Celebrity Stylist Sam Russell on Ego and Giving Back

Sam Russell is best known as a high-energy Hollywood stylist of the Wardrobe Dept who founded Giving Closet — a charity that gives back to those in need. I asked him where his love of style started and he explains, “watching Style with Elsa Klensch on CNN every Sunday morning was where it all started for me.

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Seeing the confident women of all races in designer goods you couldn't find in Austin, Texas in the 80's was definitely the door that slowly opened my imagination. It was a Sunday reminder to me about the great big world out there.”

Sam Russell and the Giving Closet

As for his own personal style, there's less of a crystallizing, singular moment and more of a gradual evolution. He confesses, “gotta be real honest here, my personal style developed slowly over time. I was never the dapper stylist in the room, I always arrived in t-shirts and jeans and solely focused on making sure the client was the star of the day.

As I promote my own charitable work now, I have had to turn that work more inward to benefit me, too. I go through the same insecurities as some of my clients now, but the goal is still the same. Wearing what I feel accentuates my vibration for the day is paramount.”

He applies the same mantra to himself as he does his celebrity clients, “Too much ego kills your talent. Try and check that often.”

Sam Russell and the Giving Closet

As an example, he points to when he was styling Stevie Wonder. “Stevie Wonder's bodyguard escorted him to the bathroom and when they came out, they walked away from us and into a sea of photographers with flashbulbs going off. As we caught up to them, I jump behind the reporters to make sure Stevie's glasses weren't smudged and that his outfit was pulled together. His fly was down.”

With grooming he wisely emphasizes hydrating skin care. Russell elaborates, “I've been on the east coast more since 2011 and my skin is constantly craving moisture.  Much more critical of moisturizing products now, surprised at the sham products that are out there, still. I seem to linger in the bathtub more these days. That only makes my skin that much drier.”

After years as a celebrity stylist, he's using his wardrobe skills to give back. He describes the moment the concept of the Giving Closet came to him,

“I’ve seen what a confidence booster a pair of shoes or new handbag can be for actors, but what would that do for a single mom outside of the Hollywood arena? Someone that was selfless, who had not purchased something new in years for themselves?

Sam Russell and the Giving Closet

Someone that had struggled and knew about perseverance? A single mom going back to work? A cancer survivor whose body had changed and she is too upside down in medical bills to even think about new clothes?

What if I popped into a stranger’s life and gave them this royal wardrobe treatment normally reserved for the elite? It's that simple thought that would change the course of my life. To date, I have surprised 16 women all over the United States.

This journey fills my soul up too now much to ever even think of stopping. Someone has gotta prove that fashion does have a heart.”

Finally I asked him what tips he'd give men trying to improve their look. His advice: “Always knock out the classics first. That blazer, the crisp white button up, colors that accentuate you across the board. Once those bases are covered, then the harder work begins.

Find unique pieces of jewelry, one-of-a-kind shoes that only you will be spotted in. Bridge that gap between Brooks Brothers and edgier off the beaten track designers that have just begun their craft.”

5 Favorite Grooming Products

Alaffia Soap reminds me of Cetaphil — a super friendly moisturizing face & body wash for all skin types. They seem easy to find in 32 ounce bottles that are hard to travel with so I make sure and pour enough into a TSA friendly container when in motion.

celtic complexion creme

​My sensitive skin rejects anything too oily, immediate break out let me know if I can be friendly with this product or not. Celtic Complexion is all natural , free from fragrance and chemicals and adds a healthy glow that seems to stick all day long. The healing properties are abundant, nicks from shaving or pimples seem to heal the second I put this on. Try just a dab on cracked winter hands and you will be won over as quick as a hiccup.

 I was staying in a hotel in downtown Atlanta when my skin broke out after the flight. My fight or flight mode forced me to pop into Nordstrom and the sales rep  suggested GlamGlow.  I use this every night now before I go on camera or after I travel. The business of good skin is no joke and GlamGlow came to play hard.

Never suffered from allergies until I spent a season in Washington DC. For some reason, Visine Eyes stopped working on me. The alternate healthy route brought me to this product. If you don't want "hung-over"  or "stoner" looking red eyes, Similansan this to your regime.

My latest discovery and experience was the Detox Foot Bath Treatment which is a painless foot soak that pulls out toxins through your feet. You feel like having a nap after wards (kinda like after a really good massage). My years of cigarette smoking could be proven through this detox. Don't judge my toxins until you have seen yours!

Sam Russell is a native Austinite, gone bi-coastal. He works as celebrity stylist, editorial, TV and red carpet wardrobe consultant for celebrities including Jon Hamm, Stevie Wonder, Colin Farrell and TV creator Chuck Lorre. Inspired by Oprah Winfrey and her Next Chapter  announcement, Sam decided in 2011 to start the next phase of his personal journey by bringing a passion project to the foreground:  His traveling mission is to surprise deserving women all over the U.S. with $10,000 worth of work and personal attire through his organization, Giving Closet. 

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