Jeffrey Wilson, better known as JW, is a fashion designer and events organiser. His annual fashion extravaganza – the JW Fashion Show – held its sixth edition early November on the theme “Connecting Africa and the world through fabric and design”.
Hustle caught up with JW, 28, to find out what it takes to make it in the fashion industry.
How did the concept of JW Fashion Show come about?
I wanted to create a movement and forum to showcase local brands under one roof. The event brings together local fashion entrepreneurs, models, photographers, make-up artists, stylists and bloggers. The annual event in Nairobi is a culmination of scouting for talent around the counties. Being a fashion designer and events organiser is not easy, but I make it work somehow. It has been five years in the fashion and events business and I am happy because I make my living exclusively from the two trades.
You had established brands as your sponsors this year including DT Dobie and DHL. Many business people say it is tough to convince firms to sponsor their ideas. How did you pull it off?
It has been a hustle getting the sponsors, but specifically this year because of the election. But that did not stop me because I am a go-getter, I believe in God and myself, plus I also have good friends in organisations who push deals for me, including Kevin Mafumbo and Micheal Mutheu. These are friends that I have worked with for the past five years and believe in my vision. There have also been times strangers unexpectedly came on board.
How much does it take to organise a show like yours?
About Sh600,000. The culmination of the show was on November 7, but we started scouting for the fashion designers we would showcase in January. The counties where we scouted for talent this year included Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu, Meru, Laikipia, Kisii and Taita Taveta. We call for auditions, get designers’ samples and a panel of judges assesses their creativity. This year we had eight designers with unique designs.
How many people on average attend JW fashion shows?
This year we had about 700 people.
So how do you get the word out about your events? Getting numbers is sometimes challenging for event organisers...
I have a PR firm and a big marketing team that push the word out through social media and other platforms.
How do you convince someone to spend Sh1,500 or Sh3,000 (for VIP) on a ticket to your show? That’s not cheap.
The JW Fashion Show is a movement and we honestly don’t have to convince people to buy tickets. People who come believe in the vision of making local brands get their place both in the local and international space.
Who do you look up to in business?
I am my own motivation.
Advice to young people thinking of starting businesses?
Go for it and have good friends to back you. Also, be ready to face challenges. Be yourself and do not try to please people by putting on a fake façade. Those who want to work with you will, the others don’t have to. I don’t have time to act and pretend to live a life that isn’t mine. What you see is what you get.
I believe that in addition to having a strong team, our faith in God helps a lot. He has never let us down. I love God and believe the impossible is possible. I am not a brand or influencer, I am just a faithful believer.