Silvia Njoki Kamau, based in Nairobi and Kilifi, is the stylish, vibrant, artistic fashion stylist with a personal style blog and a daughter to rival all others evidently taking up after her mother. She is the winner at the Kenyan Blog Awards (BAKE) 2015 for Best Fashion/Beauty/Hair/Style Blog and Kenyan Blog of the Year (Kudos!). Silvia took a plunge into a virtually unknown industry without fear only a love for fashion. “I barely had any contacts for garment and accessory supplies,” she recalls. Another challenge she had was always proving to others that she was able to handle a fashion editorial since she was so young at the time. Silvia took this plunge in 2006 and did not know much about the fashion industry being a relatively new profession in Kenya. “I was however fascinated by this wonderful world and wanted to be part of it,” she adds.
Right now, fashion styling is a growing industry, Silvia remarks, noting the growth in talent bringing with it healthy competition and contributing to the advancement of the industry. In tandem with this growing industry, Silvia has established close and mutually beneficial relationship with several Kenyan designers, often using their pieces in her styling work. She notes that they have been quite receptive in her requests to style an outfit using one of their pieces. Silvia observes that “obviously, the Kenyan fashion industry cannot match up to the hundred years old fashion industries in France, Italy, the UK…it’s players are however watching the international scene with keen interest and taking significant strides to manifest itself globally.”
Silvia Njoki is encouraged to see Kenyan designers taking part in international fashion weeks and seeing the interest of the export market steadily growing. Having said that, collaboration and unity are elements of change, she believes. “One of the major hindrances is the relative lack of cooperation between the players,” she notes, arguing that the number of individual fashion shows are too many for such a small country. A clear focus on collaboration, she believes, will make a huge difference in the industry.
The rise of fashion industries in Africa is a reflection of the increasing international focus on and demand for African fashion as well as the incorporation of African design elements in the collections, Silvia comments. Additionally, she states, “it is crucially important to promote the industries because of the potential fashion has for increasing employment and enhancing economic growth in quite a range of sub-sectors.” Silvia further notes, in turn, that although a large part of the population of Kenya is unable to access and appreciate fashion for sheer economic reasons, “there are a significant number of people who appreciate the finer sides of fashion.”
Being a fashion stylist is one of those sub-sectors benefitting from the growth and recognition of the fashion industry locally. So what exactly does this entail? Silvia Njoki will be the first to join in the stylist voice to demystify the fancy or glamorous perceptions of the job. Although it may appear to be, Silvia explains that it involves long hours running from tailors to laundry marts and fittings. “It’s a job for me just like any other artist and we appreciate being respected enough to make enough money and live off our art form,” Silvia observes.
Fashion stylists, she continues, perform similar jobs and she certainly admires the work of some of her Kenyan colleagues. Setting herself apart, she remarks, is a secondary goal with the first being to execute the task at hand to the best of her ability. On the Continent, Silvia would name Nigeria’s Bubu Ogisi as one of her favorite fashion stylists due to his laid-back edge. Internationally, Monica Rose who has put the Kardashians on the style map is definitely on her list of favorites together with June Ambrose, which she describes as having a “magic wand” in her transformations.
For Silvia, total dedication to her work and the feeling of her skills and competence growing at a pace she did not expect is where she derives her motivation. “I also feel that the multi-pronged aspect of my activities covering all aspects of styling from print to individual, performance styling, blogging activities and strong presence online is significant to building my name.” Most of all, networking and not cutting corners when it comes to quality and consistency has also contributed to her brand growing.
For those seeking to become a fashion stylist and get into the industry, Silvia advises to not even consider it unless “you really burn for fashion and are prepared to give it your all.” She also states that seeking knowledge and learning about fashion is important so as to make a difference with your client, leaving them confident to work with you. Furthermore, she also believes that networking online, reaching out to different players in the industry, offering to intern and attending events to grow your circle will assist in getting into the industry and building a brand. In conclusion, Silvia states, “be patient and don’t give up easily. The competition is hard so don’t expect success and financial sustainability to be yours overnight.”
Such advice comes with experience so lets take a look into her work and the ins and outs of being a fashion stylist. In part II, Silvia Njoki takes us to the root of her work and glimpses into what her own magic wand looks like.
*Images courtesy and copyrighted to ©SilviaNjokiKamau