Meet the Woman Behind Some of J. Cole’s Most Memorable Fashion Moments & Dreamville Apparel’s New Look

J. Cole's stylist and Director of Design for Dreamville Raeana Anaïs talked to us about working with Cole, designing Dreamville premium apparel, and more.

j cole and raeana together looking

Image via Publicist

j cole and raeana together looking

In 2017, J. Cole opened his 4 Your Eyez Only tour by wading through a sea of fans in a full orange prison jumpsuit with “Property of” scribed on the back. It was one of the most memorable aspects of the tour that fit perfectly with his prison courtyard stage design, reflecting powerful themes throughout the album about incarceration. 

The mind behind this unforgettable moment and several others was designer Raeana Anaïs. The Brooklyn-born multi-hyphenate started working with Dreamville in 2017 after Felton Brown—the label’s VP of Creative Services and her longtime friend—reached out to Raeana to help design Cole’s stage outfit for the tour. While talking on the phone with Complex, Anaïs revealed that the rapper’s memorable prison jumpsuit was her first idea. Cole loved it, and she had to complete it in a week.

“I had this whole concept of maybe starting the tour with one type of jumpsuit, and then by the end of the tour maybe he’s in maximum security, maybe he’s in a straitjacket,” Anaïs explained. “It got super conceptual, and Cole was so receptive to it all. I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere. Then Felton hit me like, ‘He loves these. Can you fly to Los Angeles tomorrow?’ I wasn’t prepared for that at all, so I got prepared very quickly.”

raeana anais j cole's stylist profile

Raeana is Cole’s personal stylist and the Director of Design for Dreamville, responsible for not only styling him for tours, music videos, and other major events, but also leading the charge for the label’s apparel as it begins to incorporate premium pieces into its collection. The look would end up being a centerpiece of the tour that added a new layer of storytelling to Cole’s performance. From there, Anaïs officially joined the team and began working on the relaunch and rebrand of Dreamville apparel, focusing on trying to elevate the brand so that it is able to create bridges with consumers who may not even be familiar with the music label.

As for her approach to styling the multi-platinum artist, Anaïs understands that it’s all about balancing what Cole likes with new things she thinks he’d be willing to try. The key to J. Cole’s personal style is subtlty. He presents himself in a way that feels accessible while still being stylish. His looks resonate with his fanbase because they never feel too glamorous or out of reach, and as he rapped on a recent guest verse, “Please don’t get it fucked up from this homeless aesthetic.” Cole is still real-life wealthy and can throw in a sneaky flex whenever he wants, like when he wore sweatpants and Crocs to perform at the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Awards, but had on Gallery Dept. socks that retail for nearly $100. Anaïs explained how that look in particular was all Cole’s idea, and that she loves how he is already deeply rooted in his own established sense of style. 

“What’s so cool about him is that he has his own very defined personal style,” she said. “That’s very clear and concise, and to me, there’s a formula. So when I’m looking, I’m thinking about that formula, but I pretty much just look for things all the time.”

With Dreamville apparel’s Spring/Summer collection set to debut at the label’s second annual Dreamville Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 2 and 3, Complex talked to Anaïs about expanding the brand beyond merch, how she solved the almost impossible task of making small jerseys fit Cole, and more stories behind some of J. Cole’s memorable fashion moments.

j. cole in his prison jumpsuit
raeana prison jumpsuit idea for cole
j. cole in crocs at the iheart radio show

There’s a line Cole has on the new EarthGang album where he raps, “Please don’t get it fucked up from this homeless aesthetic.” He has a very established, laid-back signature look. What’s your process like styling him?

I’m just always scanning the internet. Wherever I travel, I like to see what the stores are and what people are wearing. I’m just always in search mode because, at the end of the day, his job is to be an artist. That is his focus. My focus is fashion, so that’s my constant. Instagram is a huge tool for me to find and connect with young talent and up-and-coming brands. It’s a balance of respecting his comfort, the things he likes, and understanding the things that work and that don’t, and introducing him to things. I use every fitting as an opportunity to test something. There could be something that I think is cool and he could think I’m buggin, but it’s my job to show him and see what he thinks. I could assume that he’ll think it’s wack and not show him, but I just try and provide him with the options so he can explore and get to know these brands. What’s so cool about him is that he has his own very defined personal style. That’s very clear and concise, and to me, there’s a formula. So when I’m looking, I’m thinking about that formula, but I pretty much just look for things all the time.

He recently pulled up to perform at the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Festival in sweatpants, Crocs, and the subtle Gallery Department socks flex. How did that look come together?

That was 100 percent Cole, I can’t take any credit for that. I’m not ever telling him, “This is what you’re wearing.” It’s way more of a fluid back and forth conversation about what he’s feeling. I enjoy that because he is his own person. He’s not a mannequin, he knows what he likes, he’s interested, and when he does something like that, you can’t be more authentic. That was what he wanted to wear, so I’m just curating what’s cool and getting his opinion. In that particular instance where he had the Crocs on, that was after the music video with Wale where he had them on too. And we had the most fire boots for that video too that went amazing with the look, but he was like, “Yo, I might just wear the Crocs,” and I couldn’t blame him. They’re so comfortable, and that’s a flex in itself without even trying. He was like, “I’m really not trying to impress y’all.” He’s just a very authentic person who wears what he likes and is true to himself. There’s nothing about what he’s doing that is trying to convey something. It’s always very authentic and organic. If he likes something, he’s going to wear it. He’s never going to wear something because people think he should wear it. That’s one of the cool things about him, I think a lot of people can look at him and really see someone who is authentically themself.

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In YG’s “Scared Money” music video, Cole wore a suit and we see another side of his style. Talk about what inspired that fit.

I knew that they were going to be mobsters for the video, so I was like, “Alright, he needs to look super clean.” Of course, the red bottoms because I felt like it just perfectly tied into the song. I love when there’s an opportunity to shock people with fashion because I don’t think you should ever put any person in a box. At any time, if he ever wants to put a tux on or switch it up, we should all be allowed that. I think that it’s cool to switch it up sometimes, and it worked well for the creatives, and I knew that he and YG needed to work in an environment together. I also worked closely with YG’s stylist [Brookelyn Styles] and knew what his look was going to be so it was just making sure that it looked good story-wise. I think it came out dope too.

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