Business of Music

Styling and the Musician’s Brands

NANA OF TRENDY RAIL SHARES THE IMPORTANCE OF STYLING TO SARKODIE, KIDI AND KUAMI EUGENE’S BRAND

In the wake of visual branding in marketing, Musicians must realize their brands not only lie in their product (i.e their music) but in their clothing as well. How they are seen, and what they wear, go a long way to cement them in people’s minds. One of such artists in Ghana with a distinctive style and brand is Sarkodie. We spoke to his stylist, Nana of Trendy Rail, and how she keeps up with the Sarkodie brand through styling. Her work with breakout musicians KiDi and Kuami Eugene, is also a definitive of their brands and she takes us through this as well.

How did you get into styling? Was it a planned thing or you were just thrown into it?

My background has always been fashion as I studied fashion, but being African my mum obviously didn’t agree with it. This made me try other things such as Law & Nursing. It just wasn’t me, so I became “The Stubborn Child” who disobeyed mummy and followed my passion! I was a Visual Merchandiser for 5 years, then styling somehow just came in through this!

How was your first styling job like? How did you land it?

This one is a funny story, So my first styling “Paid” job was a music video, Fuse ODG ft Sean Paul – Dangerous Love. Unfortunately both artiste’s never became official.
Shortly after this, I got called to style Sarkodie.
This was a very hard decision because I didn’t like him as an artiste. I thought he was too full of himself, so I didn’t want to style him.
Can you imagine being on set and you’re there to style somebody you don’t like? It was so funny, because he noticed it as well.
To cut a long story short, he was so fun to be around and my opinion completely changed (He’s more or less my Big brother now!). I can say my first job as a stylist landed me with my official client Sarkodie, this happened after I styled him for “Tonga – Joey B Ft Sarkodie”.

How did you style sarkodie? Then and now? Was it based off the video? Or his brand? And how did you figure what works for what?

On that particular day, it was very simple jeans and a colourful printed tee! I didn’t really know his style so from the little research I did, i knew he loved wearing black. Because “Tonga’ was a fun video, I decided to put him in something colourful.
I definitely wouldn’t dress him like that now, we’ve come a long way! Things are very different now. We take branding very seriously it not something we compromise on at all.

E.g on The “No Kissing” which was Patoranking ft Sarkodie, the brief we had was very different from his style. It was Hip-Hop 90’s style. I mean can you imagine Sarkodie dressed in Dungarees? Hahhahaha No! No!
(Not saying he can’t pull it off. He certainly can, but it’s not his style).
What I did was to add a few elements from the brief. I stuck to his style, but still made sure it synced in with the video.

Even when we are given a brief for a particular shoot/ music video, I make sure that I put his brand first and the rest follows!

 

Do you have specific brands or designers you work with? Or you go with what works?

It all depends on the tasks at hand! If it’s a big event I will normally get something designed for him.

I love working with young independent designers. Their mind is so refreshed and they always understand my vision. They think out of the box, which I love!

Other times it’s PR companies. However this tends to be my last option if a design doesn’t go according to plan.

But it all depends on the task at hand.

How do you find and access clothing?
I always say: Every stylist is an FBI.
Hahahhahah – we can find a lot of things out! TRUST ME!

But seriously, Research, Research, Research!

Research and getting to know brands is 75% of my job! It requires a lot of emailing, a lot of moodboards too.

This is an inspiration board normally filled with colour stories, trends, etc.

Basically a moodboard lets the client, or the designer, have some knowledge about your vision.

Through researching you can come across some amazing designers.

Once you find a potential designer contact them(they will let you know if they have a company or not), with details of why you’re contacting them, who you’re working with it, why you chose them? Etc the list goes on.

After all this, it’s up to the designer to say yes or no! But there a lot of stress that comes with it. You Really need to know your stuff before contacting a designer or a PR company!

Do you think a well known designer is necessary? Especially for a demographic like Ghana.

Well the answer is very simply: NO!

I don’t really put my clients in luxury designers.It’s really not necessary.

Once an artists is seen in an outfit, they cannot repeat it! It can be anything from performance, red carpet, interviews etc! A lot of my clients never repeat any outfit they’re seen in! This is very very important. As I mentioned earlier I take branding very seriously.

Therefore, luxury designers is not necessary because:

1. The artist cannot repeat it once they’re seen wearing it in the public eye
2. It’s very common, there no essence of exclusivity
3. People won’t really think anything of it so why other.. hahaha I mean they’re not checking you for your designer wear especially in Ghana. They’re more concerned about how it looks not how much it costs!

My aim for all my clients is to become trendsetters so I a avoid luxury designers unless it’s an exclusive piece.
Meaning the luxury designer only have 10 pieces of the item so once its sold out that’s it!

OK. Let’s move to KiDi and Kuami Eugene. How did you meet them? And was the VGMAS the first time working with them?

I met Kuami and KiDi at Akwaaba’s Ghana independence concert, in London!
On that particular day I wasn’t working (I’m normally styling). I was mainly there to watch the show also help the organizers with any task at hand.

While backstage, I said hi to the boys and kept it moving. I’m really quiet and in my lane when I’m at events.

I happened to meet one of the managers from Lynx, introduce myself to her and we exchanged details. She was a delight to be around.

My friend was handling the PR for them, so I was with the boys for some days as I was assisting my friend. My first time working with the boys was when they worked with Viva band.
But that was “Soft Work”, so we can possibly say the VGMAs was my first big project with Kuami and KiDi.

Image result for kidi vgma

 How is their individual style like? And how is it to work on them?

These boys have their own individuality.

Just by looking at them you can tell that KiDi can literally pull off any style of clothing, but it will always have that “sweet boy” twist to it! For Kuami, he can pull off any style of clothing but the “Rockstar” vibe is a MUST!

I love to research about my clients. This way, I will know what direction I want to head towards in terms of styling.I also need to pay attention to how i can refresh their style without changing too much!

Their personalities will always need to show in their style of clothing.

So I used this to my advantage and voila you have 2 different style of clothing for two different personalities!

For KiDi and Kuami, you’re playing a huge role as a stylist because this is their breakout. Anything could define them. How do you use that to your advantage? Or is it a disadvantage? And how easily malleable are they?

Hmmm this is where it get tricky! This part defines you as stylist.

At this point your work will determine whether styling is your calling or you’re following a trend.

Everything is very crucial, as it can make or break your entire career.

This takes me back to what I said about researching about your clients, doing moodboards, looking at colours, patterns! I mean the list goes on!

The research is your foundation. If you get part right, everything else falls into place.

KiDi and Kuami are literally all Ghanaians can talk about right now, so as a stylist its a lot of pressure.

This can be a disadvantage for you as stylist. You will try and keep their looks very simple, which will then be a down fall on your creative side. Therefore you fail to bring something new to the table. But at the same time, you can be creative with their looks and before you know it they have become trendsetters.
It’s definitely about learning to balance the two.

There’s a thin line between your client being on the best dressed list and your client being on the WORST dressed list. Every stylist’s nightmare!!

There’s usually a conversation around  Kuami Eugene’s dress sense .Especially online with people often voicing out that he needs a stylist. How does that make you feel as his stylist?

Image result for kuami eugene

There is no such thing as bad style or should I say bad dress sense in my opinion. You either get it, or you don’t!

I always say, “ Just because I won’t wear it, it doesn’t mean is bad.”

The thing is, Kuami’s style of dressing is more Bohemian.
]I mean there’s different style of dressing it all depends on your personality and how you feel.

Now… I get Kuami’s personality, I honestly love his personality, so to me there nothing wrong with his Rockstar vibe.

I’m going to taking it back:
Look at Elvis Presley and Ozzy Osbourne. Let’s use them as an example. Rockstars that their songs and personality always portrayed out their fashion sense.

Another example, WizKid and Burna boy, they’re more modernized Rockstars. Look at the way they dress?

Because I understand Kuami’s vibe, I’m really comfortable working with him. Now I’ve come to understand that Ghanaians are not open minded. They’re stuck in a box where they don’t like change; especially when it comes to fashion.

Kuami is definitely an international artist and as a stylist I need to cater to this brand internationally. I don’t really focus on what Ghanaians think is right, ’cause what doesn’t work in Ghana will work in America or London.

He’s comfortable in his own skin which is absolutely amazing. You either get his style or you don’t!

 

Check out Trendy Rail on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/trendy_rail/

Benewaah is the lead curator and editor at Harmattan Rain. Her love for music is closely rivaled by her love for plantain.

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