Styling Q&A with Kemi Olaofe: Part I
Chris Tang of Star Anise recruitment talks men's fashion with Monsieur Man's stylist Kemi Olaofe. Following stints on London's famed Savile Row and with luxury goods website Net-a-Porter, Kemi visited Hong Kong to launch her image and style consultancy, Monsieur Man. In the first of this two-part article, we find out whether Hong Kong men have style!
Men's fashion is quite simple, right? Trousers and shirt. You can't go wrong with that, can you?
Ha! Well it’s true you guys do have it easier than us women, but you still need to put the work in! The way you dress, your fashion and style is a lot more than throwing on a shirt and jeans. In today’s fast paced, visual world it is essential to portray the right image. “Considered dressing” is what men should focus on, for example a great tie or pocket square can bring that dead suit back to life.
But with so much selection in today's world, where do we start?
This is where a lot my clients stumble. And this is where I say, “Out with the old, and in with the new!”
The first step of the process is to de-clutter your wardrobe. That way, you can see what needs replacing. If you find yourself every Monday morning grabbing that fail-safe navy suit and after work you’re wearing the same jeans with a different polo, you really do need a wider selection! This is where the help of an image consultant kicks in.
You've worked in the world's most famous tailoring streets (Saville Row & Jermyn Street) and the world's leading online luxury store (Net-a-Porter/Mr Porter). What was it like working there?
Great! And challenging at times. Working on Savile Row and Jermyn Street opened my eyes to the world of men’s tailoring and men’s fashion in general. At first it was challenging to gain the trust of the men I was styling. But as soon as they could see I knew what I was talking about they were very open to taking my advice. This built up my confidence within the world of men’s fashion. Net-a-porter and Mr Porter allowed me to hone my styling skills and widen my brand knowledge, shortly before I moved to Hong Kong.
How do men's style differ in Hong Kong from London?
As soon as I touched-down in Hong Kong (in mid June 2012) it was scorching hot and very humid. So instantly I was looking around to see what everyone was wearing, and it was so interesting to see the differences compared with London.
The climate in Asia plays a big part in influencing the different styles. I mean, for most of the year here, forget layering, which is a style I love on men! In Hong Kong you see more cotton, linen and bright pop colours. I guess the sun is out so you want to dress in brighter colours, which in turn looks like Hong Kong men have more fun with their fashion.
So, us guys in Hong Kong, do we 'get' fashion?
Well, I’m not sure about the tie you are wearing….only joking! Yes, of course you do! Londoners, don’t shoot me for this, but there is definitely more inspiration here.
I’ve noticed a much wider scale of colours, fabrics and accessories are used. Don’t get me wrong, you see great styled men in London, but they are still more reserved in their style choices. It tends to be 20-30 year olds that experiment with fashion over there.
Here in Hong Kong, however, you can literally get any aged guy rocking a coloured sole shoe, matching belt, watch and a fab deconstructed linen jacket. The attention to detail here is on point! From the placket on the shirt to the pocket square in your right breast pocket, it’s all very [pauses]…. here is my favourite word again - considered!
What have you noticed about men's fashion in Hong Kong's business community?
I see more man bags, and briefcases here, oh and fewer ties being worn, although that could be due to the climate. Generally though, the business attire is pretty universal. I guess globalisation has meant more cultures interact with each other, therefore men and women tend to mirror each other in the business world to play it safe.
I did see one guy with a plain standard 3-button navy suit and when he reached to get his phone from his inner pocket he had the most amazing lining ever! This is where you can play around with your style personality at work. The Brits tend to think red socks will do the trick.
In Part II, find out how a wardrobe stylist can transform your image.