There are some people who just radiate good vibes. You just want them around. In creative industries and circles such individuals are extremely valuable. And if the good vibes come together with skill, talent, ambition and a sharp mind in a person… well, then you are likely to be seeing that person’s name and face everywhere and if you’re lucky you’ll soon be doing projects together. We’re so happy to share this conversation with the brilliant Bryan Emry with you. It has good vibes and all the fashion info and updates you need for weeks and also includes some really interesting behind the scenes insight about high-profile projects like Sauti Sol videos and Adèle Dejak art work. Meet: Bryan Emry.
How would you describe yourself to someone who does not know anything about you?
BE: I am a creative.
How did your journey into fashion start?
BE: My love for fashion started when I picked up my mother’s magazines’ which used to lay around the house perusing page to page and from then on the rest is history.
How would you describe your personal style? Has it been consistent over the last years or do you change style regularly?
BE: My personal style is more inclined to a hippie meets monochrome meets preppy kind of style. It has not been consistent but has changed over the years and has finally hit a halt of more monochrome than ever.
How does being Kenyan influence and inspire you in your work? Are there elements, details or ways of dressing and ornamenting that you feel are typically Kenyan?
BE: Kenya has a diverse cultural background which has played a vital role in discovering my sense of style. Statement pieces by the Maasai’s, beadwork by different ethnic communities, leather works by different communities and the metal works i.e rings, bracelets, bangles and earring made from recycled metals are the typically Kenyan.
Tell us a little bit about your recent and current projects, you are always involved in exciting things with amazing people, from Suave to Adèle Dejak and Sauti Sol…
BE: Suave is a local backpack brand. The brains behind Suave is Mohammed Awale and Osman Abdi who are talented in their own right. They make backpacks from upcycled fabrics and leather. Working with them was an interesting feel because I had never collaborated with a brand before and it was successful.
Working with Adèle Dejak was mind-blowing on the first shoot for a campaign dubbed “My Heart Beats Africa”, which is meant to show a different show picture of Africa. The beauty it possess, the rich cultures, the resources it has and the talent the continent possess is immense. A luxury brand like Adèle Dejak stepped out of the comfort zone and decided to work with budding and yet talented photographers like Mohammed Abbas and El Photographia (I highly doubt that is his government name) on this project and the results were immensely great. I have also worked with Adèle Dejak in shooting the recently launched collection dubbed Almaz, which in Amharic means diamonds. The shoot featured four talented photographers i.e Nick Klaus who is a photojournalist, Joseph Baraza and Mohammed Abbas who run Purple Vase photography, Brian Siambi (@urbanskript) who is a creative and Adèle Dejak who is the owner and creative director of the brand.
Working with Sauti Sol was one of my pivotal points in my styling career. They are a great band to work with and they made it more fun working with them on their Sura Yako music video which is currently is at 2.2 million views on Youtube and had President Barack Obama break a leg to when he was in Kenya.
Tell us a bit about the styling of musicians. What is it like to work with fashion as expression of music, how do you approach it when you select outfits and styles? And what do you enjoy with these kind of projects?
BE: Working with Sauti Sol for the shoot of their music video was great considering I had worked with them before as Annabel Onyango’s Assistant while they were shooting their music video for “Still The One”. Selection of outfits and styles are all dependent on the story board as well as the feel of the music and personal style of each individual. The energy on set and the effort that everyone puts in to produce results as well as the sense of humor, mishaps here and there are what makes shoots memorable.
Let’s talk about Nairobi. I have had the pleasure of spending a day doing a fashion tour in Nai with you and left with the feeling that the tour should have been a month because you had so much to share and show me. So for anyone with limited time: for a day of shopping in Nai, which five destinations would you suggest and why?
- Gikomba market because it’s a treasure trove of good and unique pieces.
- Toi Market simply because its offers a wide range of products.
- Maasai Market – it has a rich sense of culture and belonging. There is something for everyone.
Nairobians are so stylish in a really personal and creative way. Is there such a thing as a “Nai style”? If I came to Nairobi and wanted to do a Nairobi-style makeover – where should I go and what should I look for?
BE: Nairobi is a city with that has different sorts of styles which are dependent on the individuals. Yes and no, “Nai Style” is very broad but the key elements are a pair of sunglasses, a pendant necklace, a pair of converse and a graphic t-shirt. You should definitely go through thrift shopping in Gikomba because that is where you will get everything.
Who are the five best dressed Nairobians according to you?
BE: Five best dressed Nairobians (Yo, the list is endless but I will narrow it down).
1. Annabel Onyango
2. Brother-Sister Duo Velma and Oliver of 2manysiblings.
3. Ian Mussilli.
4. Sauti Sol.
5. Silvia Njoki
Nairobi has a very special creative climate. So much is going on all the time and the creative professionals in Nairobi seem so supportive of each other. What is it like for you to be in Nairobi, how does it boost your creativity? And why are people in Nairobi so supportive and not just competitive?
BE: Nairobi boosts my creativity in many ways because there is some much to see, hear, feel which inspires me. The cultural essence of Nairobi is diverse yet we all understand each other.
The fashion industry is really good at creative collaborations. Do you have someone that you would love to do a collaboration with?
BE: I did have a collaboration wish and that was working with Adèle Dejak. I would love to collaborate with The Nest, Sunny Dolat, Katungulu Mwendwa, Neibaz Fashion House, Sandstorm, the list is endless just to name a few.
Where do you personally look for inspiration? Which are your main sources of influence and inspiration?
BE: I get inspired by what I see, read, hear, watch and read. Main sources of influence and inspiration would have to be books, magazines, music videos, paintings and films.
What is your plan for the future? Dream projects, collaborations, goals?
BE: Plans for the future… mhhhhhhhhhhhh… go on holiday to Mykonos and Marrakech *just kidding* – take Kenyan brands global. Dream projects would be to work with really talented creatives around the globe.
Which are the most interesting Kenyan fashion brands to look for and why?
BE: Adèle Dejak, the brand represents African Luxury with a twist and edge of glamour and sophistication. Katungulu Mwendwa and Kepha Maina have a skill set and an eye for shapes and unique patterns which make them stand out. Nick Ondu, John Kaveke have known how to tailor make suits that suite the modern man who wishes to look dapper. Ami Doshi, her jewelry is simple yet chic. Sandstorm have a cut a niche for themselves when it comes to making bags which stand out and have an African feel. Suave have really cool, trendy backpacks which stand out in any crowd. Kiko Romeo have reinvented themselves with introduction for their hand prints works which look good. Wazawazi a local bag brand are picking up the pace with products made from leather and cow hide. Kipusa stands out with the use African Print and modern fabric to carter to the woman. Nur clothing is nothing short of a good job with recently concluded coke studio her pieces are stunning. Munga who is a current designer for Sauti Sol has introduced avant garde looks and is getting a good response. Kooroo have tapped into their inner femininity and produce really good and comfortable clothes for the woman who is all about comfort.
Why do you think Kenyan and African fashion is fairly unknown among non-Africans outside of Africa? If you were asked to lead a project to promote African fashion to new target groups, what would you do?
BE: I think Kenyan and African Fashion are recognized both in and out of Africa. But what is lacking is better exposure. I would plan shoots, rally Africans to supports their own get top press and publications to push African fashion, dress notable celebrity who command influence in African designers.
How would you spend a perfect weekend in Nairobi?
BE: My perfect weekend is ideally spent home researching and catching up with the latest in the movie, series and film world.
The two questions we ask every person: why do you love doing what you do? And what do you wish that people in the world knew about Kenya?
BE: I love what I do because it completes me. Makes me feel whole and accomplished.
Kenya is a land of endless possibilities, home to the very best creatives in fashion, music, art, great cultural diversity and a place where you can be home.
Thank you Bryan for taking the time for this and sharing your creativity, encyclopedic knowledge and inspiring perspective. Asante sana.