Today is (finally) the official release date of Mikki Taylor's highly anticipated book "Commander In Chic." Filled with tips and tricks inspired by Michelle Obama's incomparable style, the book is a must-read for anyone who wants to create a signature look of your own.
In celebration, Taylor chatted with HuffPost Black Voices about her thoughts on the first lady's signature style, revealed her favorite beauty product, the best fashion advice from her mother and even where she stands on the natural versus relaxed hair debate.
What was your vision in writing "Commander In Chic"?
My vision for the book, before I even began to write it, was that women would really use it as a personal style diary. That it wouldn't be a coffee book on the first lady, but rather it would be one that was filled with information that they could embrace, that would give them the kind of guidance to take the guesswork out of style.
I want every woman to be the "commander in chic" in her life. Simply put, that means someone who owns her life and masters style with distinction.
Did you interview or spend time with the first lady for the book?
Not specifically for the book. However, I have spent a considerable amount of time with her over the past couple of years for various shoots. Each time I've worked with her, there has been information that I've wanted to share, that I knew was important.
I first worked with Mrs. Obama in 2006 on a shoot for Essence magazine. I was so impressed with her. She was, and still is, a woman to watch. And so in writing the book, I used her as a muse to empower women everywhere. Talking to her was like talking to a great friend that you've known for some time. Mrs. Obama is comfortable in her own skin. She knows what works for her, who she is, who she isn't. She was an easy muse.
What are the first lady's top style strengths?
Her style is classic with a twist. She knows herself and her body well. The first lady always looks polished and pulled together. She has a great love of color. She loves a great dress, which at the end of the day is the best no-brainer dressing there is. She loves a multitasking cardigan; she's shown that it's a great adapter, the way she plays it over dresses, over the perfect pencil skirt or a pair of flared pants. She works accessories like a head of state, if you will. Even down to her footwear: the kitten heel or a classic skimmer. She just has this great ease, she is so modern yet it comes together so effortlessly. I don't think there is a woman that doesn't want that.
What are the fashion pieces that every woman should own?
It's all about your approach -- you need bankable buys. These are pieces you can wear again and again, they're great every time you put them on and they add mileage to your wardrobe.
- Clean-cut Dresses: I think women need several clean-cut dresses with great necklines that allow you to adorn them.
- Cashmere Cardigans: The cashmere cardigan in any weight is a great buy, and thanks to resources like J.Crew, Talbots and Express, you can get a fabulous cardigan at any price.
- Little Black Dresses: You can never had too many LBDs. Our lives go from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and beyond. I always say the little black dress is like a good girlfriend: she never lets you down.
- Flared Pants: I prefer flared pants rather than a trouser. Flared pants work on most body shapes and are always elegant. You can make them rockstar edgy of classic by simply changing a top.
You've said that your mother, who was a wardrobe stylist for the famous jazz singer Sarah Vaughan, is one of your style inspirations. What is the best style advice she passed along to you?
She taught me, "It's not what other people think about you, it's what you think of yourself that counts." In other words, it's not about dressing for the club of popular opinion but rather it's about knowing what works for you. My mother traveled the world over and wherever she went, she maintained her personal style. Oh, and she taught me to always buy quality over quantity.
Who are your favorite designers at the moment?
I shop designers that allow me to express my own style -- the "Mikki Taylor" style. So that would include lines like Piazza Sempione, Michael Kors, Lela Rose, J.Crew and Derek Lam, just to name a few.
Any must-have beauty products in your cabinet?
I became brand ambassador of Ambi skin care earlier this year, and I did that because I really like the products and I believe it's skincare that matters. I love that you can pretty much pick the brand up anywhere. One of my favorite products that I wouldn't be without is the Even And Clear Exfoliating Wash. It's like having an esthetician on call. It keeps my skin glowing and my pores clean. I'm on airplanes all of the time and under hot lights when I have TV appearances, so it's the Mercedes in my skin care regimen.
What is your stance on the relaxed vs. natural hair debate?
The way we wear our hair is an intimate and personal decision. It's one that is really close to our hearts, and so far be it from me to say what we should do with it. What we should be about is maintaining healthy hair and a healthy scalp. At the end of the day you have to know your hair. No one else can establish for you the best way to wear it.
What's next? Any exciting projects on the horizon?
In February 2012, I have a coterie of nail lacquers coming out called the "Forever Nude Collection by Mikki Taylor." They are for discerning women with directional taste. It's a select group of go-with-anything nudes for various skin tones and undertones. So I'm excited about that! I'm also looking at penning my next book, which will probably be a skincare book on flawless skin. I have traveled the world and know the top dermatologists and the latest information. My goal is to always inspire and inform women.