"To me, style is fashion, art, music, it's bigger than just fashion; it's a culture," Lucas says.
In May 2013, as a way to bring this culture to the masses, she launched Style Public with commercial producer and freelance writer Hunter Boone — along with a team of her own to help. "I was like, it's amazing the people I know and the people they know and how cool these people are. I call them my cool kids. There are so many cool kids. Maybe I can write some stories, and maybe these cool kids could write some stories about other cool kids. You know Style Public turned into a style news site written by cool kids for other cool kids," Lucas adds. "These are fashion insiders. These are people who know what's going on, artists talking about artists, musicians writing about other musicians.
"And there's this common thread, and Charleston's in the middle of it all ... I love Charleston, and I love writing about Charleston. But I think we're so good when we're in the midst of other cities. When we're being compared and we're parallel and we're progressive where other cities are progressing."
The idea for the website is pretty simple. Lucas wants Style Public to be the place for finding the most up-to-the-moment style news that's happening all over the world. "I selfishly made Style Public more visual, so when you go to it, you're not bombarded by text; you're seeing the visual beauty of it, and if it captivates you in some way, you can click on it and read more about it. It's short and sweet. It's not a novel," Lucas says. "It's very people's voice. And I love that."
From Instagram question-and-answer sessions to the next big photographer to fashion trends, Style Public mixes trend tracking with up-and-coming artists — like the 16-year-old girl who photographs subjects to look like they're levitating — and creates new ways of looking at the arts world.
At the end of the day, Lucas just wants to make style more accessible. "Style Public is about removing exclusivity from style and making it more public," she says.
But the Charleston fashion game didn't come easily for Lucas. She moved from Atlanta where she began her work as a stylist while attending college, unsure of how she'd be able to transfer her career success from ATL to the Holy City. "When I first moved to Charleston and was very low on the fashion totem pole, I was like, what am I going to do?" she recalls. "And my mother said, instead of being depressed walking around like it's the end of the world, be a pioneer. Make it happen. It all came together."
From there, she started pitching ideas to local media, including the City Paper. (Lucas' pitch evolved into what's now our Scene section.) "That was the beginning," she says.
During her fashion takeover, Lucas would be out nearly every night, making connections and meeting the right people. "Everyone's connected, and I think sometimes we forget that because we live in a society where it's all 'look at me.' I'm always trying to get people to see how everything goes full circle," she says.
And it's this mindset that's helping Style Public be more than just an extension of Ayoka Lucas. "I'm collaboration crazy," she adds. "I'm an only child, so I think somehow in me I always have this need to collaborate to be amongst and find kinfolk and things like that, you know, like family," says Lucas. "So I think that plays into my life and my work life as well. When I left Charleston magazine (in the summer of 2012) and went freelance — you know I still have Charleston Fashion Week and all that stuff — but I really wanted to tell different stories."
Those stories come about from her collaboration with people around the world. She'll even work with other blogs; she doesn't see it as competition, instead it's a way to move the culture of style forward. "I just want to bring people together. I want people to look at their differences and be cool with it, be down with it. And maybe even come together and build on it," Lucas adds. She helps people come together by throwing industry parties, and they're quickly becoming pretty legandary with Bill Murray crashing the last one. And while the next one isn't completely set in stone yet, it's going to be at the Faculty Lounge and will have a New Year's Eve do-over theme.
"I like to have a good time with a lot of people, for me that's the only way to connect. Fun for me is being around a lot of people dancing," Lucas says.