Zowie Kengocha’s stylist Dalton Odiyo uses fashion to communicate messages of inclusion, understanding, and respect


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Zowie Kengocha’s stylist Dalton Odiyo uses fashion to communicate messages of inclusion, understanding, and respect

Dalton and Zowie onset for her A COLORS SHOW recording

In line with New Jersey-based Kenyan artist Zowie Kengocha’s debut A COLORS SHOW that dropped earlier this week, we spoke to her collaborator, the Nairobi based stylist, model, 199x Org art collective co-founder Dalton Odiyo about his work and inspirations.

Read on for insights into how Odiyo’s intricate styling for Zowie’s A COLORS SHOW, as well as how he centers African culture in his work, and which aspects of the Kenyan arts and culture scene he draws inspiration from.

How would you define yourself as a creative?

“Odiyo is an African giant who loves to create.” My avenues of expression vary between styling, photography, and film. I use art as a tool to reimagine the past and to build my present reality.

You work predominantly as a fashion stylist. What attracted you to this role?

Fashion is an incredibly powerful form of self-expression. It can be used to express identity, beliefs, and personal style. As a stylist, you embrace someone’s individuality through fashion, and try to set them apart from others in a way that makes them feel unique and confident.

When did you first learn that fashion can be used as a form of self-expression?

My mother expressed herself fearlessly with her fashion sense. She mastered the art of combination to create aesthetically pleasing looks, which I admired. My pops’ Afro hair was also an inspiration: Afro hair is a powerful political symbol reflecting black pride, as it was popularized by the African American community in the late 1960s and 70s.

You previously worked as a model. How has this experience informed your career in styling?

As a model, you’re a canvas, and don’t have much say in the creative choices of the projects you work on. While I was modeling, my goal was to produce work that I could fully stand by, that would helped foster my transition to fashion styling. Networking during that period was an important part of my growth.

Tell me about the fashion scene in Kenya. 

The fashion scene in Kenya is really accommodating—it fearlessly provides space for people to express their personal style. There’s loads of places where you can see people wearing unique styles, such as at Thrift Social Nairobi and Karibu Nairobi Pop Up & Rave.

There’s a new generation of stylists, designers, collectives, and entrepreneurs in the Kenyan fashion community who are working together to significantly professionalize the sector. Some key players are the collective 199x Org, Urban Pitchaz, and Studio18.

“The fashion scene in Kenya is really accommodating…

… it fearlessly provides space for people to express their personal style.”

How does the Kenyan fashion scene inspire your work as a stylist?

I have to mention the Gikomba Market, the largest open air second-hand clothing market in East Africa, which is located in Nairobi. It was established in the 60s. Shopping for second hand clothes – or what we call “mitumba”–is an intrinsic part of Nairobi’s fashion scene that promotes a sustainable and circular future for the fashion industry.

I also have to bring up Kenya’s Matatu (minibuses used as shared taxis) culture. To me, Matatus are not just a means of transportation, but works of art. From the graffiti and flashing lights that adorn them, to the dress code and Sheng slang used by the drivers, The Matatu culture brings art forms together. This vibrant culture has sustained itself over many years. It’s truly inspiring.

I saw you worked on ‘Bal d’Afrique‘, the short film campaign directed by Gabriel Moses for Byredo. Can you tell me about working on this project?

As a brand, BYREDO translates memories and emotions through scent. I believe “Bal d’Afrique” showcases my best work yet. It shows timeless African beauty through generations, and the diverse beauty of our cultures. The short film spotlights Africa’s rising creative world through music, fashion, and dance. The film’s director, Gabriel Moses, is a visionary with much to learn from. The whole team involved made it easy for me to play my role in the styling department. Honestly, the Bal d’Afrique project has boosted my confidence. And I’ve become a proud wearer of BYREDO perfume!

Dalton's styling for Zowie Kengocha's A COLORS SHOW, produced in collaboration with Spotify

You styled Zowie Kengocha for her A COLORS SHOW debut. Tell us the inspiration behind the look?

For Zowie’s look, I created a minimalist styling based on her own fashion personality, while centering African culture. The look pays homage to the enlightened characteristics of fashion trends practiced in the African continent.

The henna details on her nails and hands are a cultural symbol practiced in East Africa to signify good luck. Her outfit is from IAMISIGO by BUBU Ogisi, a contemporary African fashion brand focused on preserving handcrafted, ancestral techniques.

What drew you towards the designs of Bubu Ogisi’s, who we’ve previously interviewed for COLORS STORIES?

The brand taps into African history and spirituality with collections rooted in mythology and indigenous storytelling. Every piece used from IAMISIGO is a love letter from us to our continent.

How did you start working with Zowie Kengocha?

The A COLORS SHOW was the first time Zowie and I had worked together. We first met at the Karibu Nairobi Pop-up & Rave event in Nairobi. We’ve always wanted to work with each other, and to merge our respective fields on a professional level. COLORS was the best way to start our professional friendship.

“Fashion can communicate messages of inclusion, understanding, and respect. It can also be used to challenge cultural norms and stereotypes around the world.”

What message do you hope your styling communicates to the world?

Fashion can communicate messages of inclusion, understanding, and respect. It can also be used to challenge cultural norms and stereotypes around the world. When we use fashion to connect with others, we open up the possibility for positive change to create a more inclusive world. I hope my work does exactly that.

What are you working on at the moment?

I just shot an editorial campaign in Kenya for Moshions—a fashion brand based in Kigali, Rwanda—it’s set to drop mid-December of this year. No one is ready for this, the world should watch out for it.

Dalton Odiyo is a Kenyan creative who styled Zowie Kengocha for her debut A COLORS SHOW, which was released on 20th November 2023 and produced in collaboration with Spotify Africa. Watch the performance on our YouTube channel, and make sure to follow both Dalton and Zowie on Instagram to stay up to date with their work.

Text: Katerina Lytras
Photography: Megan Courtis (portrait of Dalton and Zowie), CapturedbyOdede (images 2-4), and Gabriel Moses (final image)


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