Darlington School: Private Boarding School in Georgia Darlington Connects: David Stelly (‘11)
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Darlington Connects: David Stelly (‘11)

Vicki Vincent | April 27, 2023 | 408 views

We're excited to connect with our alumni through our Darlington Connects series. Today, we hear from David Stelly (‘11), who lives and works in New York City in the fashion and PR industry. Click here to see some of his work on his website or follow him on Instagram @thestellynation.

David Stelly says his career as a stylist and fashion publicist has taught him that “It’s all about relationships and focusing on what you have to offer, not what you don’t.” 

David’s career journey is an interesting one, beginning as a four-year boarding student from Atlanta who took advantage of all Darlington has to offer. He played football, ran track and field, sang in Concert Choir, performed in school musicals, participated in clubs like Impact and Spanish, and was a leader in both Summerbell and Moser Houses. Some of his fondest memories are of RUMPUS. He loved his time in and out of the classroom.

“I had so many cool teachers at Darlington; some of the most memorable were Tim Garrett in physics and Brian Inman in history,” said David, who added that he loved to spend time by the lake. “As a dorm student, you don’t have a lot of alone time, so the benches by the lake offered me that place and time to sit and decompress.” 

David attended the University of Kentucky, where he earned a degree in fashion merchandising and textiles. After college, he moved to Atlanta, where he took a position as an assistant buyer for fab’rik, a clothing store. After a few months, they asked him to move to Austin, Texas, to help open a store. After a short time in Texas, David felt he wanted to do more. so he moved to Washington, D.C., and worked in marketing for a non-profit group’s human rights campaign and then taught for a year in Baton Rouge, La., as a part of Teach for America. Not feeling like this was the right fit for him, he decided to move back to Atlanta. He took a position in social media marketing with Delta, bought a house, and thought, “This is where I’m supposed to be."

“But life doesn’t always work out like you expect,” David said. After only a year at Delta, there was a lay-off of his whole department. “I asked God, 'What am I supposed to do now?'" he said. As luck would have it, a good friend had also lost her job and asked if he wanted to move with her to Los Angeles and get back into the fashion industry. 

"When God tells you to move … move … because once I got to L.A., the doors swung open for me!” said David.

He sold his house in Atlanta, packed all his possessions in his car and moved across the country. Not knowing much about how to become a stylist, David focused on networking and meeting people. Every day, he spent hours hanging out in an upscale fabric store in L.A. After about a week, the store offered him a position and within a week of working there, he met a stylist whose client was Kylie Jenner. David was offered an internship. Only two months later, he had secured his first client and was officially on his own working as a stylist.

“Being a stylist is being a ‘taste-maker’ and it’s really about telling your client’s story through clothes, shoes and accessories,” said David.

Knowing the client and having connections with the designers, public relations firms and brand representatives is what builds a stylist’s business. After five years in Los Angeles, David had a consistent list of clients but wanted to explore other roles.

"I wanted to learn every aspect of this business and the PR world of fashion intrigued me,” he said.

So, he took a job with a public relations firm in New York City and now represents 20 brands, making sure they are getting shown in commercials, print, and on social media. He still has several personal clients he styles, but learning the other side of fashion has been fun.

“I have a passion for always learning and growing," he said. 

David would be happy to help others in the Darlington Community navigate the fashion industry though Darlington Connects. 

Are you a member of Darlington Community (or do you know one) with an interesting career or community involvement? We'd love to spotlight you in a future blog! Please email connect@darlingtonschool.org if you are interested in being featured.