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How accessible is fashion week? Style therapist Kwena Baloyi recaps on #SAFW18

Joburg-based stylist, crown queen, muse and self-described “fashion therapist” — “My calling is to aid people become more in tune with their style, their sense of self and hopefully free them from the confines of what society says is ‘right.'” — Kwena Baloyi talks to us about what fashion weeks mean for her career and recaps on SA Fashion Week AW 18, which wrapped up over the weekend.

Donald Chipumha

What do fashion weeks mean to you?
Pushing boundaries and doing the unexpected is me everyday, and fashion week is mostly where you are allowed to show out. Season after season, inspiration and vision can be found there.

SA Fashion Week just wrapped up; what were some of your highlights?
Definitely the first night, at the Woolworths Style by SA show. My gawd, the effort put in the show was outstanding. And I loved how Woolworths respected every designer and didn’t change their design, but rather help them get to mass retail level. The street style element was there and boy, people brought it. But we needed to see more depth in terms of fashion and style. Some times it felt like the street fashion was hired to be there or rather staged. I think we are losing what street style meant and how we used to do it. Especially street style during fashion week. I think I was not satisfied with the street style because the usual fashion student crowd was not there. ? They always give it their best. I missed that.

What were some of your low lights?
That they got rid of the stand by line on the first night [there were stand by lines during the rest of fashion week]. I know it’s business — don’t get me wrong — but we need access to most of these events. Or at least let’s look at another way of getting people to attend the shows. Let’s not lock the doors completely for them; me included.

Kwena Baloyi

Cedric Nzaka

What’s your fashion week ritual?
As a stylist, the world is my runway. If I know what shows I’m attending in advance, I usually style my outfits a week before. I workout which clothes I want to wear, and figure out how to style it in a Kween Kwena kinda way. I wish I could have a ritual for each show actually. Change outfits, which sounds like a dream, right? ? Sometimes I’m never invited until I ask to be invited, so I just wear what I choose.

What do fashion weeks mean to stylists?
It’s an exciting time for every person in fashion, as we get to see what’s new and what designers worked on for the next season. I get inspired; what I see on the ramp automatically gets my creative juices flowing. And as stylists we get excited to take the designers visions to another level. Stylists are also there to help them to get to be seen. Stylists and the media are close, it’s like we’re in the same WhatsApp group. Fashion week is like food for the styling soul. And I get to tell my clients about what was shown and how we can bring it to life.

What did you wear to SA Fashion Week AW 2018, can you share your standout looks?
I wore a white and black Rich Mnisi jumpsuit [from the new collection] on Day 1, and wrapped my waist with his white and black print kimono jacket, which are both available at Woolworths’ Style by SA collection. I got an opportunity to wear it before it hit the stores and so I naturally styled it my way. I adore colour a lot because I never want to look normal. Being extra is what I’m good at. So I mixed a formal Witchery pink blazer with a sporty 222 Banda Kappa that is more than a tracksuit. Kappa was also launching their new Sandton store that night and it was lit.

Kwena Baloyi

Donald Chipumha

Conversations around access are ongoing within fashion. How accessible and progressive, in your opinion, are fashion weeks to people across the fashion field?
The irony about SAFW is that as stylists and ambassadors for fashion, we are not invited to all the shows — even though we’re the people who give clothes a platform. It’s crazy that there’s still this type of attitude towards the stylists in the industry. Abroad stylists are considered within fashion weeks but at home sometimes that’s not the case. There’s still a lot of progress to come for South African fashion weeks.

Could you share some of the standout conversations you had at SA Fashion Week?
There was a lot of banter around who must be invited and why. And around the designers who get a chance to show; are they putting work into their collections, what inspires their work, and are they giving us the best?

Who is your favourite emerging designer of 2017?
MmusoMaxwell, the newly crowned winner of the SAFW Sunglass Hut New Talent Search Show.

Kwena Baloyi

Donald Chipumha


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