The JW show is a great show which happens annually and aims to create a space where fashion entrepreneurs, designers, models, photographers, make-up artists, bloggers, brands, among others get to have their works celebrated and highlighted. I’ts theme is made in Kenya by Kenyans to support local designers and brands.
Imagine getting a call a day to your event that you have to change your event time or no venue for you. Having recently planned an event I can imagine what I would do. But that is exactly what happened to Jeffery Wilson for their 2015 show.
Here is my interview with the JW Show founder. Grab your tickets for the next show happening in November. Details at the end of the interview and see you there.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Jeffery Wilson, I am a believer of God and I just love life. That’s it.
That is all?
Yes, straight up.
JW Show, what does the show entail?
JW is a TV show, where we have designers, judges, moderators, audience. So basically we work under one theme which is made in Kenya by Kenyans. We help local designers build their brands. You find that there are designers who are not good at marketing their services, others are good creatives but not so good at PR. Some can’t even sew.
So how do help them out? That is why I came up with the show, to give them a platform to sell their products. So we give opportunities for 5 outfits and they make sure they bring out the best. As much as we have the competition, the judges are also there to highlight some of the mistakes and where they can improve.
We also give the audience an opportunity to interact the designers, ask questions and make orders. So basically that is what JW Show entails.
Ok, great! So how often does the show take place?
The show happens once a year, but we start going touring the country from the beginning of the year, visiting counties, identifying the designers, models, photographers and bring them together. We put them under a mentorship programme. So like last year we worked with various brands and individuals like Onyaro, Debby, Letoya, Tuko, RedBull, campus magazines etc.
The truth is not everyone can be a model. So sometimes we advise them and put them on different paths like photography, blogging and the like. So that is what we do with the counties. We simply nurture them.
Like last year we found out that some wants to be beauticians so we work with people like Domiana and Make up by Rose.
How many designers and models do you take per show?
10 designers per show. But we get as many as 30, 40 then we narrow them down. We have to make sure the designers are legit, you have a working space, are you able to work with others. The models are 10 as well.
What inspired you start the show?
Back then, I modeled for a bit. So we would be called for show and not get paid. Call time was early in the morning, and then since we were new to these things, we would just be content with eating sausage. We were young and no one taught us how to go about it.
I used get along well with people. So I decided to use that. I chose to make use of Facebook and do write ups. My writing was so bad a friend would ask me “What are you trying to say” but it got a lot of attention, and attracted an audience. In that space I decided to venture into fashion and did an advert for Nivea.
I officially started as a models, and saw how models were being mistreated and designers were not being appreciated. That is when I decided to start the Show with some of the people we were with.
When did the show start and How has the growth been
I have seen a lot of change through out the brand. Like I said I am not a celeb. You will see me carrying tables, clothes etc. I put God first. All our shows are usually packed and it rains after every show.
Really, blessings huh?
Yes. People are mostly scrambling for the VIP/Front seats. We started with just 50 people, 200, 400, 600 and last year we had 800.
This year we hope it will be 1000 and our best yet.
Fashion Events is not yet big in Kenya per se. How has the market been for you
The market has been favorable to me. This is because as I earlier stated, I am a believer. God has been with me through my journey. There is no room for giving up. I utilize my friendships. For me the only challenge is looking for sponsors. But supportive friends who are ready to chip in, I have those.
A question most people ask, does fashion pay?
Fashion pays. For me, JW Show is a business. Forget being a celebrity and all those crappy things. I am in business. If you see me in town, looking some type of way just know am in business. Don’t ask is this the person I saw on TV? Yes it is me.
I want to live the best life ever! Fashion pays, if you are in it for business as well.
Event planning is not easy, speaking from experience. What would you say are the top attributes of a fashion show producer/organizer
Oh my! Pray pray pray and sacrifice. Otherwise few days to the vents you will not be able to sleep or eat. Put God first, be humble, and make sure you work with the right people. Otherwise you will go back to nothing and suppliers on your case.
What are your survival kits on the day of the event?
I pay my Uber early. Lol. Like I said I have loyal friends. So I just tell them to have chapos ready. Food is very important. We make sure everyone eats, the participants and the back ups and everyone involved. So for me is how I will get home, food and water. You can really get drained.
When I started, I got stranded in Town. The event is over and successful, you are in a suit, then people are seeing you in town stranded.
Make sure you have people you trust. Events are tricky. It can go really bad, you just feel like busting in tears. Things can go wrong even when the audience have started coming in. If you have someone who can tell you, just relax, things will be ok. You will be good. And I have those people.
Who would you say is the most important stakeholder in your show?
I would say two. The designers and the audience. Because for us to make sure that we have Kenya on top, we have to make sure the designers produce designs that the audience can relate to and the audience to respect the designers work and buy as well. So those are the important people.
Your most memorable show yet and why?
Wow, my most memorable? I think its the one we did at Hotel Rio in 2015. That was when JW Show was becoming big. Shetani aliamua that day. It’s like the devil was so idle. We booked at Westhouse hotel, but apparently it had been double booked and we didn’t know. So we were called a day before the event, and asked to have the show in the morning. Which was impossible.
I cried, my team cursed! The good thing is I had a manager then. A very prayerful lady. She called her husband who organized a venue for us. Then hotel said they would sponsor us in everything.
Now, after the venue the photographer!
Oh my! What happened
I am telling you. I have to thank this photographer called Joseph Thome. All my photographers went missing. I called Jose Thome around 6:30 pm the photos were really important for me. So I called him and told him show yangu imekwama. I asked him to go to the venue, I would meet him later. I was going back home to cry. He had clients but he dropped everything, took a motorbike and rushed to the venue.
I left my guys to set up everything and went back home.
So you didn’t attend the event?
No I did, but later. Even the judges there are some whom I don’t even know what happened, but I had those who came through like Dora Shikuku. Things went bad, but at the last minute everything went great, it was well attended, The Hotel offered to sponsor the next show, and everything turned out fine.
I remember my friend Mitchell Mutheu encourged me alot. A friend called Rose, came through for me. She came despite the rain. After the event she paid for my uber, we went to her place she cooked for me, and took me home. I was so tired. I am grateful to date for what she did.
So would you say that has been your is your biggest challenge
Yes. When it comes to venues I would advise people not to rely on free venues. Especially if you have the money. It can be canceled any time. Just make sure you have little money to fall back on.
So how do you pick the venues
My team and I decide. But we consider the audience, security, lighting and convenience.
What advise would give to someone who wants to get into event organizing not necessarily fashion
Just be ready to suffer, to be coned, to cry and to make sacrifices.
In your opinion is African fashion growing and how does Kenya compare?
It is growing so fast. What we need is unity between bloggers, organizers, fashion designers and others. And we have so many who are partnering up and growing at a higher rate. When we partner we can do great! I don’t want to mention names. But in Kenya you invite people they don’t even show up.
The same people who complain we are not doing much don’t show up. Come see what I am doing, point out where I can improve. But if you want to work alone I don’t know You want to do 30 days of suffering, 40 days of I don’t know what, it wont help us.
I have so many partners and designers who are ready to make change. So if you are not ready to bring change, keep making noise. For us we will keep growing.
Do you think in Kenya we understand the value of different contributors? Do designers understand the need of working with bloggers, do brands understand the role of events, and so on.
We understand, but we need workshops to educate people more. We used to have such forums but people just come to talk about themselves and nothing much come off it. The next time one shows up. We need forums where even upcoming creatives in the industry can come and interact with the established people.
Speaking of upcoming, do you think we have created room for upcoming creatives in the fashion industry?
The doors are really closed. Sorry to say but the industry works on the basis of who do you know. Unnecessary cliques
You have branded yourself well , Why did you feel the need to use your name for the brand?
I wanted to be legit, I wanted something that cant be changed. I wanted to motivate myself as a person and create something that will always continue.
The market is evolving and everything. How do you remain up to date with the event industry?
Research, attending events. People see me everywhere and think I am a party person. These are good networking opportunities. In this way I also support other event organizers.
What do you like the most about JW Show?
I like everything. I like the fact that the brand is me.
What is the greatest disconnect in the fashion industry
No unity. The cliques, the cliques. Hio tu
Tell us about this years show and what to expect
This year’s show is going to be amazing. Thank God for the first time I have sponsors taking care of things financially. Supporting designers, we also have an investor traveling all the way from states and coming with three designers from DC, The set up is amazing, the venue is big.
We will have a book workshop selfie, meet designers, take selfies with them. It will be live online, Zuku have provided free wifi. This show is big, the host is new, the moderator is new, we have Ridge-way mall coming to sponsor the top 3 designers with cash . The VIPs will have free cocktails.
We are strictly insisting that the guests wear made in Kenya.
We will have media cops. We have to insist people wear Kenyan made. We are trying to involve the local government in our event as well.
That is good, you are doing great. So we say Kenyan fashion but we mostly concentrate on Nairobi and most times exclude places like Mombasa, Kisumu and other regions. Is JW all inclusive?
Yes that is why we do the JW Show tour. This year we didn’t go to Mombasa due to the funds and election. We also didn’t do Nairobi. But with places like Mombasa, we really don’t have connection with brands. We also need sponsors but But we will make it. We get a lot questions and requests from people in those areas.
Going forward what plans do you have for the industry
We want to get title sponsors for the show and take it to counties. We are planning to go beyond Kenya. JW wants to connect Africa with the world. I will be going to Las Vegas through this initiative.
All tickets are advanced, you can get them online. Look pretty, come network and enjoy the show
Let’s spice it up. Last gift you gave someone
My time. It is very important and I value it. Secondly I gave my brother a surprise party On his 24th birthday. It was his first time blowing the candle. He has been with me through this. When there is no security he is the security, when there is no emcee he is the the emcee.
Most valuable treasure
My bed. I designed it for JW. this is because it accepts me as I am. If am stressed, if am hungry, ni njaa itaniamsha.
Top 3 Kenyan designers
Undisputed man. He is good and has raised the standard. The second is John Kaveke. He is a great guy and I love his work. The last is Nick Ondu.
All men. For women I would say Nato Designs.
Yes my parting shot. I was to say this at your event. “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts. While the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
Its a wrap, thanks for granting the interview
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