Art director

The latest recipient of Instagram’s #BlackDesignVisionaries grant is the artistic director of Solange


Credit: Elias Williams

Sablā Stays is a true creator of rebirth.

From her time in the fashion industry to graphic design and now artistic direction, she has never allowed anyone, even herself, to put her talents in a box. Hailing from Far Rockaway, Queens, her design journey began at High School of Fashion Industries as opposed to traditional high school, followed by Parsons School of Design – the only college she applied to.

It’s indicative of who she always has been. The confident artist knew she would be in design since the age of 11 and has been following this path ever since. What she didn’t know was that she would find herself working with one of the most beloved multi-feature artists and consummate cool girl, Solange Knowles. His current role is artistic director of Saint Heron, Solange’s creative agency. As her Instagram bio once read, “Former fashion designer, now a graphic designer disguised as an artistic director”, Sablā didn’t necessarily think her career would take her to where she is now, but she is open to the beauty of change, which is clearly demonstrated by another unexpected professional victory, her Instagram life-changing scholarship. #BlackDesignVisionaries program.

She recently caught up with Essence to talk about her lust-worthy career, her time working at Saint Heron, and what brought her recognition on Instagram.

Sablā, I read that you have always considered getting into fashion. What made you want to extend your artistic talent to other areas of design?
During my studies and working in fashion, I constantly felt limited; that all my other artistic interests had to be in the service of fashion to a point where I resented it a lot. Remember this was around a time when I was studying fashion design at Parsons. Therefore, everything I did literally had to come down to a piece of clothing or at least fashion theory. I have evolved to a place where my old vision of being a fashion designer has evaporated. Fortunately, I always had an artistic practice outside of fashion which was linear to it, even a long time before.

What were your design influences growing up in New York?
There is an energy that I always look for in my work, an energy that comes straight from my childhood growing up Black in New York. I vividly remember that warm but enlightening feeling I used to have when looking at artwork, listening to music, or being in certain environments when I was a child looking to reproduce in my creation process. For me, my biggest influences have never been tangible, always an emotion and a spirit.

Tell me a bit about your trip to Saint Héron. Was it something you had planned or was it just kismet?

Definitely kismet. In 2018, when I decided to quit fashion for good, I took a month for myself to create a graphic design portfolio and website, all with the intention of mass emailing. to my network of peers, friends, mentors, etc. where I was and what I was looking for. Among the group were people from the Saint Heron team. This mass email that I sent to probably over 80 people is what led me to an interview with Solange. I happened to send this email while she was looking for a new art director and designer to join the team.

Why was it important for you to apply for the #BlackDesignVisionaries scholarship?

This is the first grant I have ever applied for and felt focused on designers like myself, even when applying I honestly didn’t think I would win. I sometimes have the impression that my work does not necessarily fall within the fields and rules of “graphic design”. The grant in itself symbolized another step in closing the accessibility and fairness gap that I think black designers often find themselves in.

Why is this opportunity so critical for black designers to know about?

I have found myself once too often (and I still find myself) with the doubt of knowing if I am good at something, when it comes to highlighting my work and even less my identity since the two are often enough. related. The underlying subconscious stream of this self-imposed question is: will it be “too dark” or is this the space where I want to give my “darkness”. I think grants like these help black designers feel secure to shell out such a sacred part of themselves and eradicate this very unfortunate common question that we ask ourselves.

What are your hopes for other black creatives who are just starting out?

My hopes for other black creatives who are just starting out are to practice, practice, practice. Learn how to set healthy boundaries, take care of your mind and spirit, because when these two are not aligned your art will not. Finally, know that the most magical part of creation is the process required to arrive at the final product.