Unless you’ve been completely out of touch with Afrobeats, chances are you’re already familiar with the visually captivating music videos of Tiwa Savage and Asake‘s Loaded, Asake’s Organise and Terminator. These videos were a feast for the eyes, filled with vibrant colours, unconventional clothing combinations, and an abundance of cultural references.
View this post on Instagram
These music videos served as a visual playground, offering a delightful spectacle that engaged viewers from start to finish. The creative fusion of these elements played a significant role in capturing attention and leaving a lasting impression.
We caught up with the man behind the fashion—stylist Swazzi, who has worked with everyone from Kizz Daniel to Flavour—to get the insider deets on EVERYTHING styling.
How did you get your start in styling? Tell us more about your career trajectory.
Swazzi: I delved into the world of styling after the lockdown, although my love for fashion had always been a part of me. Before that, I enjoyed assisting those around me in putting together stylish looks, but I never considered it as a potential source of income or a professional career path. However, everything changed when I had the opportunity to work as an influencer for boohooMAN for a year.
During my time as an influencer, I accumulated a substantial collection of clothes and accessories. It was then that a realization struck me. I pondered, “Why not utilize these resources to style people professionally, considering I already offer this service to my friends?” With this newfound perspective, I decided to embark on a professional journey in styling.
The combination of my passion for fashion and the assets I had amassed laid the foundation for my career as a stylist. It all began with a simple realization that I could transform my hobby into a fulfilling and profitable profession. From that point forward, I dedicated myself to honing my skills and building my portfolio, embracing styling as a significant part of my life.
You are currently styling fashion-forward music videos with top Nigerian artists? What has it been like so far?
Swazzi: Styling top Nigerian music artists and working on music videos is an incredibly enjoyable experience for me. It offers a platform for self-expression, allowing me to be true to myself and unleash my creativity. The fact that Afrobeat is gaining global recognition further emphasizes the need to be exceptionally intentional with the looks I curated for these artists, as they serve as ambassadors of their culture on a global stage.
It’s a fascinating process of merging their style with my own, creating a harmonious union that produces striking results. I always strive to infuse uniqueness into each look, pushing boundaries and exploring uncharted fashion territories. Additionally, I find great joy in incorporating elements of Nigerian culture and heritage, adding a touch of spice to the visuals. Styling music videos and collaborating with Nigerian artists is an aspect of my work that brings immense satisfaction and fulfilment. It allows me to contribute to the vibrant landscape of music and fashion, both locally and on a global scale.
How do you approach styling for video shoots compared to other styling projects?
Swazzi: Styling for music videos is a unique realm that sets it apart from other styling endeavours, be it photoshoots, red carpets, or prestigious events like the AMVCAs.
The process of styling for music videos demands patience and a particular set of pressures. It extends beyond my role, as it involves collaborating with the entire team. This includes aligning with the music video director’s vision and incorporating the mood board’s aesthetics. With a mood board in hand, a clear style direction emerges, and it becomes my responsibility to curate looks that seamlessly align with the video’s narrative, enriching the visual experience and enhancing the appearance of the artists and cast members.
Styling for music videos is undeniably exciting for me. I firmly believe that anyone capable of styling music videos can handle any styling project because the process demands a high level of expertise. It’s an environment where creativity flourishes, allowing for meaningful expression. I take great pride in paying meticulous attention to details. Every element of the look must be carefully crafted to make a profound impact and convey a message effectively.
To me, every look in a music video is an opportunity to create something extraordinary, to make it visually striking and significant. It’s not just about the surface-level aesthetics but also the underlying story or message it conveys. Styling music videos requires a level of dedication and thoughtfulness that ensures the result is truly impactful and memorable.
Can you describe a video project you have worked on and how your styling choices contributed to the overall aesthetic and message of the video?
Swazzi: Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of working on numerous music video projects, each offering its own unique experience. One of the notable projects I contributed to was Ric Hassani‘s “Thunder Fire,” Tiwa Savage and Asake’s “Loaded,” Asake’s “Organise,” “Terminator,” and many others. Among my portfolio, there is one particular look that stands out as a personal favourite— the ensemble I created for Asake in the “Terminator” music video. It was during the scene where he transitioned from denim to traditional attire.
View this post on Instagram
When I was presented with the concept for Asake’s look, I challenged myself to approach it in the most innovative way possible. I wanted to strike a balance between modernity and tradition, ensuring that the ensemble stood out and didn’t resemble any typical traditional outfit. Sourcing the necessary elements to achieve this distinctive look required careful consideration and time. I aimed to create a visual representation that showcased the blend of traditional and contemporary aesthetics.
Another noteworthy project I worked on was Zinoleesky‘s music video for “Yan Yan Yan.” The ensembles created for him had a transformative effect on his overall persona, elevating his image and leaving a lasting impression.
Among my numerous experiences, Flavour‘s “Gamechanger” music video also holds a special place. Each project has its own set of favourites, but these are just a few examples of the exciting collaborations and memorable styling opportunities I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of in the realm of music videos.
Recently your work for the Iyanya and Bnxn Sinner video caught our attention. How did your clothing choices help bring the video to life?
Swazzi: It was Ubi Franklin who initially approached me with the opportunity to style the project. Before that, I had been styling Iyanya for a while. When Director Ochuko shared the concept for the music video, I carefully examined it and began brainstorming the best approach to bring it to life.
The vision for the music video was to embrace Afrocentric elements. After conducting thorough research, I gathered my team, and together, we immersed ourselves in generating creative ideas. One concept that emerged was to have Iyanya donning an animal skin jacket, paired with matching shoes from the Nigerian shoe line King David.
To make this vision a reality, I reached out to King David and Look Different Marque. This endeavour was a collaborative effort, not solely dependent on my contribution. The collective efforts of the director, myself, my team, and everyone involved contributed to the successful execution of the project. Similarly, when styling Bnxn, we carefully strategized how he should look in a specific setting. It required us to search for elements that perfectly complemented the scene, ensuring that the artists exuded a sense of opulence within that particular environment.
The process of creating remarkable looks for music videos involves a collective effort, with each team member playing a crucial role. It is through this collaboration that we achieve the desired aesthetic and bring the artistic vision to fruition.
How do you approach creating a cohesive and personalized wardrobe for a client?
Swazzi: I have had the pleasure of working closely with Flavour as his dedicated stylist for the past six months. Whether I am physically present or not, I take great care in curating stylish ensembles for him. I ensure that the pieces are meticulously selected and communicate with him regarding the footwear that would complement each look. To facilitate his dressing even in my absence, I have created a comprehensive mood board featuring various outfits and their corresponding shoes. This way, he can effortlessly coordinate his attire by referring to the mood board I have meticulously crafted.
In addition to Flavour, I have the privilege of creating captivating looks for other esteemed celebrities such as Nini and Maria, among others. When assembling outfits for these individuals, I aim to strike a harmonious balance between showcasing made-in-Nigeria fashion and incorporating international brands like Gucci, Prada, and others. This fusion allows me to create visually stunning ensembles that blend different cultural influences and fashion sensibilities.
My passion lies in seamlessly merging these diverse elements to craft unforgettable looks that highlight the individuality of each celebrity. By intertwining Nigerian fashion with renowned international brands, I strive to elevate the sartorial narrative and showcase the wealth of creativity and style present within the Nigerian fashion industry.
Who are some of your go-to African designers for styling now?
Swazzi: I admiration for African designers, so whenever I come across a rising star, I can sense it. Their designs captivate me with their meticulous attention to detail and the way they skillfully bring their creations to life. It’s as if there’s an undeniable essence in the design and the visionary behind it.
Last year, during the AMVCAs, Neo’s remarkable green ensemble gained significant attention, even landing on several blogs and earning him a spot on GQ‘s best-dressed men list. Interestingly, this happened just two days before the event.
Attending the AMVCAs fashion showcase, where we had already planned Neo’s outfit, I came across a stunning white look that caught my eye. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Who is the brilliant designer behind this?” As fate would have it, I spotted the designer himself. Despite the tight timeline, with only 48 hours left until the event, I knew I wanted Neo to wear that outfit. I promptly reached out to the designer, collecting his business card. Expressing my desire for the look in a different colour, I requested it to be customized accordingly.
The following morning, the designer promptly sent me various fabric options available, and I chose the vibrant green. When Neo saw the final ensemble, he was overjoyed. He wore it with a casual flair, and it became the talk of the town. This experience reaffirmed my ability to identify exceptional designers when I encounter them; it’s something that comes naturally to me.
Do you keep an eye out for new African designers? How do you spot the next big thing?
Swazzi: Currently, my top choices for styling are Look Different Marque, Daltimore, T.I. Nathan, Rogue, Caviar Woman, and Gbemi. Each of these designers holds a special place in my heart. Look Different Marque, in particular, stands out for its exceptional craftsmanship and unwavering focus on intricate details.
Daltimore never fails to impress me with its unique aesthetics. T.I. Nathan consistently delivers designs that resonate with my style. Rogue captures my attention with their bold and daring creations. Caviar Woman’s pieces exude elegance and sophistication. Finally, Gbemi’s designs never fail to leave a lasting impression. With such a wide range of favourites, my styling options are always diverse and exciting.
Are there certain types of looks that photograph best?
Swazzi: I find myself enamoured with a multitude of favourite looks. Currently, Flavour’s ensemble in his announcement video for his Europe tour holds a special place in my heart. The combination of style and charisma showcased in that particular look truly captivated me. Additionally, Neo‘s outfit at the AMVCAs and Nini’s striking attire has also become personal favourites. Among several other remarkable looks, these stand out to me as exceptional choices. With such an extensive list of favourites, my admiration for various styles and fashion statements continues to grow.
What are the essential skills or qualities you believe a fashion stylist should possess?
Swazzi: To me, the ability to skillfully utilize and combine colours is paramount. A stylist must possess a keen understanding of how different hues harmonize and complement each other. Equally important is the art of paying meticulous attention to details and accessorizing. These elements hold significant value in my perspective.
As a stylist, one must possess a strong grasp of colour coordination and accessorizing techniques. It is of utmost importance because the way a look comes together relies heavily on these factors. It is not just about personal preferences or the clients themselves; the impact of the final result extends far beyond. Numerous individuals will observe and assess the outfit, and if it is well-executed, they will inquire about the stylist responsible for putting it together. On the other hand, if the outcome falls short, it may deter potential clients from seeking your services.
In summary, having a refined sense of colour usage, mastering the art of accessorizing, and demonstrating meticulous attention to detail are essential traits for any stylist. These qualities play a pivotal role in delivering exceptional finished looks that garner positive attention and inspire others to seek your expertise.
What advice would you give to young African fashion enthusiasts looking to enter this side of the industry?
Swazzi: Know your worth. Do collaborations once in a blue moon. Let people pay you the price. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Once you know your worth and you’re good at what you do, when people pay, give them that service, show them what they paid for, and make them see and want to come back or refer you to other people.
Who do you hope to style one day?
Swazzi: Who? Who? Who? Who do I hope to style one day? Oh my God. I would love to style Kim Kardashian. Yeah, one day, hopefully.