swagger, after all.
“I think style should be inspired by experience. Think about what makes you special or unique and imbue your style with that energy. Many of my clothing choices are inspired by places I’ve been, people I’ve touched, or experiences I’ve had.
I’m also somewhat of a hoarder when it comes to clothes. I’ll often go a few years without wearing a piece and then stumble across it and re-introduce it to my wardrobe. I’m a strong advocate of timeless quality over temporary quantity; as a result the pieces I acquire tend to be appropriate and tasteful regardless of current trends.”
“I’ve been the same shoe size since I was 14 years old. I was a big sneakerhead growing up and I never took the leap to sell all of my old shoes. Every once in awhile I’ll put on an outfit and get inspired to dig deep into my closet to grab that perfect sneaker match. This was one of those occasions.
This timepiece was gifted to me by a fantastic LA based watch company named Rapp Black. Shoutout to Ricardo and the whole Rapp Black team.”
“The World Cup is my favorite event in all of sports. This summer’s tournament inspired to me to start wearing soccer jerseys again. The French national jersey is by far my favorite kit. I love the Henley neckline and the minimalist simplicity. I can pair this piece with blazers, cardigans, jean jackets or whatever else when I’m pressed for time. People almost never realize that it’s a sports jersey. ”
2. West Coast Dandy
“Unfortunately, Hollywood is not a meritocracy so being aesthetically pleasing to others makes it that much easier to get business done. I’ll never forget being out at dinner early in my career with a senior level agent who said to to me: ‘Listen, I like the way you put yourself together, I want to do business with you’.
Whether we acknowledge it or not – that sentiment holds true across the business world in general… When someone is sharply and thoughtfully put-together it makes them more palatable and accessible to the rest of the world.”
“This might be my favorite tie. I purchased it years ago at a sample sale in New York and it’s easily one of my versatile pieces of neckwear.
The briefcase comes from an outdoor market in Rio de Janeiro. Until recently this bag was my everyday go-to piece. It’s the perfect size to hold my laptop, a book or two, and any other incidentals I need on a daily basis. I don’t know what sort of magic went into making this bag but it’s incredibly durable. I have a special place in my heat for fine leather.”
“The mismatched striped socks were a gift from a client of mine – shout out to Chris Candy!”
3. All Denim Everything
Denim is traditionally associated with casual clothing, but it doesn’t have to be. Using it in a tailored setting instantly makes for an eye-catching and innovative look. Here Jelani is going denim on denim on denim (suit, shirt, tie) with subtle differences in saturation and texture to create a tasteful contrast.
“Ultimately, I wear what makes me feel good because in my business confidence is everything.
This leather duffel is my go-to travel bag. I hate checking luggage and this bag is the perfect size for a quick business trip or weekend getaway, carry-on only.”
“These white leather Chuck Taylor’s are my favorite sneakers. I love these shoes so much that I’ve purchased 3 pairs in the last year. Like Dan, I appreciate them when they’re worn-in, but I like them most when they’re brand new. I like how the clean white leather looks juxtaposed against jeans and sharp trousers. Also, the fact that they’re low tops allows me get creative with my sock game and have a little fun with color.”
- Black glasses by Warby Parker
- Vintage Ralph Lauren Sunglasses from Kings of Past
- Leather duffle bag by Coach
- Denim suit by Angel Bespoke (not cut for Jelani)
- Denim spread collar shirt by Alara
- Denim tie by General Knot & Co.
- Watch by Rapp Black
- Socks by J.Press
- Leather Chuck Taylor sneakers by Converse
Thanks for reading, and special thanks to Jelani for participating!
Yours in style,
Articles of Style
Photography by Alex Crawford.