It’s one thing growing up with dreams and aspirations and another living those dreams. Marian Kwei, formerly Kihogo has done both, currently shining in the global fashion industry as a style icon challenging norms and pushing boundaries.
Marian Kwei, of Ghanaian heritage, is a London-based celebrity stylist, an editor, and a creative consultant with over 15 years of experience in the fashion industry.
Her signature sense of style is intriguing, often playing at the intersection of bright colors, bold patterns and daring designs. It comes as no surprise that Marian has, many times, been listed as best dressed with the likes of Anna Wintour of Vogue, and music artist Kelly Rowland on various platforms including, The New York Times, The New York Post, Essence Magazine, and Vogue Italia.
In this conversation, we deep dive into her fashion bubble, getting to know what has kept it afloat for nearly two decades in the game and engage her wits on Ghana’s fashion industry of which she is a big fan.
MA: How did you get into fashion and why?
Marian: I got into fashion because I loved beautiful things. When I was young, I remember, I would collect and look through fashion magazines. I enjoyed what I saw and that led me to write for magazines and different platforms. That also led me to fashion styling.
MA: How do you balance being a stylist, an editor, and a creative consultant?
Marian: The simple answer will be that I love what I do and that enthusiasm with my good time management skills helps me prioritize things. Not to forget; the grace of God helps me balance it all.
MA: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Marian: I would say I am inspired mostly by life. I am inspired by what I see and what I come across. So for example I recently styled a project published on Style Afrique, a Ghanaian platform and the inspiration was the creative work coming from Africa. Thus, the works of other creatives. I deliberately try to inspire myself through exposure to new things. Talk of attending art exhibitions, reading books on creativity, and importantly surrounding myself with creative things and people.
MA: How do you see the Ghanaian fashion industry?
Marian: I am inspired a lot by the Ghanaian fashion industry. We have risen to the occasion and we are part of the reason why everybody across the world is interested in Africa now. So yes, the industry is fantastic. The industry has got different designers and each of them has a unique perspective and narrative they are trying to tell. It is no longer just coming together to have fashion shows. Now, people are researching, learning, and paying more attention to the standard and quality of their work. Fashion houses are now very well established and season by season you see them developing. It is an incredible period for us. We are no longer waiting for the westerners to hand things to us but we are making our moves and showing off our works. I think Ghana fashion is an integral part of fashion in Africa.
MA: Okay that brings me to my question, do you think Africa is well-represented in the fashion industry?
Marian: Well, I must be honest. There isn’t much diversity or inclusion when you look at the global media space. They are not giving us the space that’s due. So I would say we are certainly not being represented enough. But I am glad, Africa is no longer waiting for the Western world. We are owning our own media business platforms or lifestyle companies, trying to tell the African story on our own terms. For example, how Melange Africa shares the news when Gabrielle Union wears Ghanaian designers like Christie Brown. It has to get to a point where those things are shared as an everyday occurrence but we are still celebrating when little things happen for us. At this point, when we are in 2023? That should be the norm.
MA: Which Ghanaian celebrity have you worked with?
Marian: So, the person I have worked with in Ghana is Ama K. Abebrese. And it has been a pleasure to collaborate with her. I have styled her on a number of occasions, from film premiers, and award ceremonies to more recently when she walked her first London Fashion Week show. She inspires me so I call her my muse.
MA: And which celebrities are you dying to work with and why?
Marian: In Ghana, I would say I have been quite inspired more recently by Yvonne Nelson because she shared her life story and her experience with the world and produces films giving opportunities to others. I would also love to style Angolan-Portuguese singer and songwriter Pongo, who is known as the Queen of Kuduro. I love her energy. So those are the two people I would love to work with.
MA: Who is your favorite Ghanaian designer at the moment?
Marian: This will be hard to choose. Certainly Christie Brown would be on my list, and Duaba Serwa as well. Their works are timeless, sophisticated, and elegant.
MA: What career advice would you give to those starting out in the fashion industry?
Marian: From my experience, the best advice I would give to anyone starting is to research the pathways that people who have achieved what you hope to achieve, took to get to where they are. Remember you have to start from somewhere. If you want to write, intern at a fashion media platform. If you want to style, start by assisting. All these are important and would help you learn and it will be great for your CV. It takes time to get there but persistence pays off.
MA: What style tip would you give to anyone?
Marian: Fashion will always make you think you need to wear certain trends and that’s part of the industry but remember this, what you wear should encourage your experience, and should make you feel comfortable and joyful. So always wear the things you like.
By: Thelma Anowaa.
A Fashion and Lifestyle Writer from Ghana, west Africa. Always had a dream of becoming a Public Relations practitioner but somehow her hobby turned into an exciting journey filled with experiences in creative writing, content managing, and copywriting.