Your stylist’s favourite stylist, Kween Kwena Baloyi chats to The Wire about her roots, her career, and what’s next for The Radar Top 15 fashion icon
Words: Tshiamo Seape
Hi, Kwena what are you up to right now what is keeping you busy?
There are so many great things happening that I can’t disclose as yet. I’m grateful to be working on projects that are so gratifying and inspire me to keep pushing the boundary and encourage me to keep being true to myself.
Can you tell for which brands, or is that top secret?
I wish I could! Haha, some of them are not out yet so I can’t say ☺
How did you start your journey in styling and fashion, where did it all begin?
I used to work in retail before and then I joined Media24 as an assistant stylist at DRUM magazine. The rest is history.
Social media has given stylists their due and elevated them beyond behind the scenes endeavours. They’ve become personalities in their own right. How else has social media and the internet changed the work that you do?
With styling, it starts with me first. You have to be authentic in everything you do in order to connect with people. What I do with my styling is I wear the clothes to see if the combination of garments works. I also style them in a way that is unique to who I am and my aesthetic. Social media has been great in that it helps me push my style agenda and show people that they don’t have to be scared of pushing the boundaries. You’re allowed to be yourself. In fact, that’s the main thing you should strive to be whether you’re online or not. Social media has been great in giving people access to my journey. I’ve been able to connect with people who want to elevate their style.
Every day I’m trying to show people or teach people or explain to people there’s no way to move forward if you don’t know who you are or what pushes you to do what you do
What’s the biggest job you’ve ever worked on?
All my jobs are big for me. It doesn’t matter if it’s a magazine shoot or shopping for a client. I treat them all the same. I have to approach my work with the same passion and enthusiastic attitude every time in order to consistently deliver quality work.
You wear your hair in some magnificent styles, so can you elaborate on what hairstyling means to you?
I’m not my hair by no means. It’s a way of expressing myself and I use it as an accessory. It’s not a trend though. As Afrikans we’ve been wearing unique Krowns since the beginning of time, but for some reason, people are only learning to appreciate our hair now. Before we were told: “it’s ugly, it’s not going to get you anywhere looking like that”. All of a sudden, it seems like it’s a trend that people just want to hop onto. So, I’m out here doing me and I’m challenging all those people who said: “you’re not enough”. I wear my Afrikan Krown proudly because I want to make sure that our cultures are remembered and that they flourish.
What does influence mean to you, and how do you use it in your everyday life?
People have been using influence wrong, I wish we could find another word, but it’s still an amazing thing to have in your arsenal. When you’re living your life with purpose and people start catching on to your magic, you realise that can actually help people. If you live your life with no fear and no expectations and without waiting to be seen then you can make something of yourself. Something that’s legit and worth sharing with the people. People need to learn to find things that they can connect so that they discover who they are and where they come from. We can’t all be Western; we don’t even do it properly because it’s not ours. Every day I try to show people by example and teach them that there’s no way to move forward if you don’t know who you are or what drives you to do what you do.
Who are the people who have influenced you?
I look at my mom – she teaches me so much every day. I grew up in a family with seven kids. We didn’t have a lot, but we had each other and we had our mom. Every day I wake up I think about how I can live my life to enhance what I’m doing. People like Simphiwe Dana and Terry Pheto (who I work with a lot) have also influenced me as a woman. There’s such beauty in the strength that black women possess. The struggle of black people also inspires me so much. I love walking around and going to places that people don’t expect me to go to. People who strive to do better and be better regardless of their circumstances also inspire me. There’s also so much to learn from how ordinary people on the streets dress and put their outfits together. It’s amazing how every single person puts themselves together.
You’re friends with Trevor Stuurman, how did you first meet and what have you learned?
I met Trevor a long time ago in Cape Town before he won the Elle competition [Elle Style Reporter 2012]. One thing I’ve noticed about him that’s very special is that he’s very shy, but the minute he’s comfortable around other people he really shows who he is. We kind of have a similar upbringing so we connected in that way. He also understands how important it is to take care of home. He knows that nothing can get you very far unless you take care of home first. I actually can’t wait for the day he writes his book – it’s going to be very interesting.
Is there any desire for you to start your own label?
Of course! Clothes just tell such distinct stories and I’m keen to curate how garments can change people’s lives. A lot has to happen over the next couple of years in order for this dream to become reality. But I definitely plan to make it come true for sure.
Being able to be me with no fear, no compromise and doing what I love every day. Taking advantage of that and living large
For someone who doesn’t have access to styling, but has an appreciation for clothes, what are some DIY methods for getting the best out of their wardrobe?
Working with what you have is key. You should experiment with wearing staples, like a shirt, in different ways. You can wear it off-the-shoulder as we’ve recently seen on the streets. Rock it tied up or use it for layering underneath a strappy top. Accessories are also important. They have the ability to change one’s wardrobe without breaking the bank.
What should people avoid – what’s the worst fashion trend in history?
Anything that one feels is unflattering. Style is personal and fashion rules are meant to be broken so people should not limit themselves by abiding by trends. After all, trends come and go – but your style is ever evolving and eternal.
Every woman should have at least one [???] in her closet.
A good quality suit in an amazing fabric. A suit just presents limitless styling opportunities.
What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?
Being able to be me with no fear, no compromise and doing what I love every day. Taking advantage of that and living my best life.
Do you see yourself as a brand? If so, what are you selling?
No. I see myself as ME. There’s no other Kwena Baloyi in the world. Whether you want to call that a brand or just the Kween, that’s up to you.
What lies ahead for you?
You have to wait and see. The Kween is working hard!