Legendary fashion stylist Danny Santiago is known for his work on movies like “Sex and the City” and “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” as well as his work with celebrity clients like Jennifer Lopez, Bad Bunny, and Camila Cabello. While his celeb client roster is the “who’s who” of Hollywood (really), he’s just as known for his iconic styling for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and more.

Still, the Miami-born stylist talked to mitú about fashion with the excitement of someone just getting into it today. In fact, even while styling “Sex and the City” spinoff series “And Just Like That,” Santiago connects back to his teen years shopping at thrift stores.

“I started shopping at thrift stores, at the age of like, 14,” he recalled. “I used to, you know, go to the thrift stores and buy things because it’s something I could afford. And I couldn’t go out and buy expensive clothes at the time.”

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Max®

While vintage shopping opened up his love of fashion, his work ethic pushed him to the top — something he credits to his Latino upbringing.

“I think with my parents and the Latino background of just having a very, very strong work [ethic] helped me,” he described. “I’ve always tried to be very professional about everything I’ve ever done… and try to do the best that I can ever do.”

Santiago sat down with mitú to dish on the inspiration from the Miami hotel his father worked at, the twists and turns of his fashion journey, his favorite “Sex and the City” outfit, and the celebrity styling moment he’ll never forget. Buckle up because it’s a ride!

Santiago’s love for fashion began attending “Las Vegas type” shows in the 1960s

Santiago was born to a Puerto Rican father and a Mexican-American mother whose meet-cute was straight out of an Old Hollywood movie. While his father emigrated to New York City’s Lower East Side with his family in the 1930s, his mother was from the small town of San Ygnacio, Texas.

By World War II, Santiago’s father joined the Navy and his mother cleaned Air Force planes: “She was so small, she was tiny…. That was the reason why they gave her the job.”

His parents met, got married, and moved to New York City. By then, his mother learned how to “cook really good Puerto Rican” food. Eventually, they picked up and moved to Miami, where his father took a job at the Fontainebleau Hotel. And yes, that’s where Santiago comes in.

“My father worked at the Fontainebleau Hotel. My family and I used to go to the shows that were there, and they had these sort of Las Vegas type shows,” he described, citing the showgirls’ and dancer’s glitz and glamour.

“It was very much the time of like that ‘Mad Men,’ 60s style,” he explained. “The women with the big, bouffant hairdos… it was that Rat Pack kind of vibe there.”


Apart from being inspired by Miami architecture as a kid, Santiago also counts his sister as one of his first style inspirations growing up in the 1960s.

“My sister, I guess, was my first inspiration growing up, and her dressing up,” he remembered. “I was always excited to see what she was wearing, and my cousins as well.”

Aside from being “very visual as a kid,” he was also “crafty” and loved getting creative. He also played lots of dress-up. “I used to sometimes dress up with different things, you know, come on with characters that I would dress up with.”

“I don’t know where it came from, but I just needed to do things like that,” he remembered.

By his teens living in Miami, Santiago got into thrifting with friends — and became a bit of a club kid. “In high school, we used to go to the thrift stores,” he explained. “I started going to clubs at a very early age. So you know, to me, I was inspired by music, it was during the disco era in the 70s.”

And while he and his high school friends lived on a tight fashion budget, they made do. “Even though we didn’t have the budget to be out buying designer clothes, we were inspired by that and would make things.”

He grew up with strict Latino parents that didn’t “understand” his career until later on

By the time Santiago finished high school, he traveled to Europe and stayed with friends. Once he was back, he decided that he “wanted to go to fashion college,” and enrolled in Miami’s International Fine Arts College (now the Miami International University of Art & Design). Just like with so many of us Latinos — college was essential to his parents.

Santiago recalled his parents’ attitude at the time. “What are you doing? You need to go get a degree in business or something like that.”

His uncle had an “executive position” at an airline, so his parents often urged him to call him. “You know, your uncle can get you in the airlines… You can go get a real job.” Cough, cough.

While Santiago is one of the biggest names in fashion styling today, he was a pioneer in the arts within his family. Yup, no “nepo babies” here. “No one in the family had any kind of background as far as, like in the arts, film, fashion, design or anything like that, you know. I was completely the oddball.”


When Santiago enrolled in college, his passion brought him to the top. He recalls winning the “Design Award” the year he graduated while also working in a boutique in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood.

Still, it took a while for Santiago’s parents to “understand” what he was doing. On the one hand, “finishing school, getting your college degree” was “very important to them.” Still, he remembers, “I think they were really worried like, where I was going to end up, and if I was going to be able to do something to be able to sustain myself.”

Eventually, Santiago’s boutique job led to styling gigs. In turn, those gigs led to becoming the costume designer for the DJs on MTV Latino. He remembers, “I think was probably the first time my parents actually saw that they could understand [what] I was doing, and that you could actually have a career within this.”

That being said, his parents always let him be creative — even when they didn’t understand his plans. “They always allowed me to sort of have my creative side, they supported me.”

“Let the kid do that and try it out,” he recalled his parents thinking. “It came from a place of love.”

Eventually, Santiago’s Miami fashion styling career led him to “Sex and the City”

Santiago’s time spent working at that Coconut Grove boutique in the early 1980s meant making jewelry for the store and styling the mannequins. He recalls how “modeling and advertising was taking a lot of notice to Miami for location,” sparked by things like “Scarface” and “Miami Vice.”

Eventually, photographers came into the store and asked Santiago if he could style photoshoots for them. “I was part of that mix of all of that and started styling, without really knowing what it was,” he explained. “Or having the idea that you can actually make a career out of doing this by putting clothes together.”

As his Miami styling career grew, so did his celebrity client list in the Magic City and New York.

While living between the two cities, he eventually became fashion director of Ocean Drive Magazine, as well as working as a beauty editor for Italian Vogue.

“At that point, I started working a lot with all big clients,” he recalled. “Working with a lot of bigger photographers, started working with Italian Vogue.” Some crucial connections he made at the time? “Sex and the City” costume designers Patricia Field (through the “underground scene in Miami Beach) and Molly Rogers.

While he already knew the “Sex and the City” actresses by the end of the series, he never expected creators would offer him the role of costume co-designer for the 2008 film.

“Patricia gets a call about this movie that they wanted to do,” he remembered. “We were here in Miami, and she looked at me and she goes, would you ever be interested in coming on board and working with us?” Um, yes please!

“And so then I started working with Molly And Pat, I did the first movie. And then the second movie came up, and I did the second movie with them. An amazing experience,” he described.

The Miami-born fashion guru also shared some of his favorite-ever styling moments

Of course, since he is Danny Santiago, we had to ask him about his favorite celebrity styling moment. As someone who has styled everyone from Shakira, to Serena Williams, to Daddy Yankee — we needed some chisme.

It turns out that his most memorable styling moment involves none other than Jennifer Lopez, fresh off her “Selena” debut.

“I was the fashion editor at Ocean Drive magazine,” he recalled. “And they had a cover coming up with this ‘new young actress’… by the name of Jennifer Lopez.”

“We had a very short amount of time that we’re going to be able to do it,” Santiago explained. He and photographer Tony Duran ended up having a “fast shoot” in Key Biscayne, and “it came out great.”

“The cover came out, she’s getting a lot more buzz, then all of a sudden we get a phone call.”

The shoot was so good, JLo’s team asked to work with them again for her debut album’s cover art. Yes, for the iconic “On The 6.”

Santiago remembers how it was difficult to get big brands to lend him clothes for the shoot. “It wasn’t like I could just get all these clothes from everywhere,” he described. “She wasn’t as well known as what she is now, obviously. So, you know, we got bits and pieces of things.”

Some big fashion moments from the “On The 6” shoot? Those “gold Dolce & Gabbana panties” seen on the cover, paired with a “vintage sweater” Santiago already had.

“It became so iconic. It was amazing seeing that, but not even knowing what we’re creating at the moment,” he now explained. “That was a pretty amazing memory.”

When it comes to “Sex and the City” fashion moments, Santiago points straight at Carrie Bradshaw’s legendary Vivienne Westwood wedding dress from the “Sex and the City” movie.

“It just stuck in our minds that, you know, there was something really special and really beautiful about [it],” he recalled. “It just stood out from all the others.”

Mentioning the low-key traumatizing scene Carrie gets jilted at the altar, there’s no doubt the gown added some drama. “[It did] everything it needed to do, going into the library, being on the steps ,and then the whole scene [with] her in the street.”

Fast-forward to his styling gig on “And Just Like That,” and Santiago was happy to bring the wedding dress back on. And give it a new life.

On the spinoff, Carrie wears her wedding dress to the Met Ball with that same blue bird headpiece. However, she adds a cape designed by podcast co-host Jackie’s wife Smoke.

“I loved it. It was such a full circle moment,” Santiago described. “It’s also something that wasn’t such a great moment for [Carrie] that she could repurpose and give the meaning of that dress something different.”

Santiago also said he loved bringing in Latino designers into “And Just Like That.” Apart from big-name brands like Carolina Herrera and Oscar De La Renta, he also loved to include Ecuadorian handbag designer Ximena Kavalekas and Isshī, a jewelry brand by Rolly Robínson.

One more thing for the fashion hopefuls? Santiago’s best career advice

We also asked the stylist extraordinaire about his advice for people looking to break into the fashion industry.

First thing’s first — don’t necessarily think of fashion as the most “cutthroat” business. “Every industry kind of is,” Santiago asserted.

“You need to know what your passion is and what you really love, and know that’s what you want to do before you even decide,” he said. “Because nothing’s going to be easy. It’s never going to be an easy path.”

As he put it, “there’s always going to be a lot of work involved.” So, don’t necessarily believe all the glamour you might see on social media. “I think people forget about the amount of work that has to happen to get to that point. And what steps that you need to take, everyone needs to start from the bottom.”

Speaking from experience, this means sometimes doing things you “didn’t want to do,” like making deliveries, staying late, and seaming clothes. Some of his best advice? “[Making] yourself, available towards the people that you’re working with” so they see your “hard work ethic.”

In fact, Santiago himself remembers assisting editors, where he would “unbox the boxes” while “steaming everything all night long for the photoshoot the next day.”

Set goals for yourself, try to work with someone you’re “inspired by,” and “[put] yourself out there.”

“Styling isn’t always about picking up pretty clothes or how you dress yourself,” he described. “You have to understand how to dress other people, understanding what works on other people, understanding how to work with other people.”

Above all else? “Humble yourself to things to get to the point of where you are, and work really hard at it.” He explained, “[Work ethic] is really, really important. I think nowadays it’s a lot of people don’t understand that as much and I think they need to learn that and humble themselves when it comes to work.”

Even then, once you learn, you can change things, too. “You can always teach yourself something on your own and come up and develop your own way of doing things.”

“Nothing comes easy” — but it’s definitely worth it.