From childhood to celebrity dressing


From childhood to celebrity dressing

Brian Msafiri, fashion director and stylist. PHOTO | POOL

“Fashion comes down to what you make.” This is how Brian Msafiri sums up his fashion sense.

Msafiri is a cultural scholar. He’s electric in a variety of arts, including creative production, fashion direction, photography, display, artist engagement, and a crafty closet to enhance it.

As the name suggests, Msafiri is indeed a journeyman in the world of fashion.

He’s not afraid to explore and use different aspects of style, even if it means being unconventional, as long as someone informs and talks about it.

Since I’ve encountered every ‘look’ she does several times, there’s always an exaggeration, even the generally not so elaborate costumes.

“Generality is boring. Don’t you agree? Of course, not everyone likes how I dress, but that’s the point. To feel good and look different,” he says.

When we meet this time, he’s wearing a black-and-white striped shirt, baggy black pants, and ‘dusty’ sneakers.

Hanging from her chest is a small black bag containing her wallet, smartphone, sunglasses and lip balm and other valuables.

And as always, you’ll see him, none of his many hats and caps are missing.

This time he is wearing one of his favorite pane-rut hats. It hangs in the left ear.

“I like to shave bald, which is why you’ll see me wearing a hat almost every time,” he explains with a smile.

Msafiri’s love for fashion started during her secondary school years when her father introduced her to the Gikomba market.

“If you remember, there was a time when the school had Toughees shoes. If you didn’t have them, you weren’t stylish enough. The problem was that I was a playful kid that never lasted, so my father used to take me to Gikomba to buy second hand shoes that would last. For the first time I encountered quality and fell in love with fashion as you can get a cheaper yet durable range of shoes from Toughees.

Over the years, her fashion sense has improved so much that she tells me that she has two wardrobes with two different sets of clothes – one she wears when she’s going somewhere not important enough, and one she wears when she comes to events. Like the Gordons Gin event where he is one of the paid partner content creators.

Not only is the 29-year-old stylish, but she makes money while doing it.

“Like I said, you do it,” he reminds me again.

Around 2010, Msafiri and his neighborhood friends started styling themselves.

“My friends and I were so competitive when it came to fashion that out-dressing each other always brought out the best in us.”

They were all very stylish, but she always claims to be a cut above the rest.

It wasn’t long before his sense of style was recommended to Camp Molla, the top Hip Hop group of the time, so good that they became the first group from East Africa to get a nomination for the prestigious Black Entertainment Awards (BET).

“Back then, I didn’t see styling as a job, I did it for free for my friends. I didn’t understand why people felt it was so complicated to dress like me, but I did it so effortlessly. Then one of the many guys I helped freestyle recommended me to Camp Molla. They were the first celebrities I styled for the Channel O Awards (2012) and later I worked on music videos for Sauti Sol, that’s when I realized I could make money from styling,” recalls Msafiri.

Realizing this, Msafiri landed her first paid gig when she signed rapper Muthoni Ndonga aka Muthoni the Drummer Queen and contemporary urban singer Blinky Bill.

Over time, he began to organize various musical groups, then appeared in commercials, and his salary increased.

With an extensive resume of styling celebrities and bands, as well as creating themes for events, corporate brands have turned to her services to implement a variety of fashion themes embedded in the brands’ culture.

But not only brands, but even events.

“I have worked as a Coordinator at festivals like Nyege Nyege and Kilifi New Year. I managed over 100 artists during the 2019-20 Kilifi event.

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He was also part of Google’s Alte residency in June 2020, where young Alte artists, fashion entrepreneurs and engaged content creators from all over the country were invited to exchange energy juices and foster collaboration.

Msafiri also participated in the 2021 Tribal Chic fashion show competition and won after coming up with the best original design, beating over nine design stylists.

“Now I’m in a position to know what value I bring to the table and stand by it. When I am on a commercial gig, in the minimum aspect of everything, I get at least Sh50,000 a day,” said Msafiri.

However, the amount is not static, it is always revised upwards depending on the number of persons to be styled and the key performance indicator to be met.

Msafiri considers several factors when invoicing a customer.

“You calculate the cost of production, which is how much the products you need will cost you, the cost of your time and expertise, and then relate that to the customer. Who is the client, where will he appear and how much will my work be?”

After years of doing this, Msafiri confirms that there is good money in fashion style, provided one has the understanding and passion for it.

“You will never be taught what we do in school. You just have to be smart about it and understand how to position yourself. When giving a job and budget, you have to weigh all these factors, don’t fly blind. You don’t want to be given an absurd idea that involves a lot of production costs and time and a lot of work that leaves you with nothing,” he warns.

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Msafiri loves how fashion is evolving in Kenya. “We’re trying to move away from themed spaces where people show up to events dressed in a certain color or theme. Now the goal is how to distinguish yourself in this regard.”

It’s been a year since her last stylist gig.

“I haven’t done much styling in the last year because I’m expanding. I’ve been in the space so much that there’s room for new talent, and what I’m working on right now is creating spaces for them to thrive. I try to run various pop-up spaces and events by infusing fashions that are not related to my production and offer them a platform where they can showcase, sell and sell Kenyan designs.