When 31-year-old Cess Munyoro walks into her office on the 20th floor of View Park Towers, she owns the room.
Today, she has big hair and is wearing yellow pants with an African print. We take this interview on a Tuesday afternoon.
Her office is a flurry of activities as Cess and her team of five are busy putting together different looks for television hosts of a local media house that has contracted her to dress all their on-screen talent.
Cess is a fashion stylist. Her job entails putting together fashion looks for various clients, usually celebrities.
One look entails clothes, shoes, hair and other fashion accessories. She charges Sh4,500 per look.
“Fashion styling is all about the brand. It is determining what look will work for this person and not that one. The first question I ask when a person in the limelight walks into my office is, 'what do your fans think of you?’ Then I decide what clothes and accessories hold up this image,” Cess explains.
The average Kenyan celebrity, Cess lets on, doesn’t buy most of the clothes they parade in.
This is where Cess's work comes in. She works in collaboration with various clothing and accessory outlets.
The outlets will give her clothes for free in exchange for the mentions and the influence of her clients.
After events, she will take the clothing to the laundry and then take them back to the shop.
For clients that want to purchase the clothes, she can get them much better deals from these shops.
Television styling isn't very playful and she admits she enjoys styling people for photos and videos shoots more. “I feel like I have been doing this forever,” she tells me.
Well, she hasn’t but her love affair with fashion goes back to her childhood days.
Growing up as the only girl amongst three siblings, Cess loved to dress up.
She also took to making adjustments on clothes her mother bought her. They would fight every time she put a slit on a dress her mother thought was perfect.
"I didn't think of fashion as a career. I studied Commerce at the University of Nairobi. On the weekends, I would buy second-hand dresses from Gikomba market and sell to my friends. I thought of fashion as a hobby,” she says.
She then went to have a three-year-long career working in finance in a logistics company. She describes those three years as boring.
To make extra cash and to liven up her life, she used her savings to set up a boutique. It was while running this boutique that she stumbled into fashion styling.
“Most of my clients at the boutique were women. I spent days watching women come in and insist on buying clothes and accessories that were wrong for their body types and personalities. I knew that I needed to do more than sell clothes. I wanted to make people buy clothes that they would look good in,” she says.
To add to her natural eye for fashion, she took an image consulting class online. Then five years ago, she set about nailing her first client.
“This was the hard part. It took me about eight months of styling various personalities for free to begin getting a trickle of clients. I would walk up to them, tell them I am good at what I do and offer them the chance to find out if this was true at no cost. Most of them agreed,” she says.
Today, Cess has a brand that employs five other people and a constant flow of clients. Social media has been one of her biggest resources.
Most of her clients come knocking after seeing posts from her other clients.
Many things could go wrong in a day in the life of a fashion stylist. For Cess, the most common one usually is a dress not fitting the intended client.
In case this happens, she always has shops on speed dial who can get clothes to her in record time.
On occasion, clothes or accessories get damaged and she has to pay for them. “I love shopping but sourcing for items is the hardest part of my job. Sometimes the dress you want is in Westlands and the accessory to go with it is in a shop across town in Karen,” she says.
That she has a thriving career being a fashion stylist means that the Kenyan fashion industry is also thriving.
“There are still a few areas we are struggling in, the biggest being the fact that the Kenyan woman is a slave of fashion trends. She will want to wear something because it is trending without taking time to understand her body,” she says.
In the foreseeable future, Cess is thinking about creating her clothing line. She is thinking of casual clothing.
“My style is chic, this is what my line will be based on,” she says.
When Cess, a single mother, is not shopping for work, then you will find her shopping for pleasure or playing with her two children.