Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
My name is Marian Kwei (formerly Kihogo) and I am a British Ghanaian stylist. I am an Editor at large contributing to various publications, and taste (refinement & beauty) consultant trying to champion sustainability. I am also the founder of The Love Organisation, an organisation which seeks people to know that they matter. Our mission is ‘Love is the reason’ and we seek to meet the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs and wants of earth’s population whatever it is. We aim to launch soon.
What does your job involve? What happens on a typical day?
A typical day involves working in the different capacities that I do as stylist, consultant, editor at large and creative director.
As a stylist, I work with both celebrities, brands and magazines. With celebrities I style them for events, promo, campaigns and the red carpet. On a daily basis, that role might involve meetings with celebrities to discuss their image and what they are working on. It also involves doing research on looks and brands, contacting the press offices that represent these fashion brands to lend garments and accessories for the celebrities to wear. It also involves appointments such as fittings and dressing the celebrities.
I also style for magazine editorials. This involves borrowing garments and accessories from fashion PRs and putting these looks on models at the magazine shoots. It takes research and crafting looks that suit the stories the fashion spreads are trying to communicate. I’m available to work with brands too as a stylist and consultant. With reference to consulting, my aim is to help brands be as beautiful as possible. The aim is to aid everything they offer or do as a brand be as beautiful and refined as possible; right from the design of the collections to their advertising campaigns. I do everything from help them with choosing the right creative teams to produce whatever they are looking to achieve. I then am on hand on shoots to ensure that the overall look of things is as refined as possible. This role involves a lot of meetings. I have to give my opinion on everything the brand I’m working with does. The aim is to ensure all they create and communicate as a brand is in keeping with the brand. No two days are the same and each day is full of appointments, research, shoots, styling and other.
What’s great about what you do?
Working for and with people. I am using all the many hats that I work under as a means of encouragement. I want to use my work to help all be the best they can be. The human contact is wonderful.
Another great thing about my work is that I’m trying to use my styling and branding as a tool for sustainability. I am happy that I can help do my bit for the environment.
What are the toughest parts of your job?
The toughest part perhaps is a blessing in disguise. Maybe being constrained by time is the hardest thing. However, I must say that maybe that is a good thing. Maybe if we had more time in the day, it would leave us feeling worked to the ground. Maybe it is a good thing to only have so many hours in the day.
What are the highlights of your career to date?
Helping people/brands see that they are special (every human being is!) and that they and their point of view matters would rank highest! People are better able to achieve success when they know their unique selling point.
There have been other highlights too. Being featured by Vogue, Forbes and Black Enterprise have meant a lot to me. Some of the press achieved this far (I was featured on E! News, have had my photo on the fashion & style page of The New York Times, included in a best dressed list with the likes of Anna Wintour of Vogue as curated by The New Post etc.) has been humbling. In addition to this, the viewpoints with reference to me as expressed in articles such as one written by Italian Journalistic Agency, The Consul Press has been a career highlight. The piece centred on how the style of the likes of myself and other creatives of African origin had influenced fashion in the West.
What's been the biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge in my career was perhaps recognizing what I had to offer to the industry. In my fourth decade, (it is never too late! A lot of successful people found success in their later years) I’ve been able to overcome that by simply believing that all of God’s creation (humanity) is special and has something to bring to the table. I’m able to see what I added to the creative conversation in my twenties. When you recognize that you are unique and look carefully at yourself seeking to see the positive, you will see your talents, gifts, skills and the specific ways that you add to the table. I encourage everyone to try this. It will change your career, and in turn, your life.
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
I began by contributing. I would contact digital platforms where I contributed articles on fashion, style and culture. One of these opportunities was with a French digital high-fashion and culture magazine called Dirrty Glam Magazine (they had people like Sienna Miller, Emma Watson and others on their cover). Contributing to this publication was the career break that changed my life. Before I knew it, I was the first UK editor for the magazine. This led to opportunities styling celebrities for the red carpet. I haven’t looked back since! With reference to ever working outside the arts, whilst at college I worked as a healthcare assistant and support worker. When I look back at it, I am glad I did. There were lessons to be learned which I only see now. I’m hoping those lessons enable The Love Organisation of which I’m creative head to be the best it can with reference to its mission of ‘Love (of mankind) being the reason why it exists’.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry in recent times? If so, what?
I have noticed that there are more people of colour at the very top of the industry. It’s almost as though there has been a current trend for Black editors at magazines and at fashion houses. More independent creatives of colour are also being hired to shoot covers for magazines. Being of colour isn’t a trend. It is my everyday experience, it is an everyday experience for many. So I want it to get to a point where every industry fully represents the masses not some of the time or to suit trends but all of the time.
How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?
What a wonderful question. My mother formerly worked as a lecturer of art. Her mother though untrained was known in her locality as a creative who sewed for people and had other creative pursuits. Their creativity is an important reason why I work as a creative.
I am of Ghanaian heritage, born in The Gambia. I attended primary school in England, but secondary school was completed in The Gambia, West Africa. My experience as a person has been influenced by my assimilated cultural experience. This experience has affected my personal style, my work as a stylist and consultant, my viewpoint as a writer and more.
My parents encouraged my creativity and the pursuits that I was exposed to as a child has in turn affected my work. For instance, my mother adored charity shops and trawling through car-boot sales on Sundays. I inherited this knack and ability to acquire the beautiful for little to no more money. This has been a godsend to me with reference to my knowledge of luxury and refinement.
That interest in pre-loved fashion also led to the reason why I’m very interested in making this world more sustainable. I am using my work in its different capacities to help make everything more sustainable.
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
You might not feel this way right now but you matter. You might not believe this right now but your opinion counts. You might not get this right now but you being here in this world makes it a better place. Do the fun and safe things that make you happy and surround yourself with people who treat you well. You matter and one day soon I promise you this life is all going to make sense.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in your field?
Please don’t let anyone tell you that you won’t be able to achieve your dreams! Don’t stop dreaming and start envisioning how you want your future to look. When you are old enough start contacting the companies and people you look up to and learn more about them. Plan to get around the specific job roles that interest you.
Ask to shadow a profile or creative whose work you admire. Look up internships in fashion design, fashion media (with magazines and similar style platforms) and the creative industry and if it interests you, seek to gain experience in this way. It will help you secure a job in that field in the future. Do things you enjoy that are related to your field of interest. For example, if you like writing, keep a journal, start writing articles (you could start a blog about your favourite creatives/brands/clothes/music artist etc.
Look for a mentor who will help you by guiding you and all you do. This will help you achieve your dream. A good mentor is someone who has achieved the goals you have and knows how to get there.
Surround yourself with what you aim to do, learn about that field in fun ways and believe you can do it: I made it and so can you!
Where can people find you and your work online?
I am using my new Instagram account @marian_kwei as a portfolio of my past and future work. I address everything from how to attain what I’ve achieved and more. Come say hi there!