Did somebody just say, damn! That would be the expected reaction to a lady dressed to the nines on a casual summers day. She is taking it way back to the fashionable glory days of the 70s with those blue pants and turban wrap, not to mention the don’t mess with me wedges. Pow! Take that, take that ( Diddy voice)
Meet Rosemary Kokuhilwa, a fashion connoisseur straight from the motherland living her life in the concrete jungles of the city that never sleeps, NYC. She is the founder of fashionjunkii.com, a freelance fashion stylist, blogger and much more. Click on for more on her!
54 interviews: What is your land of origin?
54interviews: You are a fashion blogger for fashionjunkii.com and co-founder of Global Fashion New York. In addition to this, you are an ex-model, freelance fashion stylist and make-up artist. Whoa! Talk to us about all these roles.
RK: Well where do I begin?? To me working on all these roles is more of fun rather than a job. I enjoy blogging for my site which is more of my personality and I get to write about things that inspire me on the daily basis. Global Fashion New York is a team work and having to work with amazing group of people that are also my friends make this whole experience fun. Styling is something that is in me. I enjoy putting looks together, advising people what to wear, consulting with my designer friends on their collections and seeing the end results give me joy.
54 interviews: How do you strike a balance with all of these roles?
RK: All of these roles are interrelated in one way or another. They all have to do with fashion which makes it easy for me to juggle. I can be working on a styling gig and it is through my preparation and researches (inspirations) that I am able to incorporate into my blogging and other things.
54 interviews: When did your love for fashion and all things fashion related begin?
RK: It all began when I was a very young girl back in Tanzania . At the age of 18 I decided to pursue modeling and signed up with Faces International, which was the the first and only modeling agency in Tanzania at the moment.
54 interviews: Growing up, who did you look up to for fashion inspiration?
RK: I remember seeing my mother in a blue Levis, a white silk shirt and black stilettos at very young age. Then she would spray her self with Opium by Yves Saint Laurent. Her hair was always in a big natural Afro. But I also used to watch style shows via CNN and had a small video collection of fashion shows from Milan, Paris,New York. I would watch those videos over and over and go like wow, that’s where I belong.
54 interviews: How has the transition been from being a media personality in Tanzania to being a fully fledged businesswoman in the U.S.?
RK: I was never a media personality back in Tanzania. I started getting deeply involved in media three years ago here in the US. In Tanzania I was just a model and used to do PR for Mnet and other companies in Tanzania under Faces International. I will not call myself a full fledged business woman as I am still growing in this industry. However, I believe I am up and coming business woman who has a lot in store to share.
54 interviews: What is your mission?
RK: My mission is to become a big fashion icon from Africa and to promote African fashion to the world.
54 interviews: Did you attend the New York Fashion Week held earlier this year? If so, were there any designers from the motherland?
RK: I have been attending Fashion Week every season for the past three years. Though we missed the Arise show which used to bring African talents to showcase their work at the New York Fashion Week , there were a few designers that showcased their collections off sites such as House of Versatile Style by Nigerian designer Bukola Are, and Duro Olowu , a London based, Nigerian-born designer who presented his cFall 2011 ollection in New York for the first time.
54interviews: Bisila Bukoko African Literacy Project, is the 2010 charity recipient of your Global Fashion New York project. Why and how did this come about?
RK: The project was an idea that came about through a group of friends who were trying to bring great talents from different parts of the world to showcase their work in New York which is one of the big fashion cities in the world. The main goal for this project was to infuse fashion and philanthropy together. Most of the team members are deeply involved in the fashion industry therefore it was easy for us to come together and use our experiences to promote these talents while also raising awareness about the act of giving.
54interviews: You are a fashion buyer for a client’s boutique in Tanzania, can you gives us an inside look into the life of a fashion buyer with clients based in the motherland?
RK: Whether you are a buyer for a client based in the motherland or Europe you would still follow the same protocol, dealing with wholesales, merchandize selection, identifying trends or travel to trade shows just to mention a few. Thank God this client doesn’t not require me to travel at the moment as I get to do all my work right here in New York. The key to this is having the best contacts and make sure to build the best relationship with these contacts.
54interviews: What opportunities are there for fashion buyers interested in the Tanzanian market?
RK: Opportunities are limited because the fashion industry is still in the growing phase. One major issue we are facing is the fact that most people don’t have the money to spend on good quality merchandise/fashionable items. So as a buyer, you always have to target individuals who have money and are willing /able to spend.
54interviews: What would you tell the skeptics about the Motherland. Give them a dose of sunshine, please.
RK: Africa fashion is now, not tomorrow , not yesterday and definitely not a trend.. It is here to stay. We are so blessed with so many amazing talents in the likes of David Tlale, Jewel by Lisa and Chichia London. Just to mention a few. Everyday, we see these talents becoming more and more creative and sophisticated in this industry. Interestingly, projects like Global Fashion New York, Arise African collective show, Africa Fashion Week (NY) and African fashion blogs notably ciaafrique, fashionjunkii and others are on a mission to see to it that Africa fashion becomes noticeable and appreciated in the world.
54interviews: Finally, the khanga/leso (wrapper) is widely worn around East Africa. Do/did you own one? Could you quote your favorite proverb printed on there?
RK: Oh! I own several khangas and I have so many favorite proverbs. But if I have to choose one, I think I would go withUkiona vyaelea vimeundwa which means nothing comes out of nothing. One has to work for whatever he or she wishes to achieve.
~Thanks for your time, Rosemary~