Style & Bounce

BY LANJI OUKO The first lady of the United States gained the fashion community’s vote for her elegant and sophisticated style, with the New York Times referring to her as the “mistress of American Fashion”. Initially, Mrs. Michelle Obama’s wardrobe was said to be managed by a boutique owner in Chicago, Ikram Goldman, however as time went by Mrs Obama has been styled by the Crème de La crème in the fashion industry, including the great Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera & Narciso Rodriguez among others. Seven years on and the fashion focus on her wardrobe has never diminished. Closer to home, Chantal Biya, the wife of Cameroon’s President, is said to be Africa’s most glamorous first lady, famed for her big hairdos known as the “banane”. Other than the magnificent mane, Mrs Biya’s statement look includes bright high heels and extremely extravagantly coloured suits and long diamond studded nail extensions. The confident first lady and her personal stylist clearly give no thought to what anyone thinks of her style and is the living embodiment of living large! As Oscar De La Rente often quips, “ Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself.” Oscar de la Renta Back in 2002,Kenyan women were all up in arms when the print media reported that the then First Lady, Lucy Kibaki was entitled to a personal stylist. As the name suggests, indeed, it is an individual who personally shops for you, advises you on the latest fashion trends, colours, make-up and accessories. Back then; the luxury of having someone style you was conventionally limited to occasions such as weddings, funerals & TV shows or for the rich and prominent. Roughly thirteen years later, personal stylists who dress ordinary women, for their day-to-day lifestyles, are slowly swamping the fashion industry. Achera Consultants, one of Kenya’s leading Image consultancy firms, owned by Annesophie Achera who has had a lifelong love for boutiques explains how she transformed from a stylist, to an all-rounded image consultant. Personal branding & image consultancy, Achera says, is more than what you wear. It extends to what you say, how you say it and how you portray yourself. A common question would be, why would a woman who barely makes public appearances care about her image enough to pay a personal stylist? “Feeling good about the way you look has a positive impact on confidence levels and self-esteem, regardless of age, shape or size. Today, ladies want to feel confident in their own skin,” says Achera. Ms Achera holds a master’s degree in Law, Diplomacy and Global Change. She also did a course in Fashion Illustration in London and owns renown-clothing line Achera Designs, launched in 2011. Achera Design is for the bold, vibrant, modern contemporary lady and gentleman. The designer draws her inspiration from the sophisticated nature of European fashion mixed with the richness and ethnicity of African culture. She expresses herself through the choice of fabric to the final design, with different collections, drawn from different inspirations, like water, flowers, to happiness, with her niche being the effortlessly elegant gowns for- Red Carpet- events. Later, as she started to style a wider scope of clients, she gradually transitioned and incorporated day-to-day dresses, formal and casual trousers, with an element of what she describes as African sophistication.
 Annesophie Achera
Annesophie Achera
The clothing line has been showcased in the Swahili Fashion Week, Kenya & Dar Es Salaam edition in 2012, Africa Fashion Week 2011, in Kenya, the Festival for African Fashion & Arts in 2012, Naivasha Fashion Weekend 2013 and Rwanda Cultural Fashion Week 2014. Contrary to what most people may think, Achera consultancy fees are extremely reasonable, considering the fact she styles college students from the age of 19, high end media personalities & politicians. Like any other emerging trend in the market, a number of Kenyans do not value the need for a personal stylist as they view it as lack of creative control over their wardrobe. However, what they fail to comprehend is, the personal stylist does not restrict the client to high end shopping or to wear grotesque designs. The clients do have the option to provide their creative input and the option to give their budget. Therefore the clients are open to either shop on the high street or go thrifting with their stylist in order to save on money. Achera Consultancy has a few male clients who prefer to be styled specifically for shows & big occasions. The vision for the Achera Brand is to be able to reach many more men and women on their style journey. Additionally, the consultancy plans on setting up a style lounge that not only offers African fashion but also personal styling services. Styling isn’t about having great pieces in your closet but how you put it all together and create your own personal signature style. The value of a good salesperson cannot be underestimated when shopping for clothes and accessories and as a lifelong lover of boutiques, the intimacy of the space and the ability to interact with shop owners or managers has been the reason behind the young ladies extensive network in Kenya’s fashion community. Ms Achera describes patience as the most valuable character traits for any stylist. A number of clients are fussy and a session could last up to four hours to try and identify a look for one event. Relationship building, she says, is quite important with clients as it helps to forge a relationship, and one is able to easily read their client’s mood and know how to style them appropriately, to boost their spirits on gloomy days. Personal branding is simpler than assumed and Jay Danzie attempts to prove it has very little, if anything, to do with clothes; “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.”

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