One of Kenya’s top bloggers and fashion consultants, Silvia Njoki understands style. Once a shy and introverted teenager, she credits her passion for fashion as the defining point in her life. “Today I am very outgoing, definitely the life of the party, assertive but also caring and loving to my friends and family, including my daughter…”
A trendsetter from an early age, she grew up devouring industry news on every medium: “I organized fashion shows in my rather reserved boarding school by dressing up my friends in bed sheets and khangas….” she says, but although she loved fashion – she never quite thought that she would be engaged in it, in a personal capacity on a professional level. It was a hobby – something fun to do – and she eventually went on to study Food Science at Nairobi University.
Little did she know that this would be the driver to her current pursuit! An internship at a food factory during her second year meant restrictions on how she could dress. That cast a few doubts in her mind. She had always considered being able to balance out her two passions – and now she had to give up one? Her style was how she chose to express herself and she began to seriously reconsider her choice of career in food technology.
But how does a person ‘do fashion’? It wasn’t immediately clear at that point: “I just enjoyed taking nice pictures, connecting with fashion designers…Through these engagements, I met photographers and started modelling…. Then I took a few fashion courses online and started to work as a fashion writer for the Standard Newspaper while I styled for magazines and TV shows. I was happy doing something I really loved, but knew that it would take a real effort to be successful in this very competitive field….”
Cue a fashion styling course at Central Saint Martin’s in the UK and the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti in Italy to hone her skills.
Her focus opened up to the world of art and beauty and style as a whole – not just fashion and trends, but also makeup and production and writing about style as well. “…none is really mutually exclusive”, she insists. “I couldn’t live without following trends on a daily basis and I am proud that through my work I can contribute in a small way to strengthen the Kenyan fashion industry and promote our designers. But my greatest satisfaction comes from the appreciation I am getting from young women who are telling me that through my blog they are becoming more confident about developing their own style, embracing fashion and being more confident in all aspects of their lives.”
And the rewards have come – she scooped a BAKE Blog of the Year 2015 award as well as last year’s phenomenal Kids Choice awards nomination an eminent voice on style in Africa.
Using the online space to promote yourself requires effort and she says that anyone looking to monetize their creative output online needs to really think hard about the product that they are putting out: “For many years I worked as a full-time stylist and my blogging was not consistent… Now blogging is my full-time job, so expect to see more consistent content on silvianjoki.com. But I also want to stress that you have to be passionate about fashion and beauty and prepared to spend a major part of your life in this field..”
Style By Silvia was her first major online brand – but definitely isn’t the last. She has a new project out: StyleYetu.com that deals with the industry as a whole – from the creative professionals, pop culture, fashion, and beauty. A project that she had been looking to start for a while, but needed to figure out how to maintain the focus of her original blog – and its representation of her personal style.
And that style in one word? Unpredictable. “I love fashion so much so it’s been hard to box myself, I would wear anything if it feels great and looks great. Even though my style is not as experimental as it was a few years ago, I still love to expand my fashion choices.”
And she finds style everywhere – from thrift stores and markets such as Toi to specific designers to the online space. “Understand what’s appropriate, allow yourself to be creative and embrace and develop your own sense of personal style.”
Photos courtesy of Silvia Njoki