Storm Pablo: The stylist who turned Bad Bunny into a fashion icon

Born on the island of Guam, Manuel San Agustín Pablo II went from serving drinks to dressing the king of urban music having been inspired by Kurt Cobain and Dennis Rodman

Storm Pablo
Stylist Storm Pablo in his Los Angeles apartment.Dan Balilty
Luis Pablo Beauregard

Stepping inside Storm Pablo’s apartment, one notices a Scottish kilt, with a large strip of leather as a belt, framed on the kitchen counter. It is the skirt that Bad Bunny wore in the video for Yo Perreo Sola (2020). The song was included on the album YHLQMDLG, the acronym for how the Puerto Rican has conducted his meteoric career: “yo hago lo que me da la gana,” or in English, “I do what I want.” The album title also sums up the main lesson the rapper has taught his stylist Storm in the three years they have been working together.

The framed kilt serves as a reminder that styling has become “an art form.” With Yo Perreo Sola, it became clear to Storm, 31, that Bad Bunny knew no limits. The singer was willing to do anything. “It was the first skirt we put on him. It was also the first time that I felt that, in the future, this would be how we would have to push the boundaries,” he explains from his apartment in Los Angeles. His work became more than just looking for fashionable clothes. He was building an esthetic for modern pop music alongside stars such as Rosalía and fellow Puerto Ricans Rauw Alejandro and Jhay Cortez, who is also a client of “La Tormenta,” as everyone calls Storm. “It was never about going to stores looking for the craziest thing I could find. That was not my goal. I was just tired of always seeing the same thing,” he says.

Storm Pablo poses in a TAKAHIROMIYASHITA The Soloist jacket used by Bad Bunny in the video for ‘Ignorantes.’
Storm Pablo poses in a TAKAHIROMIYASHITA The Soloist jacket used by Bad Bunny in the video for ‘Ignorantes.’ Dan Balilty

The chemistry between Storm and Bad Bunny is a mystery. The stylist doesn’t speak Spanish - he’s learning though - and the reggaeton star doesn’t speak much English. However, they both have similar origins. They were born on islands, but broke away from island life to conquer other areas. Storm, whose real name is Manuel San Agustín Pablo III, was born in Guam, the largest of the Mariana Islands, an archipelago in the Pacific. Guam, like Puerto Rico, serves as a refueling area for US Navy ships. His father was in the military.

Storm’s family left Guam when he was 11 years old. They moved between places where it was difficult for him to put down roots: Kansas, Oklahoma, Alaska. Ever since he was young, he felt the “urgency” to express himself through his clothing. “I would go to school and people would say to me, ‘You dress too ostentatiously.’” He now calls Seattle home. There, he attended high school and was influenced by the style of local legends, including Kurt Cobain, whose famous cardigan was recently auctioned for more than $300,000. Cobain is one of the great reference points for Storm, a child of the 1990s. So is Dennis Rodman, who broke stereotypes in the NBA with outlandish outfits and garishly colored hair.

Pablo left Seattle for Los Angeles at the age of 27 with the dream of doing what he loved. “It was the right moment,” he says. He had worked as a salesperson in clothing stores, but in California, he began to take charge of showrooms where he coordinated sessions for rappers or male pop groups, a job that he combined with bartending. Thus he arrived at Bodega, a popular clothing store among fashionistas. As head of public relations, he was charged with gifting clothing and accessories to artists. A phone call from Bad Bunny’s team changed his life. “They asked me if I wanted to do the styling for the [2019] VMAs,” he says.

“The difference between all the artists I have worked with and Benito [Bad Bunny] is that he is the only one who told me that I was not thinking big enough. Others say, ‘Oh great, great job’ or ‘I don’t wear this or I don’t wear that,’ but he’s allowed me to push his agenda,” adds Storm. “I feel like I found him at the best point of his career. His style was already very cool, but we were able to take it to 100.″

Pablo’s small apartment is a high-ceilinged rectangle. On a wall is a framed issue of El País Semanal from January 2021, which features Bad Bunny on the cover. “That was already there. It was a coincidence,” laughs Storm, who asks permission to wear dark glasses in the photo shoot to hide the exhaustion in his eyes, caused by two months of touring. The night before the interview the Los Angeles concert that closed the first part of Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti tour took place. Pablo will be home for a few days before traveling to New York to work with rapper Jack Harlow.

A Bad Bunny action figure inspired by WWE star Kane.
A Bad Bunny action figure inspired by WWE star Kane. Dan Balilty

Beneath a large television sit several magazines and a couple of books, including one of photographs by Helmut Newton and another by James Baldwin. Deeper into the space, a huge mirror faces a two-tier wardrobe, filled with the garments that Bad Bunny has worn since he started working with La Tormenta. There’s the plaid padded jacket designed by Scotsman Charles Jeffrey Loverboy that Bad Bunny wore to Porn Hub’s 2019 awards. Also hanging from the coat rack is a vest popularized during the El Último Tour del Mundo tour. “This one had a beach vibe,” says Storm, dressed in black, who defines his own personal style as clean-cut and understated, with Acne Studios among his favorite brands. The garment he holds in his hands resembles a life jacket. Storm says that the rappers’ fans attended concerts wearing their own versions of that same piece.

Minutes later, he picks up a down jacket that resembles both a police vest and a stylish, impractical garment for arctic survival. The piece by TAKAHIROMIYASHITA The Soloist is one of only a handful made, retailing at $7,000 each. Bad Bunny used it in the music video for Ignorantes, where he gave it a futuristic look. Storm poses in it for a couple of minutes, already too long for the hot Los Angeles weather.

A red and black jacket holds a special place in the wardrobe. He designed it with inspiration drawn from Kane, one of his WWE idols. “That’s another thing Benito and I have in common. We love wrestling,” he says. An action figure of Bad Bunny as a fighter reflects that interest. Benito posed in Kane’s suit on his birthday, giving Pablo’s clothing brand, CNTRA, a significant boost.

Storm Pablo inspects a leather jacket that was one of the first garments designed for CNTRA, his clothing brand.
Storm Pablo inspects a leather jacket that was one of the first garments designed for CNTRA, his clothing brand.Dan Balilty

The brand name came to him while he was eating chicken wings with his business partner, Campbell. It was one of the concepts that he had seen in his Spanish class: he immediately knew that the five letters were enough for him to express what they meant. “We wanted to be very careful with the name because we didn’t want there to be any limit to what we could do with it.” The brand sells almost entirely online, the only physical store being located in a somewhat eccentric location, a shopping mall in Scottsdale, Arizona. The designers are not in a hurry to be in a major city. For the time being, La Tormenta will continue being a contrarian.

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