Fashion Stylist Ty Hunter Keeps the Legacy of Eighties Black Fashion Alive in ‘Syncing Ink’ 

In the new play Syncing Inka young man pursues his dreams of becoming a rapper to impress a beautiful woman. But his journey into rhyme and hip hop takes him deeper into his legacy and purpose. 

International stylist Ty Hunter, who has dressed Beyoncé and Billy Porter, wanted to embody a powerful vibe to pay homage to the show’s hip hop connection. Tapping into the style and vibes of the eighties, the show conjures up iconic visionaries of the time, including Jay-Z, Nas, Grandmaster Flash, Foxy Brown and Lauryn Hill. 

Group - Syncing Ink Production Photo-RebeccaJMichelson-3E4A2214.jpg
‘Syncing Ink cast. Image: Rebecca J Michelson.

“We were really trying to pay attention to detail and bring back that old good feeling of where hip hop was and where hip hop is,” Hunter shared with EBONY inside the Syncing Ink costume closet. 

He started with some of the most iconic eighties brands.“The old-school Karl Kani was everything, and Carl Williams (who launched the brand in 1989) gave us pieces to use,” Hunter said. “We’ve got FUBU and the Malcolm X cap. It was important, even though the show’s period is now, to take you back to the things I remembered growing up in the hip hop era.” 

Bridging the gap between Black themes past, Hunter brought back the “Fists Up, Afros Out” and “Black Girl Power” themes. He then added current brands like DVR Black and Nosey, known for their graphic tees. 

For a bit of throwback athletic glam, “I took it all the way back and with Juicy Couture. Juicy was it back then,” Hunter chuckles.  

“We were able to really embody the characters and see them transform in the mirror. That was cool to see that everybody was so comfortable and happy.”  

That dedication to transformation has made Hunter a sought-after stylist over the course of his 30-plus-year career. 

“With each and every client, not just celebrities, I want to get to know them … to get into a place of just really feeling free and not being afraid to play with fashion,” he explained. “A lot of people take fashion too seriously. I want to get people to a place of just having more confidence. Because at the end of the day, confidence is what makes people feel better, not the clothes.” 

Hunter’s love of fashion comes from the strong women in life. “It was being young and wanting to hang around my grandmother and great-grandmother.” He learned style from his mom and Aunt Ethel who are best friends.

“I used to watch them; they would turn on Natalie Cole, who had singing specials. I remember as a kid, they would find the wig and some similar outfit. And they always made me a part of the transaction, asking, ‘Do you think this or that shoe?’ They still do, to this day.” 

Thrifting is also a big part of Hunter’s fashion adventures. “I love finding treasure in something that meant something to somebody else and trying to figure out the story behind certain garments,” he said. Finding a vintage piece adds to his unique personal style. “Nobody else will have that look on.”  

He’s captured these moments and memories in his first memoir, Makeover from Within: Lessons in Hardship, Acceptance, and Self-Discovery.

“I’ve never been in therapy, so this was really me writing a book about self-discovery, and I still discover more about myself daily.”  

Hunter candidly revealed how his father, who passed away from cancer, only seemed interested in sports. “There was the whole journey of just trying to please him. I didn’t find out my dad was an artist until he died. I found all his beautiful sketches and put them in my book. His doodles were amazing; his stuff could have been in museums.”

While Hunter grappled with why his father never shared his love of art with his son, he does remember his father taking him to a Diana Ross concert when he was around 7 years old. 

“That impacted me so much: the hair and makeup and glitter and diamonds and furs and all of those things Diana Ross,” he recalled. “I’m grateful my dad took me to that concert; it made me love fashion more.” He saw it as his father’s way of connecting with his LGTBQ son.

“We had our deep deepest conversations when I was at the hospital for three and a half months. I never left his side. We just talked and overturned as many rocks as possible. Any questions that I had, and just me being a gay Black man, my dad had never talked about it. But his acceptance and how much he loved me laid out in front of me during those trying times before he passed were incredible.” 

As for Hunter’s top fashion summer tip, he declares, “Quit looking at what everybody else is doing! What’s trending is finding what you like to wear and what makes you comfortable … If it’s in season and everybody’s doing it, I don’t want to do it. Let me find my own hot color this summer. When you put it on, and you look in the mirror, and that person in front of you says, ‘You good? I’m good,’ hit it!” 

Syncing Ink is now playing at The Apollo Stages at the Victoria in Harlem, New York.

Updated: May 14, 2024 — 3:03 pm