27 Sep Yonela Makaba on what it means to be a stylist and what the future holds
Kwaito duo Darkie Fiction recently released their impressive music video for their hit single “Bhoza”. The song’s warm, and uplifting message is interpreted visually by director Chase Musslewhite, with stylist Yonela Makoba bringing the duo’s vision to life through styling, assisted by Unathi Mkonto. An artist in her own right, Makoba believes the stylist’s job involves using costume to bring to life her client’s vision. Between10and5 spoke to her about the experience of working on the video, and the impressive portfolio of work she has managed to build up in just three years since she began styling professionally.
Tell us about the experience of working with Darkie Fiction, and how you went about executing the duo’s vision for the video?
I always love working with Yoza and Kat (of Darkie Fiction). As much as they know what they want, they also put a lot of trust in the creatives they have asked to join in on their projects. Unathi (Mkonto) and I had creative freedom in terms of how we interpreted the concept of the video and overall it is very refreshing to work on a set that was dominated by people of colour.
You’ve been styling for a few years. What are the highlights?
This year marks the third year that I have been styling professionally, and the highlights of my career in these past three years are definitely the shoot that I styled and co-creative directed with Imraan Christian titled WVTER, along with the music video Xola Makoba, Sihle Sogaula and I styled for hip hop artist, Rouge. Both jobs ended up doing really well. The first was selected to be featured in Photo Vogue and the music video was awarded a SAMA for best video.
With any job, what would you say is the responsibility of the stylist? Essentially, what are your references as an artist and what do you try to communicate, if anything?
The responsibility of the stylist is to use costume to communicate the client’s vision. I find that I do a lot of emotional labour because I work with people, dressing their bodies, dealing with their insecurities and often having to affirm them. I don’t work with the classic model body types and as a result of current societal standards of beauty I often find that so-called ‘normal’ people are more conscious of their bodies than professional models.
How, would you say, your work stands apart from that of any other stylist?
I am relatively new in this industry. I would say I am only beginning to distinguish myself. My focus has been and continues to be on developing and working on myself; establishing my own process and language for my work rather than trying to distinguish my style from others. Therefore, right now, I cannot tell you how I stand apart because I am a work in progress and I feel as though it is too soon to answer that question.
Working as a stylist in this country is difficult terrain. There’s a lot of competition, and very little resources to go around. How do you plan on making a sustainable career out of this?
Indeed, working as a stylist in this country is difficult. I have however been truly blessed with the best mentors, womxn of colour who have been teaching me the ins and outs of the craft, helping me with the growing pains and affirming me in my moments of self-doubt. In order to have a sustainable career, I will continue to work my ass off and once I have opened the gates for myself, I will assist other young creatives to go through those gates, as my mentors have done for me.
What can we expect to see from you in future?
In the future, you can expect to witness my entry into the visual art world as a creative director and performer.