I remember the first time I met Kwena Baloyi. We stumbled into each other’s lives as fashion assistants, office friends and colleagues at our first jobs at Drum and You magazines, and it was the birth of a sisterhood from the word go! Years later, Kwena has become a trendsetter and style icon in her own right. We’ve been in contact, but haven’t seen each other in years, so I live vicariously through her Instagram, where she exudes an eclectic style through clothes and her ever-changing hairstyles – which are more like works of art.
Kwena recently made her debut at Pitti Immagine Uomo in Italy, the highly anticipated international event for menswear and the launch of new men’s fashion projects. She represented like no other as a report-back influencer and trendsetter, turning heads and causing a few paparazzi frenzies with her fashion partner in crime, Trevor Stuurman. Here, we get a closer view of a woman who inspires me and many others with her inner and outer beauty and, of course, her insanely bold sense of style.
TO: One thing I must know is where you find the inspiration for your incredible hairstyles that you call your ‘krowns’?
KB: Being a fashion stylist allows me to see many things as art besides what you find in galleries. I walk and drive to so many different places. For example, I style a lot of TV commercials and getting wardrobe ready for a commercial requires a couple of days, so I do research by visiting places I never thought I would and that in itself inspires how I dress and visualise the Kween in me. I mostly look to women like Mama Miriam Makeba – the krown that made its debut at Pitti was inspired by her and many other African ladies that came before us. I feel I have a responsibility to keep the past alive – our history is rich and full of life lessons and is part of our present lives, so I make sure our krowns keep shining.
TO: What are the 3 items in your wardrobe you can’t stop wearing?
KB: Suits, white ankle boots and white shirts.
TO: Favourite lip colour?
KB: Any colour that is bright because, with me, things are very unexpected and colour helps me create magic!
TO: What item of clothing do you think everyone should own now?
KB: A suit. I think it’s a must and a staple for every wardrobe. [See how Kwena rocks a suit below.]
TO: Heels or flats?
KB: Heels! They just have that thing.
TO: Do you feel that your outfits reflect your current mood? If that’s the case, you sure must be pretty happy all the time 🙂
KB: Yhooooo, all the damn time! At Pitti, I felt like I was a mood board for those around me, because my looks reflected my mood – it was colourful, vibrant and out of the box.
TO: What was your Pitti highlight?
KB: Being Vogue Italia’s homepage cover girl! British Vogue, French Vogue, New York Times and Essence all gave me shout-outs – these are all publications I dream of, so that is huge! Being recognised by people who have high standards when it comes to style gave me life as that means I’m doing something right.
TO: Favourite Italian word(s) you’ve adopted from your trip?
KB: Grazie mille (thank you very much). Trevor [Stuurman] and I said that so many times – you know, all the compliments 😉 – so it’s officially stuck.
TO: If you weren’t a stylist, what would you be?
KB: A doctor. I love people so much and am always willing to help others.
TO: Besides Pitti, what’s been a highlight in your career so far?
KB: In this industry, you get a chance because you’re good at what you do, so being able to work with Thabang Moleya, who directed Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word – a movie that did exceptionally well – shows that hard work pays off and the recognition has opened more and more doors.
TO: What’s next for Kwena?
Taking Africa to the world in the Kween way!
What Kwena wore to Pitti Uomo
DAY 1: Power suits and pops of colour
DAY 2: Pinstripes and pink lips
DAY 3: Bold prints and blue beads
Follow @KWENASAYS on Instagram to catch more of what she’s wearing in Milano!
IMAGES: @Trevor_Stuurman / @Ricardomarcusk / @pittimmagine / @milesform