Brand-building with Boogy

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If anyone understands the importance of personal branding, it’s a stylist. For Lethabo “Boogy” Maboi, becoming a self-made byword in the styling business was a critical part of attaining her success. That is to say that through a conscious, considered approach to self-marketing and branding, Boogy single-handedly built “Styled by Boogy” into one of the most recognisable styling brands in the local and continental markets.

As a stylist, Boogy’s focus is less on editorial fashion spreads, but rather on the ongoing brand development and curatorship for her select client base. Through this approach, she builds long-standing relationships with individuals, in which she gains an understanding of their brand needs and personality. With that understanding, she formulates something akin to a stylistic narrative and foundation upon which to shape looks for performances, TV ads, photoshoots and any other engagements. She creates an emblematic style that reflects, enhances and elevates the existing brand of her client. Because of her considered and strategic approach to styling, Boogy has been behind the personal branding of a number of South Africa’s biggest music names.

In a world where styling can make or break a personal brand, having a collaborator like Boogy is incredibly important because her approach to the task is not just to find clothes that work: more often than not, some of the standout, truly memorable pieces are designed by Boogy and custom made under her direction. These pieces and the brand significance they hold often form integral parts of an artist or performer’s aesthetic for the foreseeable future. 

These images are from one of the first brand campaigns in which Boogy was creative director, producer, stylist and casting director.

Boogy never really expected to become a stylist, a fact that is in part responsible for her success. Boogy’s introduction to working in production was as a child presenter on KTV. While this start is unrelated to her current work, it taught her how to work, and work hard, from an astonishingly young age. Instead of a fashion degree or experience with a designer or fashion publication she has worked almost her entire life in media — she also did a stint in internet radio that opened her up to the Nigerian music market as she started styling — and that means that more than most people, she understands the needs and limitations of those operating in the public eye.

She compares the professional stylists who came up through magazines and fashion schools to classically trained singers or dancers. They are people who spent years in institutions honing their craft and gaining an understanding of the nuances and technical aspects of the job. In her case, she just had to learn as she went. She doesn’t feel comfortable advising people to follow in her footsteps or try to do it her way. Instead, she points to the working traits she believes lie at the root of her success: a serious work ethic; a hunger for and eagerness to grasp opportunities; a solutions-based approach to tasks; and to always ask questions when there’s anything you don’t know.

Not coming up through the industry also meant that some doors were not easy to get her foot in. In the late 2000s, when Boogy was primarily styling music videos for upcoming artists (while simultaneously working as a radio presenter and pop-up store owner), bigger brands she approached would often only want to provide for editorials where the garments were the focus. This industry exclusion forced her to shift her focus to local brands and build the relationships that ultimately made custom and one-off designer garments a cornerstone of her wardrobe.

The hardest part of Boogy’s career has been the need to critically assess how much her clients value her work. Between the title “stylist” and the holistic and comprehensive work that Boogy executes is a vast leap and the distinction means the difference between a robust and eye-catching aesthetic and relative, stylistic obscurity. 

Unfortunately, the power of this insight has in the past been undervalued and overlooked. She points to past clients who, having adopted a Styled by Boogy aesthetic, refused to acknowledge the importance of her work, up to and including failing to pay. While this frustrates her to no end, Boogy knows that even with the clothes she had made for them, the wardrobes she compiled and the guidance she’s given, their ability to create the brand they think they deserve will only match the investment they are willing to make in it. Anyone can put together outfits, but to really maintain and keep a personal brand vibrant and evolving requires knowledge, nuance and strategy. — Anita Makgetla

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