Hard work pays off, or so the old saying goes. But NYC creative Rocco Valentine can attest to this as fact, being living proof that deep determination and drive can take a person places. Through his nine years in the fashion industry, Valentine’s top-notch talents and passion have cemented him as one of the premier stylists around, though his story shows it's truly not about the destination, but the journey.
Raised in a quaint ocean town in Connecticut, Valentine’s love for fashion happened almost as happenstance. The creative was studying psychology at Lasell University in Boston when the school’s small fashion program caught his eye, motivating him to switch focuses immediately and never looked back. Valentine’s internal spark for the industry happened almost simultaneously with his growth into his queer identity, something the stylist hadn’t been completely aware of until he was out of his small town and creating a life of his own.
Bolstered by his new passion, Valentine began hustling hard to make a name for himself in the industry. The burgeoning creative would skip classes to take a bus four-and-a-half hours into Manhattan for the chance to work behind the scenes at runway shows, before returning to Boston at night. His love for both fashion and himself was truly cemented after a study abroad trip in Italy, known as one of the meccas of the sartorial world, getting off of the plane and telling himself “it’s go time.”
Valentine’s first official foray into styling began when brand BB Dakota started sending him boxes of clothes to work with, giving him deeper insight into the path he had chosen.
“That was my first opportunity to put clothes on a woman and understand how it was supposed to fit and feel, and how it was supposed to look,” reminisced the NYC-based stylist. “I’ll never forget that; that was the foundation for the rest of my career.”
Upon graduation, Valentine and one of his best friends took a two week cross country road trip to Los Angeles, which felt “like a movie,” he says.
“The whole trip was a conversation between the two of us, like ‘we’re terrified, but this is going to change our lives,’” reflected Valentine.
And that it did. Valentine hit the ground running in L.A., working as a styling assistant for e-commerce fashion brands, and sometimes on his own for low-rank celebrities. The creative credits this period of time for teaching him why certain pieces are used in a shoot from the perspective of buyers and designers, how to collaborate with brands, pull from showrooms, and work to the best of his ability. But most importantly, it taught Valentine that he doesn’t care about the superficial “who’s-who” of the person he’s dressing -- but how he’s dressing them.
Armed with this newfound information, Valentine returned to his east coast roots in 2014 when he settled in New York City, where he’s remained ever since. After a brief stint on the retail floor at the ever-popular Reformation, Valentine was swooped up under the wing of respected fashion creative Brianna Lance, who’s hands-on mentorship helped pave the way for his own career to take off.
Thanks to his time with Lance, popular brand Urban Outfitters tapped Valentine to lead the styling on their own e-commerce and editorial shoots. He quickly made a name for himself there by elevating the online retailer to new heights with his keen eye, fully committing to the e-commerce aspect of the styling industry that is often overlooked by his fellow stylists, in favor of their pursuit of fame with celebrity clients. Always focused on the finer details of things, Valentine’s commitment to quality work allowed him to seamlessly fill this space in the industry with pride, gaining him countless more clients in the process.
With everything he learned from his years of experience in the fashion industry, Valentine launched Inez Valentine Swimwear with co-founder Brianca Ubeda in the summer of 2020 while in the midst of the madness of the covid-19 pandemic, bringing the pair’s respective queer and Latina identities deeply into the brand’s ethos. The sustainable brand, which uses fabrics made from recycled plastics, quickly made a splash worldwide for its beautiful and tasteful designs, gaining a multitude of fans in the process.
As an undoubtable success story, Rocco Valentine is a walking testament that passion and perseverance can take you places. With more exciting projects on the way, all eyes are peeled on Valentine to see what the creative dreams up next.