Aleali May has more cargo pants than she can count. The stylist, model, and sneaker designer has made it a tradition to visit army-surplus stores with her dad to grab her signature pieces. You might spot her in street-style photos during Fashion Week pairing her cargoes with a jacket and her coveted (and impossible to get) Jordan 1s.
Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, May took style inspiration from everyone around her. “Girls there wore Baby Phat with a Gucci belt, purse, and heels to match,” she explains. “The idea of pairing streetwear with designer pieces was always around me as a young girl.” When she wasn’t looking to her peers, she found inspiration in magazines she’d find around the house like Vibe, Essence, and Jet. These glossy pages alongside girl groups such as TLC and the Spice Girls, singer Aaliyah, and model-designer Kimora Lee Simmons allowed her to polish her personal style.
Which for May all boils down to confidence. “I’ve gone through trial and error with my own style. It’s all about knowing your proportions and honing in on your emotions,” she explains. “I wouldn’t say there’s ‘bad taste,’ but you can have an off day.”
Where did you get your favorite piece of clothing?
I got my cargo pants from the army surplus while visiting my dad in Colorado. He was in the army, so he would take me there whenever I wanted a new pair.
I wear them with heels; I wear them with boots; I wear them with sneakers. You could even wear them with sandals. My staple is a tight top with baggy bottoms — very ’90s.
Where did you get what is on your nightstand?
My Living Buddhism monthly subscriptions are from the SGI-USA Buddhist organization. I keep them in the drawer of my nightstand. I was also gifted an amethyst crystal, and it’s right next to my palo santo.
I keep my nighttime routine pretty simple, anything to help me go to sleep and wake up feeling recharged. I get my facials done by Shar; her company is called Artisan of Skin in Beverly Hills. I’ve seen her for almost three years about once a month. She gives me this whole skin-care routine. At night, I wash my face, apply my serums, and do the transformation cream after that, then a spot treatment when I need it.
Where did you get your signature scent?
I started doing fragrance posts for Mugler with Alien Goddess. Then I smelled Angel and it was really good, too. Now I shift between the two. I also like Byredo’s scent called Black Saffron.
Where do you get your favorite gifts to give?
Byredo is where I get my favorite gifts for friends and family. I love the Suede hand soap and the candles, too. I gift hand soap because you always need some in the bathroom.
Where did you get the item you splurged on the most?
My baby blue leather biker jacket from Bottega Veneta. I went to the store when I was in New York and they had one of my favorite colors, baby blue. I’m a sucker for jackets; I own so many different jackets for different occasions. This is by far one of my favorite purchases. I’ll splurge on something I can put in my collectibles. I like things that fit my personal style, no matter what brand it is. If I have nothing in my closet that looks like it, I’m buying it for sure.
Where did you get the item you’ve had for the longest time?
My Chanel quilted vintage sunglasses I purchased from my friend, vintage dealer and designer Kyle Pak. That was the first vintage piece I ever purchased. He was selling vintage sunglasses and now he has his own brand in Fred Segal. We met on Fairfax and did the exchange. They were $250. I could be wearing Zara and put those on and feel so confident and chic. No one could see me, literally. I still have them and will never get rid of them. It was my first real purchase as an adult, right before college.
Fifty percent of my closet is vintage. I’ve built relationships with a lot of vintage dealers like Queen Vin Archive and Nina Gabanna Vintage. There’s just something about having someone you can talk to about vintage and the background of designers that I love and hold in high regard.
Where did you get your favorite pair of shoes?
I designed and released my favorite pair of shoes in 2017 with Nike’s Jordan brand. My first pair of Jordan Is designed in 2017, which was based on my culture growing up in South Central Los Angeles. When we think about N.W.A. and rap groups around that time, there was a lot of gray, black, and white: the Los Angeles Kings, the Raiders, very team-affiliated colors. I wanted to be able to put that one on a shoe because they didn’t have a shoe that represented Los Angeles. I was able to pull from teams and my dad’s corduroy slippers that I got from the Slauson super-mall, which is like a flea market, and it was a shoe that represented South Central Los Angeles fashion.
Where did you get your favorite item to layer?
My oversize cropped hoodie is from my personal brand, MAYDE Worldwide. From a woman’s perspective, we need more options in streetwear. It doesn’t have to involve crazy logos. Sometimes I’m already wearing logos and need one piece to be plain, like a ribbed tank to go with my cargoes. Those things are missing. My brand has good cuts and heavy materials, so if it’s cold outside, I can put on this cropped hoodie and layer a dope puffer jacket over it. It’s all about options.
Where did you get the inanimate object that brings you the most joy?
My jade rope chain necklace I got from my grandmother on my 24th birthday. She’s always worn jade, but this was given to her by her friend from Hong Kong. She had worn it for about 15 years, and when she passed it down to me that meant so much. My grandmother is my No. 1 fan and I’m her No. 1 fan. It’s something I cherish to this day. Jade holds great energy, good luck, and good fortune. My family always bought me jewelry growing up — gold bangles and bamboo earrings. Things like that really honor your inner goddess and make you feel like royalty. It’s really representational of everything that I do now.