For George St. Thomas Nelson, a local stylist for Lawrence & Larimer, creative consultant, and community outreach and resource coordinator, appearance is about more than the clothes you wear. For Nelson, style is all about perception. From growing up in a gang neighborhood where certain colors represented alliances, to maturing into an adult that wanted to leave an impression, Nelson says it’s important to make an image for yourself. Here, he opens up about his personal style, how he learned to rise beyond his circumstances, and how he wants to inspire others.
303 Magazine: How would you describe your style?
George St. Thomas Nelson: Some days it’s grunge, some days it’s sophisticated and preppy, and some days it’s debonair. It really depends on my mood and what look I’m going for.
303: How did you start at Lawrence and Larimer?
GN: I was looking for an opportunity to get into styling and fashion because it’s something I’ve always loved. Through a few acquaintances, I met John Chapman when Lawrence and Larimer was just an idea. I was ready to do anything he needed me to do, I started making myself useful, seeking him as a mentor, and he’s been a mentor ever since.
303: What was the first outfit you ever put together for yourself? For somebody else?
GN: When I was nine years old I won a $500 essay scholarship and used the money to buy clothing. I’ve always loved detail and I chose these dark Guess jeans with tan stitching and white and tan Air Force 1’s, and I wore those every single day. The first big outfits I put together for somebody else were during the first Lawrence and Larimer fashion show that I was a part of in Summer 2015. We collaborated with Levi’s and I put together the outfits for the men’s selections.
303: Your closet is on fire and you can only grab one thing, what do you save?
GN: I’m grabbing my NYC leather jacket. It’s a piece you gotta have, it’s going to last forever. You’re not just going to find a good leather that’s worn in and ready to go. Despite all the shoes in my closet, I’d have to go with my leather jacket. It’d keep me warm when I’m sad.
303: What do you wish Denver men would wear more of?
GN: I wish Denver men would wear more suits. I love it all from street style to suits but every time I wear a suit in public, it never fails that people will ask, ‘Why are you so dressed up? Why are you wearing this?’ Why aren’t you wearing that? Why don’t you care about your appearance a little bit more? You don’t have to wear a suit but, at least, love yourself enough to create an image for yourself. Not everybody’s into fashion but appreciate your image and how you want people to perceive you because it’s all about perception.
303: What’s a past trend you wish would come back?
GN: I love the ’20s and ’30s when black people would get all dressed up and go to parties. I love that classic style of dress. I wish the trend of the classic man would come back because everybody was wearing suits.
“Being a young black man, you have to understand the appearance you carry walking down the street. I grew up in a gang neighborhood, so you had to be aware of what you were wearing.”
303: Why is appearance such an important thing?
GN: It’s the first thing people see. Being a young black man, you have to understand the appearance you carry walking down the street. I grew up in a gang neighborhood, so you had to be aware of what you were wearing. If you were going to rep your colors, rep your colors, if you want to look decent, look decent because you don’t want to be bothered. Another thing is being stopped and harassed by a police officer, it happened many times as a kid, so my appearance has always been key. Getting older, it was also about wanting to look good for the girls. In ninth grade I started making my own T-shirts because my mom was working two jobs to support five kids and couldn’t afford it. I’d get four for $20 Footlocker tees and my friends and I would get paint from hobby lobby, go home and draw cartoon characters and paint them, we’d do a lot of squiggly lines on our tees, or customize our air force ones with paint and sell them at school, and people ate them up. I’ve had the opportunity of making jackets for local DJ Simone Says and some pieces for Denver Bronco Demaryius Thomas. Keep a lookout for a future capsule collection I’m working on named Teen Spirit.
303: What inspires you?
GN: My mom inspires me. I grew up in Park Hill in Denver with a single mother. She had five kids, three girls and two boys, she did her best to raise us all. I didn’t grow up with everything but I grew up with enough and with love, and love and faith and prayer allowed me to blossom. My mom sacrificed a lot, she sent me to private school, but I was in the streets a lot, hanging out with friends and doing things kids do but the turning point for me was when I was 16 and my brother died. He died at the hands of the judicial system, he was in jail when it happened, he was 24 years old. I realized how fast life comes at you. I started surrounding myself with good people, mentors came into my life and helped me blossom into a young man taking on the world. As a community outreach and resource coordinator, I love influencing kids, I want their dreams to come true. I want them to believe in themselves because I believe in following your purpose and passion. I’ve been blessed to be able to do that for 10 years and will continue to do that.
303: If any designer could fill your closet, who would it be?
GN: Virgil Abloh with Off-White. I met him at New York Fashion Week Men’s last year and he really motivated me with his talks, what he stands for, how he’s obliterating the idea of what high-end fashion is. His collaboration with Nike is amazing.
303: Something you’ll never wear?
GN: I’d never wear a romper.
303: What’s your dream within the fashion industry?
GN: I’d love to work side by side with Kanye West. I think he’s a creative genius and a student of the game, whether it’s fashion, music [or] art. He wants to learn and he’ll listen to others about his creative direction. I watched Runaway, the short film he directed from his album My Dark Twisted Fantasy, and I think it’d be so amazing to be part of his vision. Whether it’s producing a fashion show, producing an article of clothing, even setting up up a pop shop, it’s my dream to work by his side.
303: So you’ve been evolving from stylist to creative consultant. What does a creative consultant do?
GN: As a creative consultant, I’m an idea man, I can put my team together and whatever vision you have for an event, my team and I will try to exceed expectations and make your vision a reality. I majored in marketing, art design and business communication and it allows me to use all those sources at the same time.
303: Advice for beginning stylists/creatives?
GN: Seek a mentor and always be open to learning. Nothing’s ever going to be perfect, so just do it. By doing it, you’ll learn a lot of lessons. Surround yourself with good people, with a great team, and just go for it.
Photography by Jah Jamar Green.