Your fave could never: In conversation with Boogy Maboi
From her earliest days, Lethabo Maboi has had a close relationship with fashion and entertainment. A K-TV presenter then radio host her proximity to the industries best, brightest and most fashion-forward combined with her lifelong fashion acumen gave her all the tools to become one of SA’s most sought-after stylists.
Boogy is a longtime champion of local designers and for good reason. Our local industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds and it is people like Boogy who accelerate this growth by highlighting the abundant talent that, thankfully, now has a place on the red carpets and music videos that she is called up time and time again to curate looks for.
In the middle of a whirlwind schedule, we managed to pin her down for the latest in our On The Radar Volume 2 interviews.
Words: Tshiamo Seape
Hi, Boogy. What are you up to right now – what’s keeping you busy?
Wow, so much is keeping me busy right now. Its TVC season and I’ve just shot an amazing TV campaign for Castle Milk Stout which I’m really excited about; it comes out sometime next year. I’m also prepping for a music video shoot with Ice Prince that starts shooting tomorrow. It’s work work work, but it’s my birthday on Saturday.
How did you make it into styling, and who was your first major client?
My first major client was Khuli Chana in 2007 and that was my entry into the styling business. We shot the video for Tswak Stick’em at the Nike gallery in Braam, which was such an amazing space for young creatives. I guess you could say that was when Styled By Boogy started. At the time I had a pop-up shop called Trunks and Cast that was one of the first places to stock a number of local brands. I’ve always had a huge interest in fashion. After my marketing degree, I wasn’t ready to step into the workforce and I needed to plan my next step. Styled by Boogy was something I started as a distraction, or rather, something to keep me busy while I figured out what I wanted to do. After the Khuli video I started working more with artists like JR (Whose friends with Khuli) and from there the first brand I styled for was the UK streetwear brand Boxfresh.
So would you say that was the turning point for Styled By Boogy?
I can’t really say. I’ve been running Styled by Boogy for ten years but I could still peak. To say that I’ve reached a turning point sounds a bit weird. Things could still change and I could be an international sensation. But, I think one of the bigger moments was when I styled the Dorobucci video for Don Jazzy and Tiwa Savage, because a big part of Styled By Boogy’s success has always been styling artists from outside of South Africa.
Everything in shops looks like Woolworths food – you just pop it in the microwave, but where’s the personality?
How difficult is walking the line between adhering to trends and creating unique looks for your clients?
I have a mantra and a hashtag that I go by: be local, buy local. Its the pledge that I’ve taken as a stylist. If you have the choice always go local before putting on international brands. So, the clients I end up styling have a unique look because I’m going to designers who generally aren’t on a fashion week level yet – I’m talking about designers who are making things and selling them out of their boot. That’s why my clients always look super unique and sometimes even have one of one looks. I also work closely with designers to make custom looks. So, for example, right now I’m DJ Speedsta’s fashion director and what that means is that I create all DJ Speedsta’s looks. I’m creating looks for him every single weekend and 90% of what he wears is local. People come to me for a unique African aesthetic without the kitsch.
Tell us about your personal style – What defines the Boogy Maboi aesthetic?
My aesthetic is defined by how I feel. I’ve always said that fashion is an extension of your personality. I play around with a lot of things; I’m very much a tomboy when it comes to fashion. Everything in shops looks like Woolworths food – you just pop it in the microwave, but where’s the personality? So, for me, personal style is more about a feeling than what I’m wearing.
How do you think social media/bloggers have influenced the industry?
I’ve seen a lot of the changes first hand but I can’t actually decide if they benefit the industry or not. Social media has given too much credibility to numbers as opposed to knowledge. Social media has created a world where people can just make up a title. For the longest time, I was one of the only stylists in Joburg who didn’t have a blog. People said that that was where you had to begin and that’s where your credibility comes from, but I’m a working stylist. I’m on set five out of seven days a week, so I don’t have time to go online and look for inspiration and post pretty pictures. I’m in the belly of the beast, I’m doing the job. I think social media is watering down skill and watering down the industry because you don’t have to go out and get experience. All you have to do is find content online, post pictures and get numbers and that’s how they become credible.
What is your biggest career accomplishment?
2016 was a really big year for me: I did the first season of Lip Sync Battle with Pearl (Thusi) and D’banj. In January I hosted Nike Women’s Week and I styled the Puma campaign featuring Nomzamo Mbatha that ran alongside Kylie Jenner’s campaign. I did the Nike ID campaign where you get to customise your own sneakers and I styled the MTV base awards – there were so many amazing highlights. There are also people who make you shine by virtue of them shining. How can I not be proud of an Ice Prince, or a Khuli Chana, or an AKA? Those are the people I’ve worked closely with throughout my career. Overall I guess the biggest accomplishment would be moving out of music videos and becoming a campaign stylist. Styling South Africa’s first ever dance film, Hear Me Move, was another huge high for me.
I’ve been part of so many firsts but hopefully, my biggest accomplishments are still coming. In 2018 there’s something that I’m working on, that’s still within fashion, but it’s a shift from what I’ve been doing and it’s starting to look like this could be the thing I do for the rest of my life. So, just keep your ear to the ground because it’s definitely going to be something special.
Any celebrity at any event: pick your dream styling job.
Which stylist doesn’t want to style Rihanna? Could you imagine if I had Rihanna in my clothes, or the swag I put No Moozlie in? If we bring it back home there are still things I would love to do. I’ve styled the Metro FM awards and the BET Awards, but I would love to style the SAMA’S – the whole production. More collaboration too. I want to work with the people I admire like Bee (Diamondhead) or a Rich (Mnisi) because that’s still something we haven’t seen. What happens when SA creatives come together? Fashion is always been run by people so far away from our experience of day to day fashion.
I’m on set five out of seven days a week, so I don’t have time to go online and look for inspiration and post pretty pictures. I’m in the belly of the beast, I’m doing the job.
What would you say to young stylists trying to emulate your success, or what advice would you give to your younger self?
I think the fact that I’ve been doing this for ten years is special and I would tell my younger self to keep going at it. Don’t be scared and ask a lot of questions. Ask for help. Up until this year, I didn’t have an assistant – I do everything myself. I did that because it was important for me to learn. You really need to relish every opportunity to learn -take every job, intern, make sure you can do every little thing that is required of a stylist, even from a basic level. I had to teach myself how to stitch and use a sewing machine. Make yourself available to learn in every way. Set life is the only way you’re going to learn how t be a stylist – you’re not going to learn anything from Instagram.
Sneakers or heels?
Definitely Sneakers. I am the unofficial queen of kicks for the whole country. No one has better UK size 3 sneakers than me. I have a real sneaker addition and it’s actually a problem.
Favourite item in your wardrobe?
I have a specific pair of Nike Footscape wovens. I’m also currently going through an uptempo phase – I recently ordered two pairs as a birthday gift for myself.
Coolest person you’ve ever met?
I was going to say Pharrell, but he wasn’t that nice. Never meet your idols guys, you will be so disappointed. He was saying his tattoos just got removed so his arms were sore and he didn’t want to be touched.
Worst fashion trend in history?
Those dustbin shoes…CROCS!
Every girl should have at least one [add here] in her closet.
Crisp white shirt, an insane leather jacket with some unnecessary zips on it, and a pair of really great jeans.
Instagram crush: (your online style muse)
Let’s see. Alright, I have three: Aureta, she’s insane. Princess Coco, because she constantly steals my look even though shes only 6 years old and Christina Paik. She’s the most effortlessly cool person on my feed.