Amar Jonathan is a force to reckon with in fashion. He is a two-time Abryanz Style and Fashion Awards (ASFA) ‘Male Fashionista of the Year’. Yet the head of marketing at Entim Sidai wellness sanctuary has only been a fashion influencer for just two years. He talks to Thomas Rajula about his struggle with depression and fashion
Has dressing up always been your thing?
I always kept receiving compliments like “Oh, you dress well” but it wasn’t something I would do consciously.
So how did you end up becoming a big name?
I went through a heartbreak in 2017 and it really affected me. I couldn’t concentrate at work. Hitting the gym and meditating weren’t calming me down. I started drinking to numb the pain and I became a mess. My boss asked me to take a break because I was affecting the clients’ energy at the wellness sanctuary.
I decided to take all the nice clothes I had and go for a photo shoot; looking good has always helped me feel good. When I posted those photos on my social media handles, I got overwhelming compliments. I went and bought new clothes and did another shoot which I posted. Then my following just blew up.
How did you end up as a fashion influencer?
It’s always been a passion of mine to dress well. I didn’t do it because I was looking for a career, it was just for fun. But then people approached me, like Kipato Unbranded and Platform - Two Rivers, and asked me to be their influencer because there are people who follow me for what I’m wearing and to inspire them. I get paid for the mentions on my handles.
But I neither style nor design for anyone else. I do give advice for free, though. I’ve received offers to style some celebrities but I’m a handful myself so that’s not for me. (Laughs).
How do you determine your charges?
The size of a brand and all the costs I will incur when doing campaigns for them determine how much I charge.
Do you also design your outfits?
I direct the tailors on what I want to wear. I will tag people who’ve made my clothes but you find people commenting that they’ve never seen those particular designs. It’s because they come from my head.
What inspires how you put a look together then?
I just always want to look different, unique; wear something someone else has never worn. Most times I won’t even wear an outfit until it’s been retouched at least three times. But that’s just for special occasions, otherwise I will always be late to work.
Must be a good feeling to be at fashion-related events, huh?
I get invited because of my fashion sense. When I go there I need to look the part because everyone will be eager to see what I’m wearing. I also go to see what everyone is wearing and what they are doing to their outfits. But Kenyan men rarely go out of the suits or t-shirts and jeans safe zones. (Laughs).
So, which nationalities do you feel dress for well for occasions?
South Africans and Nigerians; they go all out. I admire Denola Gray’s (Nigerian) style the most.
How did it feel like winning ASFA for two years in a row?
It feels good. But you ask yourself "why me?", since there are people who dress better and have more following than I do; is it simply about fashion, or the person as well? The public influences 30 per cent of the outcome while the rest is determined by the panel.
I was so confused the first time I won, I remember saying “Africa is a beautiful country”. I wasn’t prepared to win. (Laughs). I had a speech this time, just in case. When they called me up I forgot everything I had memorised and it was a similar situation. (Laughs).
Why do you think people gravitate towards your page?
I looked at some pages and how they handled their interactions before, but I am just myself with my audience. I write captions based on what I feel so that I directly communicate with them.
That’s why Neomi Ng’ang’a and I became good friends. We’re both real people and we encourage each other.
How can you differentiate who’s really your friend?
It’s hard to tell, honestly. But from the conversations, you’ll definitely know who wants to use you because they will demand something at some point.
But in this industry you just have to be nice to everyone. Don't listen to what somebody tells you about someone, judge them from your interactions.
What about this whole experience gives you the most joy?
When I get direct messages from people who say I’ve paved the way for them to express themselves openly without being judged as “being extra”. It makes me happy to know I’m inspiring someone.
What’s your routine to maintain yourself for the task at hand?
Moisturiser and scrub for my face, Vitamin C is good for the skin. I also meditate from 4:30am to 5am and then hit the gym five-times a week. I do a lot of cardio workouts but also work my arms, legs, back and shoulders. But I don’t do any diets. (Laughs).
What are your 2020 expectations?
I’m working on a unisex cardigan line; it’s for the weather but also to look stylish and expensive. I was inspired by French fashion designer Olivier Rousteing’s Balmain designs that make a statement.
What do you advise those who look up to you?
Start now, don’t think about it.
Most comfortable footwear?
Favourite part of your body?
Havana, Cuba. Some people assume I’m actually Cuban.
Do you dance?
I don’t really dance.
Chicken, chicken, chicken.
Julie Gichuru. She looks 20 every day.
Ever thought of doing some screen time?
I would want to, in the future. We’re working on a few things with Neomi.
The perfect look?
Rompers, chain, watch and open shoes (or expensive socks and sneakers).
Biggest misconception people have of you?
That I’m a snob. In reality I’m very quiet and laid back. People assume that I’m always ready to party and I’m this very exciting person. I’m really scared by all the attention I get because I’m not even used to it. People take this “lack of enthusiasm” as snobbish.