I remember watching a Vanessa Mdee music video and thinking; ‘oh, she looks so fabulous.’ Leave alone her dance moves, the sense of fashion is always impeccable - top-notch wardrobe choice. Back then, I hadn’t taken a keen interest in the work that goes behind creating such an appealing look.
That would soon change. During one of my random Instagram scrolls, I stumbled upon an account named @Joujoustyle. At first it seemed like your everyday social media accounts that talk about fashion, but a quick perusal led me to an interesting post, where she talks about how she styled Vanessa in one of her videos. So just like that, I had the answer to the question of how does Vanessa manage to look so astounding in her videos, the glitz and glam and all.
The Beat had a chance to catch up with celebrity stylist, Joujou, where she talked about how she got into the business of styling musicians..
Johary Mohamed, 27, famously known by her alias Joujou, has been in the fashion business for almost five years.
This affinity for style didn’t start out of the blue - it was inbred from her childhood days. Joujou always had a fondness for style from a young age. “My school uniform always looked different from the rest of my school-mates’. I’d add a bit of colour or just style it in a different way. If we had a blue skirt, mine would be a bit darker than the rest,” she says. Such alterations often caught the attention of other students, with most of them admiring how she looked.
It went beyond customizing her school uniform, Joujou also liked styling her mother. “Whenever she’d have a function to attend, such as a wedding, I’d have a few suggestions on what she should wear,” Joujou says.
Seeing the level of attention she got from her styling tidbits, Joujou decided to capitalize by styling other students. “Since they admired the way my uniform looked, I decided to start customizing their uniforms as well. It wasn’t anything over the top that would get banned by the school, but just adding a bit of colour – such as making a white shirt look extra white,” she explains.
Even though Joujou didn’t go to styling school or have any formal fashion orientation, her fondness and devotion to all matters related to style made this interest become more of a passion – something which she decided to take with her to adulthood.
Today that devotion has paid off handsomely, if we are to judge by her now expansive resume.
It wasn’t all glitz and glam at the beginning, Joujou had to make her way up. Even as her name had started making rounds in the fashion realm, the creative stylist was yet to bag a penny from styling. “I often did work for free,” she says. Her generosity was eventually rewarded. Joujou’s reputation, which preceded her, saw her come face to face with one of Tanzania’s most famous music group – the dynamic duo Navy Kenzo. “They [Navy Kenzo] introduced me to the colossal celebrity styling industry. This was back in 2016. Albeit I started working with them on small projects such as styling them for photoshoots or picking their outfits for national performances during Fiesta season, such work was a great starting point for me,” she says.
Joujou used this opportunity to advertise herself as a celebrity stylist. “It’s always a plus when people know exactly how you started out in the industry. So I decided to use my first work with local celebrates to advertise myself as a stylist,” she says. To gain more traction, she uses social media to advertise her work – mostly Instagram, where she has a growing following under her two accounts: @joujoustyle (personal shopper) and Joujous_touch.
With a Diploma in business administration, Joujou is well-equipped to manage the business side of her trade. From working with Navy Kenzo, she would later land a bigger fish in the form of Coke Studio. “I worked with Coke Studio during their campaign in Dar, where they did photoshoots for billboards with local celebrities such as Joh Makini, Yamoto Band and Navy Kenzo. From this project, Joujou went on to work with other celebrities such as Vanessa Mdee, Nandy, Maua Sama, Frida Amani, Rosa Ree and Lulu Diva. The list also includes other musicians such as Mimi Mars, Billnass and Mwasiti. Outside Tanzania, she has worked with Rwanda’s Butera and Viola from Kenya.
Joujou names Vanessa Mdee as her favourite artiste to work with. “I enjoy working with her because she understands the work of a stylist and our importance in as far as wardrobe matters are concerned,” she says. She goes on to explain that there are other artistes who dictate for you what they want to wear. “They can bring you an idea that they’ve seen somewhere and want you to copy and paste the same. Such work lacks originality,” she vents.
In order to come up with creative style ideas, Joujou does a lot of research. She simply doesn’t rely on her passion to inspire her ideation process. “I use google and follow other style bloggers just to get a feel of what is out there. I also keenly follow the fashion industry to stay up to date on what’s happening in the fashion world,” Joujou explains.
Such devotion and time put in has seen her come up with some of the best apparel styles in music videos. “Take the music video ‘Wet’ by Vanessa Mdee, for example, it had a jungle theme, with a robust beat to boot. I had to come up with an idea that would blend the two sides: the African ambiance – which required the use of Vitenge, and tone of the song,” she says. What she requires before working with a musician, is the theme of the song, tone and location where the shooting will take place.
Joujou works with celebrities in two ways: she can do wardrobe shopping for them, or use the artiste’s existing wardrobe to select ideal clothes for a project. “I travel a lot outside the country to look for the latest designer wear which might be hard to come by here in Tanzania. This gives me more exposure on what is out there, that can possibly be fused locally,” she says.
When it comes to shopping for clothes, the stylist admits there’s this general misconception that good and stylish clothes are exclusively found in big, expensive boutiques. “As stylists, our options are limitless. I can find the best clothes at thrift-stores than anywhere else,” she says. For this reason, going to Kariakoo or Karume market isn’t far-fetched when it comes to getting what is best for her clients.