Marika-Ella Ames’ Solid Foundation Shaped Her Styling Journey

Behind the Image is an ongoing series taking a more personal look at both established and emerging creative talent.

Marika-Ella Ames | Image courtesy of Second Name

Marika-Ella Ames, Stylist

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Representation: Second Name (worldwide)

How would you describe your work? What’s your trademark?
I have so many different outlets that let me show different sides to my work. Overall, I think my essence is quite playful and provocative, both physically and intellectually. Right now, I’m reimagining narratives and rewriting the script, if you will.

How did you first discover your passion for styling, and what led you specifically into the world of styling?
I had quite a strange entry into the industry. Attending university was never a desire of mine, and as a young creative, I was grateful that my family didn’t force academia on me. When I was 16, a childhood friend’s mother suggested I go down to Vice Magazine, as the fashion editor was looking for interns. Vice was a very important independent and anti-establishment British print publication at the time. On my first day, I was scouting abandoned buildings across London and buying pigs’ heads to lay on models’ bodies at Smithfields meat market for shoots. From there, I was pulled into the world of celebrity styling, working with Rihanna and Kanye’s stylists. Through those roles, I was introduced to London’s crown jewels; the city’s young designers. My role was to research and source all the interesting collections from the fashion school students and ship them out to whichever city Kanye was touring. Two years later, I was offered a 1st assistant position in New York to Ludivine Poiblanc at the age of 21, where I assisted her for five extremely formative years – during that time, I was exposed to the industry’s most renowned photographers. I’ve experienced and been exposed to so much in that ten-year time frame. My DNA was a mix of the punk, the subculture, the celebrity, the DIY, the refined, and the chic. I’d like to think that’s all apparent in my work and in my eye now.

What other jobs have you had?
I started working at the age of 13, so I’ve had many jobs. My first job was at a flower shop opposite my house. I also worked in vintage markets and luxury retail. I did some cocktail waitressing, but I’m quite clumsy, so that was, thankfully, a short stint. But the most significant job I had growing up was aged 16 at a vintage furrier on Portobello Road, Hilary Proctor Exclusive. Working with vintage furs is where I learned to truly appreciate meticulous craft and skill. It was also my training ground in the art of selling. Hilary was and still is a huge mentor in my life.

What inspires your creative process and influences your artistic vision?
Logically, a singular word has always begun my creative process: dancehall, ballet, shell, carnival, ski, etc. Once that’s established, it’s a middle ground between instinct and imagination. The collaborators I choose to work with for each project are very intuitive. I’m honored to be working with such trusting and inspiring artists.

What have you watched/heard/read lately that has inspired you?
I was just in the Dominican Republic shooting with Renell Medrano for her upcoming exhibition. There were torrential Caribbean storms, and the way the people used trash bags as cover-ups for the rain in such a stylish way which was so inspiring. Some created hats; some made one-shoulder tops with matching skirts; some made beautifully twisted shawls and capes. Caribbean trash bag couture!

Can you share your experience collaborating with Rachel Scott of Diotima, given that you are frequent collaborators?
Rachel Scott and I are in our third season of working together. She invited me to work with the brand when she was in the LVMH finals in 2023. We speak daily and are constantly sharing references and having digital fittings. I’m partly based in New York, so we also have the luxury of developing things in IRL frequently. We then spend a week before every collection debut at her studio developing, tweaking, styling, fitting, etc. We share the same mission in Jamaica: bringing the elevated, chic side of the island, which is often unseen, center stage. We also share similar European fashion anecdotes and references from both of our trainings. Rachel is a force, and the cult following that has been built around Diotima in such a short span of time is remarkable. We are just getting started!

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced professionally?
Everything comes at the right time. Anything I’ve ever perceived as a challenge is a huge blessing. Right now, my voice is being heard, and I’ve gained a lot of trust in the industry. The only challenge I have right now is having enough time to execute all of my ideas for the collections each season.

What’s one thing outside of your work that you would like people to know about you?
We do it all for the kids! I always put digital callouts for assisting / interning support in each city when I need support. An intern in NYC that I brought on board recently told me that one of her professors taught an entire seminar on my shell story for More or Less at Polimoda Fashion School in Florence, Italy, to hundreds of students. Knowing that my stories are resonating and inspiring others, especially the younger generation, just as much as they inspire me is priceless.

Who do you think is one to watch?
Jawara Alleyne, of course! I consult on, and style Jawara’s shows, and Jawara has been quietly bubbling and transitioning into center stage. The circularity of his work, the research, and then the physical expression in not just his clothes but also in the universe he is creating is something to be in awe of. Nobody can drape like Monsieur Jawara. He has this otherworldly ingrained understanding of fabric and how to manipulate it. We have worked together for the past three years, ever since Lulu Kennedy asked me to style his show finale at Fashion East. Championing the Caribbean network is of great importance to me.

Selected Work

Imaan Hammam by Renell Medrano | Image courtesy of Second Name

Imaan Hammam on Staying Grounded
This story had many firsts. My first time shooting Imaan Hammam and my first time shooting for Harpers Bazaar US. This cover story is also where Renell Medrano and I began our long-standing collaboration. We wanted to see Imaan as soft and delicate for this story, almost a little demure but still remaining powerful. Once we explained the mood to her, she immediately gave us the energy in this photo. Imaan is so talented at her craft. There’s a reason she’s a supermodel!

By Alexandra Leese | Image courtesy of Second Name

More or Less Magazine
This shell story for More or Less was shot in Jamaica, on the west of the island, where there are a lot of cave formations. The fashion concept was “shells,” and in addition to having several designers create bespoke shell pieces, I also created pieces. This mussel shell top pictured took me close to 2 months to create. Equipped with a vision, a diamond bit drill, and some mussel shells someone collected for me on the coast of Dover, I somehow convinced everyone who walked through my apartment door to put on a Stanley workwear glove and help drill these shells. This top was a real community piece from my mother to assistants to friends. Once we were on set, Alex had a reflective board to bounce the light from the sun into the dark cave; all of a sudden, the light magically turned red, gold, and green: rasta colors.

By Zora Sicher| Image courtesy of Second Name

She Sells Sea Shells
This story was shot with Zora Sicher on the Cayman Islands for Dazed. I had 48 hours to prep this story in London and ended up getting the most fantastic clothing. We shot this at the entranceway to a mesmerizing bat-infested cave, with Nelly nestled into the nook of the most hypnotic tree. Zora and I share the same appreciation for nature, and there’s no greater pleasure to me than where fashion and nature can collide in an image.

Breana Carson by Luca Khouri| Image courtesy of Second Name

I hold this shoot for System Magazine very dearly as it was my first major story in Jamaica. Luca Khouri and I began shooting the model pictured in this image, Breanna Carson, many years prior, when she was 15, and seeing her develop into such a driven, hardworking young woman is phenomenal. She was scouted by Deiwght Peters of Saint International in Jamaica and, shortly after, went to Paris to walk a Celine exclusive. We shot this story at an area called Treasure Beach in Saint Elizabeth, known for its mystical energy. Luca had done a location scout and had shown me this image, just without Bre there. I decided the image needed vibrant color. This image was a key moment for me as it was my first time dressing an image, which is something I consistently do now on-location shoots.

By Nick Sethi| Image courtesy of Second Name

Fantasy Island
In June 2023, I was invited by Palm Heights to the Cayman Islands to style their carnival Mas Band for the Cayman Carnival. I invited several designers from several major cities to create pieces that were based on the concept of rebirth. Here, Fredrik Tjærandsen created sustainable, inflated latex arm sleeves that represented the phoenix rising from the ashes.Nick Sethi came to the island, and we shot an editorial for More or Less with all of the designers’ pieces. This shot was taken at the “Shell Space,” a building close to the hotel that the owners are developing into, amongst many things, artist studios. It’s said that the Sphinx was placed outside of the pyramids to check the purity of people’s hearts before they entered. Here, I imagined Fanta as the “Guardian of the Shell Space”.