“I find clothes to be a great medium through which people can express themselves and tell stories,” Sunny Dolat begins. Sunny’s journey into fashion began years ago with his first fashion job whilst he was in high school. He started off with modifying his own clothes then slowly moved to actually designing and producing. Sunny adds jokingly “before that, I was busy trying to understand algebra!” Delving into fashion from the design perspective was due to his need to understand the technical part of fashion and learn about fabrics. Sunny recalls that his first styling job came when he was asked by a photographer friend to style a photo shoot, which as he states, he winged it. “That’s the day I was introduced to and fell in love with styling, a sort of whirlwind romance if you will.”
Sunny Dolat is a trained hotelier and worked for the Tribe Hotel in Village Market for three years after university. Fashion has also been a part of him and whilst he was working with the Tribe, he was working with True Love magazine as a stylist. Although the switch was not a hard one to make, the challenge was in the fact that for a long time, Sunny explains, no one quite understood what being a stylist was all about. Sunny Dolat doesn’t currently work with magazines although he had before. He worked for True Love for one year, DRUM and Healthy Woman but decided to take a break because he was not able to truly do what he wanted. He notes that they felt that his work was too risqué or abstract so he ventured out to do his own work that truly represented who he was and allowed him to express himself.
Once you have met Sunny Dolat, you will not forget him. Not only is it his charisma and easy-going nature, but also his style. Sunny describes his style as experimental. “I’m a little all over the place. I have periods of minimalism followed by periods of grunge,” he tells us. As a stylist, he states, he gets to experiment with a myriad of aesthetics and style aspects, which get incorporated into his work eventually. “I have a great deal of respect for people who are able to commit to a singular aesthetic such as the likes of Karl Largerfeld, Phoebe Philo and Carolina Herrera,” Sunny acknowledges. He does feel that one day he will be able to identify a look that embodies everything he is about and commit to it.
“I think of stylists like storytellers. Stylists use clothing and accessories in a similar way that poets use words.”
When it comes to his work, despite some looks slipping through, Sunny tries to separate his personal style as he never really wants to replicate himself in his work and vice versa. Being a stylist permits him to experiment with various looks and artistic tastes depending on the project or client. Sunny describes a stylist as someone who selects and pairs clothing and accessories for magazine editorials, print, television commercials, music videos, red carpet appearances, films and press conferences. When it comes to bloggers versus stylists, Sunny states that bloggers are quite often showcasing their personal styling, shooting their own looks and talking about what they wore. Sunny explains, “there has been partly an overlap because of some lack of clarity. Some bloggers still call themselves stylists but when you look at what they are doing, they aren’t really.”
“I think of stylists like storytellers. Stylists use clothing and accessories in a similar way that poets use words. We aim to create characters, tell their elaborate backstories, convey their present emotions and hint at their future aspirations,” he explains. Sunny shares that the best part of being a fashion stylist is the satisfaction in carrying something out from concept to execution, in addition to getting to work with many great people. In this way, Sunny is simply motivated by the fact that he loves what he does. Through his work, he is more interested in hearing what others see in his work than relaying a particular message. “People respond to the work very differently and that is always very interesting for me to hear,” he expounds.
The stylist that he admires the most is Grace Coddington saying animatedly “she tells such fantastic and elaborate stories in her work! She’s really amazing.” [See Fashion Editorials to see a sample of her work.] For Sunny Dolat, a stylist’s ability to distinguish themselves is a matter of their own personal style. He states that a stylist’s work will always at some point overlap referencing how stylists mostly reflect trends so there will be similarities. Case and point is how internationally, after fashion week, the Margiela beaded masks ended up in every magazine and style feature from different stylists. “There is nothing original in design, its very rare. Men’s pants haven’t changed and the silhouettes remain the same as well for shirts,” he says. He further notes that fashion designers themselves simply rework silhouettes and this goes for stylists themselves.
“We aim to create characters, tell their elaborate backstories, convey their present emotions and hint at their future aspirations.”
“For me, it’s doing your own work and not necessarily working to distinguish yourself. We have all have a style that is unique to us.,” Sunny tells us. He further explains that his style compared to Annabel Onyango is different and not particular intentionally done. “Style is an expression of oneself and this cannot be replicated,” states Sunny.
Take a look at his work below.
In Part II, we delve further in the world of a stylists, a discussion as to what is truly Kenyan or African fashion and how Sunny has been at the forefront of this debate.
Images Courtesy and Subject to Copyright ©SunnyDolat. Cover Image ©DesignIndaba.