Derek Warburton: Celebrity Stylist, Philanthropist, Media Guru
Stylist to the stars, and an accomplished actor in his own right, Derek Warburton is no stranger to being influential. Recently adding his new GURUS Podcast to his media empire, he continues to explore the connection of wellness, authenticity and humanity at large. We chat with Derek about his upcoming film, Sarogeto, staying connected to his humanitarian roots and doing it all in style.
Photography: David Booker
Wardrobe: Yachi Gault
TPM It’s a pleasure to chat with you again. You have been incredibly busy as usual since the last time we featured you in Trend Prive… what is something that really stands out for you personally that has transpired since? Give us a peek into the evolution of Derek Warburton.
DW Wow, well we lived through a life-changing pandemic, so a lot. On a personal note, I found a lot of peace. I think so many panicked and found themselves in great duress and I did the absolute opposite. I found clarity, self-love, appreciation of being alone with my thoughts and discovered what the next steps were. I lost my business on March 16, 2020. But instead of panicking, I rebranded completely.
I had worked so hard for so long. Everyone had called me “the hustler”. Which I took pride in for so long. But after all that hustling for so many years I made a discovery, you need to work smarter, not harder. Just because I was doing it all myself and “killing” the game, doesn’t mean success was imminent. When you are so busy trying to crush it, there’s no time to learn lessons, to take in the blessings or elevate your craft and business or personal acumen. I think that was the biggest gift I earned during our time apart.
TPM Of course we know quite a bit about your work as a celebrity stylist. One of our favourite things about you is that you are always ahead of the pulse of current events. What are the aspects of how political dialogue smashes into fashion as an art form that appeals to you?
DW When you are a creator it is important to be on the pulse. Funnily enough, I have lived my life in such an authentic space for so long that politics, fashion and culture often combine. Diversity has always been important to me, gender fluidity and living your truth is important. I even started a new platform called GURUS because I wanted to reflect on the current atmosphere and tell real stories that need to be heard. GURUS lives within the space of 3 words truth, authenticity and passion. All of these reflect and are a much-needed balance within the current lexicon.
TPM There is a perception around superficiality in Hollywood that you definitely don’t adhere to. You are authentic not only with your philanthropic work but also with your approach to style. Yet it’s clear that you prefer a very stylized and artistic presentation. Today, especially with a younger generation really pushing for gender fluidity and self-expression, how do you feel society is finally catching up to all people being able to express themselves authentically?
DW I have lived this way for my entire life. I was a homeless kid, so I wanted to work with people in need. I have always dressed and expressed myself with fluidity and now so many can. I’m thrilled that so many finally feel safe to live their lives as they wish and I look forward to many more. I think that visibility is the most important factor and the media. Not only do I applaud this new generation but I encourage them to continue their self-expression. I was lucky to find mine when I was young and it took a lot for me and my beautiful contemporaries to be accepted by the masses but the joy of living your truth is that we never needed mass acceptance, we only needed self-acceptance.
TPM I often think of the precision and play off the light from the images of silver screen starlets when looking at your personal portraits. It’s a very specific artistic approach to fashion. I know that as a stylist, part of your job is to know if the client will be photographed, as well as where and how does this inform your own personal approach to routine? What is it that you pull inspiration from and how much technical thought is given to this?
DW I was always inspired by the greats like Beaton, Dali, Avedon. It helped formulate the baseline of my aesthetic. But as my talent grew, so did my perspective and my ability to be a storyteller. For my own story, I loved the silver screen and that look works on me, with some of my personal style added in. First and foremost I am a storyteller and I reinvent my subjects.
TPM How do you navigate, both in your personal work as well as when working with celebrities, the grey area of telling the personal story and the professional one? Often as an actor for example the latest character is completely different from the previous role… do you strive to embody parts of their chameleon ability and play with what fashion allows as an art form? Or do you lean toward bringing forward your clients’ authentic selves?
DW Again, I am a storyteller. That is my first goal and philosophy in my work. I am heavily referenced always. I will look at current projects, I will read the current press, I will also reference who they were. But I think my biggest success and talent is helping them see who they can be. I love to guide my subjects in a new way that they have never seen themselves in that manner. A funny coincidence is a Trend Prive’ past cover star, Taryn Manning. She has done a large amount of press lately and she has looked glorious in all of it. Beautifully put together, gorgeously styled and looked wow. But when we worked together I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to take her to a place she had not been. Along with that, we interviewed her from an angle about her character that no one would even think of.
TPM Working in the fashion and media industries I often “play” a different role depending on what the circumstance calls for and I think a lot of people take a sort of “character reference” approach to their daily style. Especially if they are in a position where they will be in any sort of spotlight. You never shy away from the spotlight, but you have spoken candidly about anxiety and finding your space in your earlier days in the industry. How did you decide which parts of your personality to put on display at different times in your career?
DW When I was beginning I came from a fake it til you make it mentality. I came from nothing, knew no one and had no financial means. Everything I made, I reinvested. In my early days, I would have enough money to buy a bagel and I would spend the rest of my money when I had it on clothes because I had to keep up with what I needed to look like. Over time, that all changes. The blessings that I am thankful for is that I never gave up. I knew this was going to be my life, I knew I would be a success and I knew I would find my way.
Showing up is the only way to find true success.
TPM Gabor Mate has spoken in-depth about how Hollywood is rife with professional personalities trying to escape their earlier personal trauma through disconnect. Do you ever see examples of where the playing of roles blurs the lines between reality and getting lost in playing an ever-changing roster of characters within the industry?
DW That is what Hollywood is built on. Where else in the world can you get off a bus from nowhere and become someone else? There’s a lot of criticism in that. I find it brilliant. America was built on that as a concept. I understand the criticism of it all. Everything that makes it hard also makes it the greatest place.
I have a very hard yet personal story of when I moved to Hollywood. I had wonderful social success in New York. From my philanthropic efforts to my artistic endeavours and a strong public persona. When I moved to LA so many of my contacts wanted to help. I had meetings after meetings, and do you know what they said? “You are a star in New York but no one gives a shit about you here in Hollywood”. That was not an isolated incident. I heard it in every room, no one cares. Well, now they do care.
TPM Your new film, Sarogeto delves into topics that are often either taboo in film or are displayed in a fairly superficial sense. Depression and anxiety are trending social narratives at the moment and could be a tricky theme to pull off with depth. However, this film captures these topics in an extremely relevant way and only serves to push the dialogue further in a healthy dynamic. What are your takeaways working with (Director: Nico) Santucci in how the narrative was approached with respect and authenticity? What do you think writers and directors might want to focus on moving forward to emulate these principles?
DW I think what Nico set out to do first and foremost was to tell a beautiful story of a woman who didn’t think she had anywhere to turn. The main character Grace is given a fatal diagnosis and didn’t have long to live and the film plays out from there. She had an abusive childhood. She lost her mother very young and had a father who couldn’t cope and was abusive. What I loved about Nico’s story is that he tackled mental health and also perspective. She is the main character who wanted her child to grow up in much better circumstances than she did and she remembers what happened when her own mother died. But then you realize by the films flashbacks is that she was trying to eliminate the pain she and her own father felt when her mother died.
TPM The idea of capturing this within the story of the discomfort that can come from blending cultures creates an interesting canvas to paint on. What appealed to you in the first reading of the script?
DW The script was appealing because of the complexity of the story. On top of that, I had been contacted by Nico before a line was even written and asked to take part. I knew Nico from collaborating on other projects and I knew his depth. Plus frankly, I knew this aesthetic and I knew it would be a beautiful movie cinematically as well.
TPM How do the spiritual references within Sarogeto sit with you? Especially coming out of your own cultural roller coaster and handling the ride up through affluence, do you feel that spirituality in some form is necessary to properly deal with trauma-based anxiety?
DW Spirituality is the only way to deal with trauma and the aftermath. What I honour about any form of religion is that it gives the recipient something to believe in. Belief is the basis of all success. Self-love is the answer to every question in life.
TPM What was it that stood out to you the most working with this cast and looking to bring the relevance of the topic to your character?
DW I loved the passion everyone was feeling. I shot my first scene on one of the very first days of shooting, the incredible thing about shooting at the beginning of production is the spontaneity and the flexibility because everyone including the crew is trying to find their footing. Most people are uncomfortable in that space but I find it energizing.
TPM As mentioned, you are often ahead of the curve of what’s going on in the political and ethical climates. You have ongoing involvement in many humanitarian efforts (clean water, empowering women, poverty reduction and support etc) and are connected to multiple organizations and causes. One of the things you touched on the last time we spoke to you was your upbringing. Did this inform your pursuit toward fashion and media and if so, how?
DW First thing, I will never forget where I came from and I believe in paying it forward. That is instilled in my soul. I work with women in need because I grew up with a woman in need. That has led to so many of my successes in business, which happened by accident. Everything I thought would be a big success in my life never worked out the way I had hoped and everything I did from my heart and was organic has become my most glorious success. I am done trying to force things to happen in my life and career. I am now where I need success to come to me
because I deserve it.
TPM Could you tell us a bit about your work during the pandemic with the Hollywood Food coalition?
DW I was introduced to the Hollywood Food Coalition from an organization called the Social Networth. This organization was started by my friend Jorge Perez who is a successful agent to help organizations who were changing the community by engaging social media stars to shine a light on the work. I loved the idea and we engaged my platforms to support the cause by providing more publicity. The first subject for the social network was Hollywood Food Coalition. From our meetings and engagement, I was feeding the homeless with them once a week and even donated thanksgiving dinner from a local restaurant called Home in Los Feliz for hundreds of people. Then the
Los Angeles is already the homeless capital of America and now add on a global health crisis. But that didn’t stop so many volunteers from helping. These were the real heroes of the pandemic. I wanted to continue to help of course and I desperately called everyone I knew for donations and was turned down every day which was understandable because no one knew if they could stay in business never mind donating. But I got lucky and did find very generous donors. By the end of the lockdowns, we were able to donate over $25,000 in food. A true blessing!
TPM You have successfully curated a platform that gives you a voice on many counts. How does media resonate with you?
DW I have become very savvy within the media space and have been able to use it for my financial benefit. On top of that though I have been able to be a vessel of sorts and also a sounding board to tell stories that have affected culture. That is what makes me proud of the work we do as a media company. We are small but we are mighty in our storytelling.
TPM We are excited about your GURUS project that will focus on wellness and creating a dialogue around building a healthy existence and as a way to inspire through passion and authenticity. As we make our way out of a tumultuous couple of years, what are your thoughts toward creating a better year for 2022?
DW I have based GURUS on 3 words, truth, passion and authenticity. That is all I want to talk about in 2022. Also, on a personal note, a huge part of my forward-moving goals are the foundation. Having a solid base is a huge key to success. That can mean emotionally, financially or mentally. A solid foundation is my key to success in 2022.
TPM Overall, what are the things that you think individuals need to focus on to facilitate the potential paradigm shift we need to see over the next year for the most positive outcome of humanity’s future?
DW People need to recognize and honour each other’s differences. We can not grow as a society if we can not accept that we don’t all think the same. Instead of shaming society for thinking differently, we need to let everyone express themselves, that is true equality.