Mecca James-Williams | Apiece Apart Woman
When we spoke to Mecca James-Williams, she was calling from across the Atlantic — she’s recently started splitting time between Jamaica and Bed-Stuy — but we couldn’t feel the distance at all. Mecca’s undeniable warmth and grace bridged the gap instantly, looking radiant with no makeup, wearing a mini dress she’d picked from our collection, making for a conversation as comfortable as one between old friends.
A self-proclaimed old soul, though Mecca turned 28 just this September, her wisdom and experience is beyond her years. Through a decade-long career, Mecca’s established herself as one of the fashion industry’s most sought-after creatives, and we find her now entering a new phase of her life — one of deliberate change.
Photos by Destinee Condison
TRUSTING YOUR GUT
Laura: I’d love to hear the story of you coming to NYC and getting into fashion.
Mecca: Absolutely. I spent my early years in New York, but we moved to Virginia when I was twelve. I always knew I wanted to come back to New York the first second I could. I moved to New York when I was seventeen, fresh out of high school, and I went to fashion school at LIM. That was a brief stint, because honestly, it was too expensive. I knew my family and myself, we couldn’t afford it all four years. I was super strategic, because through the program we had to find an internship. So I was like, “Okay, I'm going to be in this program for a year, so I need to find something through my school.” Something that was going to hold me in the industry. And I found an internship in styling.
I thought I wanted to be a fashion journalist, but my first internship was in styling and I was like, “Oh, I want to be a stylist.” Because it’s an unspoken and unwritten way of creativity. You put on clothes, you don’t have to explain, somebody can just feel it by what they see. And honestly, from that moment, I’ve worked tirelessly to find my own way, my own eye, so that now, eleven years later, I feel accomplished, and I know what I want.
Starr: I can hear that you follow your heart. Do you have examples of people who encouraged you to do that? How do you so bravely listen to yourself?
Mecca: I think I’ve always been this person. I know myself the most, and no one knows me the way I do. I've also always had a really beautiful, strong unit of black women in my world, who at every pivot of my life bred inspiration, optimism, and the idea that you can create the world you want. Not all of them had the opportunity and the fearlessness to do it for themselves, but they spoke it into me so that I never saw a glass ceiling. Even as I move to another country, aware of the privilege that it is to say that, for sure, I’m aware of the idea that if you tell someone to dream, they will, and if you remove that, they won’t. I have dreamed my entire life. I’ve manifested the person I’ve wanted to become, so I understand the power of it. Yeah, thank God for the power of black women.
Laura: So, have you moved to Jamaica? How are you working it right now?
Mecca: I live between both worlds. I just jumped in the water. Eventually I’ll get a coach to help get me through the water, but right now I’m just floating. I’m figuring it out, and that scares me, but these are the types of situations where you could plan as much as you want, but you won’t figure it out until you just do it. So I’m just doing it.
I still get invites to dinners, parties and events happening in New York, and sometimes I feel FOMO and other times I’m just like, “I’m not there right now.” I don’t feel the need to be at every event, every party, I just want to be in solitude, so I’m honoring that.
Laura: Do you have any rituals or practices that help you get into a soul space to be able to honor yourself like that?
Mecca: It’s music and, I don’t know, a good jay will get me there, and a candle. Things that pull on my senses — smells, fresh air, breathing. I’ve been trying some breathing practices. And I want to meditate more. I’ve been having a hard time tapping in. But I’m about to. I feel it.
Starr: You’ve mentioned that you’re evolving, and actualizing, and leaning into more of a holistic approach. How does that merge with your fashion background?
Mecca: I think right now, it’s at odds, if I’m going to be completely honest, and I think I’m fine with that, you know? I’m living in a duality, which is beautiful, because it makes me question everything, and it makes me think about things in a way that isn’t linear and it keeps me in tune with how I feel about it. And in that, you always get newness, and you always get perspective.
Instead of running from it, and being scared of it, I’m acknowledging it, because I also think the fashion industry has to change with the times. We all have to be more intentional and more aware of the processes and the things that we do. If I can do that through my work, my life, and my process, I’ll end up a better person. And that’s all that matters to me, honestly. I’ve released the need for my career to be a certain way, or to be perceived a certain way, so I can live my life and have my career grow with it.
THE ART OF GETTING DRESSED
Laura: Do you remember your first fashion memory?
Mecca: I do! I don’t bring this moment up often, but when I was young I remember my aunt said something about my creativity. She sourced all these clothes, I don’t remember where she got them, it may have just been from a vintage or thrift store, and there was this leather skirt. I remember I pulled it out admiring the detail. At the time, my auntie AJ was the woman who was like, “If you’re bored, go figure out how to not be bored. Go find something to catch your eye.” So I remember finding this skirt, and saying, “Oh my god, I really love this skirt,” and describing all the ways I could wear and reconstruct the style of the piece. Something about what I said made her spark an idea in my brain, she said, “So you really like fashion. That makes sense.” From then I've always just looked at fashion as an opportunity. It brought me joy immediately, her being able to put an idea to what I was feeling, without knowing it.
Laura: Starr and I had this moment when we realized that all the imagery we had been making was a little bit old-school. We were so inspired by magazines and great photographers and perfectly conceived ideas, and all of a sudden there’s Instagram. How has that experience been for you?
Mecca: I’m a combination of both worlds. I collect a lot of magazines in my home in New York, and it still brings me a lot of joy. I love going to Iconic Magazine or McNally Jackson in Soho. For the last several years, I would go to the one on Prince Street and grab a stack of magazines and flip through them with my chai latte reading page by page. That still brings me joy. On the other hand, the digital world, with imagery being so accessible, gives people the opportunity to dream faster and think about how they perceive things, rather than how something wants them to perceive it. So I like both, quite honestly — I love the duality of it.
Laura: I think trends, too, travel so quickly through people’s various modes of communication. What trends are you most interested in now?
Mecca: Honestly, trends aren't having the biggest effect on me. Right now, I’m channeling an old-school vibe, even my hair — the color and cut. I’m wearing these classic and simple aviators, like, very classic Ray Bans, very classic 70s feel. Right now my wardrobe consists of a lot of Wales Bonner, and Adidas x Wales Bonner specifically. It is simple, and pulls on some old school nods of fashion.
I love merging though. Fashion to me is like a canvas, right. I don’t like to get so set up in one look. I like to just paint. Every day is a new canvas for me, and every day I can change how I want to look. Even as I approach my work right now, I’m moving into becoming more of a culture editor, and less of just a stylist, because I want to connect fashion to the world and not the other way around. I want it to be through the lens of humanity, and not through the lens of capitalism.
Laura: You did a shoot yesterday, wearing a few of our pieces. Can you tell us a little more about it?
Mecca: I knew I wanted to foster a really intentional and authentic experience of being in a space where I could be myself, and I could just take off the layers of whoever I feel I need to be and just be calm, so that’s what I did. I said, “Okay, let’s go to the mountains and shoot a really beautiful story.” So I listened to some Lauryn Hill — ”Get Free” was the song that was on — and danced, and sat on balconies, and told stories, and had some green tea. I forgot my makeup bag and I didn’t twist my hair the way I wanted to, but I was like, “You know what? It’s fine. Just go as you are.”
Laura: Wow, I love it. It makes me cry because it’s such a beautiful image. That’s the elemental — that’s what we’ve always talked about. We just want to help women be exactly themselves.
Mecca: Yeah, and especially in a world that tells you who you should be. If you can find a space where you just allow yourself to be yourself, that feels grounding. I think that’s where I’m at, and I’m so happy. This is the first time I’ve just felt honored to be myself — not needing to be someone else.