Stylista Interview: “Don’t go mainstream – use your imagination”

Credits: rae maxwell/afi bijou/al malonga/poundo gomis/michela wariebi

APiF: Please introduce yourself.
Al Malonga: My name is Al Malonga. I’m a French stylist with a Cameroonian background, who now lives in New York City.

Al Malonga wearing Selly Rabi Kane
Jennah Bell (L) and Al

APiF: How did you move into Styling/Fashion?
Al: Years ago, it started very naturally with my friends and family, coming to me for advice about what was in their closet, and trusted my eye to help them go shopping. That’s how I specialized as a personal shopper first.

APiF: How does your cultural heritage influence and inspire your styling?
Al: When we lived in Cameroon, my mom would take me with her to fabric stores and tailors. It’s common to have your clothes made out there, and I got a lot of inspiration from her style, and a pronounced taste for everything self customized and unique for that reason. Mix and match your own, wear a lot of color and prints, don’t go too mainstream, but use your imagination… is what I learned. And an adoration for ethnic jewelry.

APiF: Which celebrities do you style / would u like to style?
Al: I do not style anybody world famous at this point, but my favorite right now is a young and talented artist called Jennah Bell, discovered by The Roots, and I work with her on all her performances. I’d have fun styling a lot of people I believe, and I never thought about it in those terms, so if I have to give a name, might as well be one of the artists whose music I really appreciate like Erykah Badu for example.

APiF: Any favorite “African” or Africa-inspired Designers?
Al: Many! A few names on top of my head: Duro Olowu, Selly Rabi Kane, Oswald Boateng, Clover Canyon, Kokon To Zai, Lucia Eastman, Demestiks, Bineta Sanor, Toubab, Xuli Bet, Bezem, David Tlale, Titiana Inglis…

APiF: Any styling faux pas that you see commonly on women?
Al: Mostly outfits not adapted to silhouettes. Often you see a woman with a certain body type who didn’t respect her natural shape or curves and is not wearing what flatters her, but clothes that are not made for her body. And I do have a problem with bra straps not matching the shape of a top.

APiF: What is the must have item that every fashionista should have in her closet?
Al: A “statement” pair of shoes, that would turn any outfit into a hit. And of course the perfect jeans for her, that make her look like a million dollars.

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